Over $ 9 billion in austerity cuts to Georgia’s public K-12 education funding formula is finally fully funded.
Elected State School Superintendent, Richard Woods (R-Tifton), called the move historic.
“Thank you, Governor Deal, for your proposal to fully fund QBE in the FY19 budget. This is great news and would be a historic investment in Georgia’s schools and students.”
May politicians and education policymakers contend that the K-12 funding formula has never been fully funded when it was created in the mid-1980’s.
Term-limited Governor Nathan Deal announced on Tuesday that state revenue projections for FY 2019 increased by more than $194 million. Deal attributed the growth in revenue to the positive business growth that Georgia has experienced, but challenges still remain for local systems.
Since 2003, Georgia’s K-12 public school system has seen over $9.2 billion in austerity cuts. Between 2010 and 2014, the austerity cuts reached their deepest point at $1 billion and local property tax revenues dropped during the recession. For many years, local school district school board members and school superintendents have lobbied for complete funding of the formula while trying to submit balanced budgets to their local school board sacrificing arts and other needed programs. During this time, school districts had to furlough teachers, cut music programs, cut transportation costs to maintain current fleets, modify school calendars, and increase class sizes. However, health care costs continue to challenge local school district budgets.
Since the revenue projections show an increase, Gov. Deal amended his budget, which would have shortchanged local school districts overall by $167 million, to fully fund the Quality Basic Education Funding (QBE) formula. This brings the total funding under Deal’s leadership to $9.6 billion dollars for K-12 education.
The correction to change the out-dated QBE formula has remained elusive for former Governor Sonny Perdue and Governor Nathan Deal.
Gov. Deal took steps in 2015 to create a task force to solve the outdated formula but was not successful as Deal turned his attention to intervening in the state’s lowest-performing schools by passing the First Priority Act in 2017.
“The addition of $167 million to K-12 education will bring total funding for education to $9.6 billion. This investment will give local school systems the opportunity to provide the programs necessary to improve struggling schools and enhance student performance. During my time as governor, I have consistently heard from educators who have cited a lack of funding as a barrier to achieving success in their classroom. This additional $167 million will ensure the state is fully doing its financial part to address their concerns. Finally, fully funding QBE provides a stronger foundation to lawmakers and stakeholders to reform this outdated formula to accommodate the needs of today’s students and 21st-century classrooms.”
Georgia’s K-12 formula still needs updating as it does not adjust for inflation and the cost of public education. The state has made periodic adjustments in the funding formula’s multipliers four times in between 2002 and 2018. The state’s contribution to transportation funding was around 15 percent in the in FY 2016. In 2002, the state’s contribution transportation was funded at 39 percent, and in 1996, transportation funding was at 49 percent. With more demands for mental health and wraparound services in schools, Georgia’s next Governor will start with a clean slate to correct the funding aliments as it relates to austerity cuts, but the new Governor will need to review the cost to publically educate students in Georgia in the future.
Governor Deal touts he has heard the voice of Georgia’s educators and stakeholders to restore the austerity cuts and leaves an implied message to his future successor.
The General Assembly looks to vote on the budget before the session ends on Thursday. Georgia’s next Governor will now have the responsibility to correct inequities in the outdated funding formula as education moves deeper into the 21st-century.