Here is a status report on the state of education in Georgia, from someone who knows: “Delayed instructional initiatives, depleted reserves, increased class sizes, frozen wages, deferred maintenance and negligible bus replacement. It doesn’t take great imagination to envision what could have been done over the last five years with $12.8 million in lost QBE revenue.” – Pike County Schools administrator.
Ask educators across Georgia about the impact of ongoing austerity cuts to state funding for public schools and you will hear troubling stories of diminished opportunities for students to learn in district after district. We know because we asked. GBPI’s new “Cutting Class to Make Ends Meet – 2014” report sums up what we heard when we surveyed school districts this summer about the effects of the $746 million austerity cut for the 2014-2015 school year. The latest cut comes on top of $7.6 billion in cuts over the previous 13 years. We learned that:
- Forty-nine districts, or nearly 33 percent of participating districts, report this year’s school calendar is less than the standard 180 days.
- One hundred twenty-seven districts, 85 percent of respondents, have larger class sizes than in the 2008-2009 school year.
- Sixty-one districts will furlough teachers this year.
- Twenty-nine districts will increase teachers’ salary this year.
- Sixty-six districts, about 46 percent of participating districts, cut or eliminated art and music programs since 2009. Two-thirds of these districts have not restored them.
- One hundred two districts, 72 percent of responding districts, increased property taxes, called millage rates, from 2009 to 2015. The average rate rose from 15.3 to 16.6 mills in this period.
Georgia’s students are still shortchanged. The General Assembly is not providing the dollars the state’s K-12 funding formula calculates they need and that are necessary to ensure all students throughout the state meet new, more rigorous expectations. It’s not just their future at stake. It is Georgia’s future. The state needs a workforce with the knowledge and skills to attract and grow high-wage industries. We will not get there if we continue to deny our schools the resources they need to succeed.
“The greatest impact of the QBE austerity cuts in our district is that we have had to furlough all staff members from 5-10 days for several years. We have also had to eliminate positions, including fine arts, increase class size and reduce the number of instructional days for students.” – Sumter County Schools administrator.