Education panel considers a new funding formula that’s much like the current one

[private]As it nears the deadline for completing its work, Gov. Nathan Deal’s education reform commission may do something that hasn’t been done in 30 years: change the formula called QBE (Quality Basic Education) that determines how the state allocates money to local school districts.

The commission is working on the details of a formula that should be finalized over the course of two more meetings in November, according to Chairman Charles Knapp, before it is turned over to the governor.

Deal, like several of his predecessors, has called for a comprehensive revision of a school funding formula that was considered to be overly complex and outdated. For a variety of reasons, that has never happened.

Even if Deal’s latest commission – he also tried this during his first term as governor – should produce a new funding formula, it could still look a lot like the one that was first passed in 1985.

“It’s basically the same framework as QBE,” said an education policy analyst at a recent commission meeting. “Overall, you’re just rearranging the deck chairs.”

The QBE formula is a complex combination of 18 weighted categories that are used to calculate how much in state funds will be sent to local school systems. The formula has been criticized for not taking into account such factors as classroom technology or the effects on students of living in economically distressed areas.

The new formula under consideration reduces the number of categories and adds a couple of new ones, including a category for economically distressed students. It would also give school districts $110 per student to help pay for computers and other classroom technologies.

Although $110 may not pay for much technology, Gwinnett County Supt. Alvin Wilbanks noted: “The point is, this is $110 more than we’re getting now. Right now, it’s a challenge; it’s a challenge for everybody.”

While the QBE formula may not undergo drastic changes by the commission, another funding factor will: the way teachers are paid.

The commission is moving forward with a recommendation that would phase out the current system where teacher pay is based on years of experience and the advanced degrees a teacher earns (known as T & E, for training and experience).

Newly hired teachers would be paid a salary based on effectiveness, largely measured by student test scores. Current teachers would be allowed to keep getting paid on a T & E basis, but as they resign or retire, the pay scales would eventually shift to become entirely performance-based.

That proposal has caused heartburn among teachers’ groups for months, and they likely would continue to protest such a change if it came before the Legislature for consideration in an election year.

It’s been estimated that the proposed funding formula, as of now, would mean about $241 million in additional money for school districts.

That’s a highly problematic projection, however, because legislators will ultimately determine how much money is allocated in the state budget for K-12 education.

Since 2003, in fact, state funding for local school districts has been reduced through “austerity cuts” that were imposed during the budgeting process.

According to information released earlier this year by the governor’s office, the yearly funding shortfalls were:

FY 2004 — $283.5 million.
FY 2005 — $332.8 million.
FY 2006 — $332.8 million.
FY 2007 — $169.7 million.
FY 2008 — $143 million.
FY 2009 — $495.7 million.
FY 2010 — $1.36 billion.
FY 2011 — $1.09 billion.
FY 2012 — $1.15 billion.
FY 2013 — $1.14 billion.
FY 2014 — $1.06 billion.
FY 2015 — $746.8 million.
FY 2016 — $466.6 million.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Alvin Wilbanks , education reform commission , Nathan Deal , QBE , school funding formula