This summer the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute contacted superintendents from all 180 of the state’s school districts to ask about two dozen questions designed to reveal measures they’ve taken in the wake of years of state budget cuts.
One hundred forty districts completed the survey. Others were unable to because their central office staff had been reduced and they were simply too stressed for time to complete it. The districts that did respond account for 93 percent of Georgia’s public school students, so the survey results speak to what’s happening in the vast majority of K-12 classrooms.
If you haven’t read the resulting report yet, here is a sampling of the major findings:
- Seventy-one percent of districts responding to the survey cut the school calendar to fewer than the standard 180 days. More than 95 percent of districts increased class size since 2009.
- Eighty percent of districts will furlough teachers this year. The majority are slashing funding for professional development.
- About 42 percent of districts are reducing or eliminating art or music programs and 62 percent are eliminating elective courses. More than 38 percent are cutting back on programs that help low-performing students.
- Thirty-five districts are spending 40 percent or more on transportation now than in 2009. Thirty-eight districts raised local tax rates in the past year to offset the combined financial pressure of increased expenses and deep state budget cuts.
These changes will likely result in less time for teachers to give individual attention to students. The lost opportunity to develop through academic and extracurricular activities will likely hurt chances for students to succeed in higher education and in the workforce. For Georgia, the consequence may be a workforce that does not attract high-growth, high-wage industries and is left with diminished ability to grow them from within.
The report was made possible through the efforts of many people. Thanks to Phillip Scotton, GBPI Research Fellow, who helped design and manage the survey. Thanks also go to John Zauner, executive director, and Herb Garrett, former executive director, of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, who provided valuable advice on the survey’s design and supported its implementation. And thanks to the superintendents and district staff across Georgia for the time, attention and effort they spent on this project. We appreciate your work greatly.