Monday, February 1, 2010

Education funding: How much is enough?

About a year ago I got tired of not really understanding education funding in this state, so I tried to learn the system as best I could. The story I ended up writing, which unfortunately isn't online anymore, began like this:
ATLANTA -- The way Georgia funds education is so complicated that Democrats can complain that Gov. Sonny Perdue has cut funding since taking office, Perdue can say the state spends more now than it ever has on education, and they can both be right.
That's a tough starting point for a discussion on how much state money is enough when it comes to public education.

The chart below comes from Bert Brantley, the governor's communications director.

Click image to enlarge.

Bert sent reporters this chart, and the numbers to back it up, this week to make this argument:
"It is my sincere belief that actual dollars spent and per pupil spending is much more relevant than the rhetoric we hear from some education groups who argue the Governor has “cut” billions from schools."
And, yet, there have been cuts to the state's QBE formula. That formula, in place for years, spits out a number the state's supposed to give to local public schools to fund a "Quality Basic Education." The Perdue administration takes that number, lops some off, and gives them less.

Again, from my story of last year:
In fiscal 2002, state taxpayers funded nearly 56 percent of public school budgets, according to statistics from the Georgia Department of Education. Local taxes covered 38 percent of the costs, and the rest was covered by federal dollars.

By fiscal 2008, the state's share had dropped to 52 percent, and the local share had increased to nearly 42 percent, meaning that property owners saw their share increase even as state legislators said they wanted to rein in property tax increases through various reforms.
That's kind of a mess. I wish you luck in drawing conclusions.

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