School panel revises funding formula; would restore some austerity cuts

[private]The Education Reform Commission has essentially completed its work on revising the way Georgia pays for public education and will forward its recommendations to Gov. Nathan Deal.

The panel made several tweaks to the QBE (Quality Basic Education) formula that since 1985 has prescribed how much money the state should send to local school systems.

Other recommendations regarding changes in teacher pay and funding for charter schools are also being passed along to the governor.

Deal will decide which of the recommendations he will ask the General Assembly to consider and legislators in turn will decide whether to pass the new formula and, more importantly, whether to provide full funding under that formula – something that hasn’t occurred since 2002 because of “austerity cuts” in the state budget.

If the updated formula were to be implemented and funded at the level intended by the commission, which was appointed by Deal, then local school systems would receive about $250 million more in state funds than they are getting this year.

That would still be more than $200 million less than what schools would get if the state simply provided full funding under the current QBE formula. Local educators have frequently made the point that the current formula would work sufficiently well if it were fully funded.

“Most districts fare worse in the proposed formula than the existing one,” said Claire Suggs, an analyst at the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.

“If the General Assembly fully funded today’s formula, 137 districts would get more money than under the proposed formula,” Suggs said. “These 137 districts include the state’s largest school systems and serve 97 percent of Georgia’s public school students.”

The commission’s recommendation on teacher pay has the potential to stir up contentious debate in the Legislature because of the opposition to it from teacher groups.

The proposal would eliminate the current method of basing teacher pay on training and experience and replace it with a performance-based salary (the new pay scale would apply only to new teachers, at first).

“The entire process has led to increased low morale among teachers and many are voicing to me that they want to retire as soon possible or leave the profession altogether,” said Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE). “Proposed changes such as those on teacher compensation and eliminating the state salary schedule will make the morale even worse.”

According to figures supplied by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, these are the austerity cuts that have been made in state funding to local school systems during Deal’s administration:

  • 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: education reform commission , Nathan Deal , School funding , teacher pay