FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(ATLANTA) Georgia school districts report that classrooms are more crowded than ever and students are spending fewer days in school due to the state’s failure to adequately invest in public education according to a new report released today by the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute (GBPI).
“Georgia’s declining support for public education threatens the long-term health of the state’s economy,” says GBPI Executive Director Alan Essig. “Attracting high-wage employers requires a large well-educated and highly skilled workforce. Failure to invest in public education is making it difficult to reach the ambitious goals policymakers have set for improving our schools and attracting more employers to the state,” says Essig.
GBPI surveyed Georgia’s school districts on the impact of state funding cuts, and the 150 districts that responded educate more than 92 percent of the students in Georgia public schools.
The survey found that the state’s lack of support for education is diminishing learning opportunities for Georgia students by forcing school districts to shorten the school year, increase class size, reduce the number of teachers, and cut teacher pay.
- Two in three school districts reported cutting the calendar for the current school year.
- Nearly one in four districts reported that they reduced their school calendar by more than one week.
- Six in 10 school districts reported an increase in average classroom size from the prior school year.
- The number of teachers in Georgia classrooms decreased by more than 8,500 since the 2008-09 school year, even as the number of students increased.
- Three in four school districts reported they would reduce teacher workdays, which means less planning time and pay cuts for teachers.
Georgia students have long trailed many of their peers around the nation in academic achievement. Seeking to change that, the state has set innovative and ambitious education goals to ensure that Georgia students are able to compete and that Georgia is able to produce a well-educated and highly skilled workforce to attract jobs to the state. However, the state’s failure to fully support public education undermines these goals and limits our children’s ability to succeed in school.
Of Georgia’s 180 school districts, 169 have lost state support for public education. As state funding for schools has diminished, a greater share of financial responsibilities has shifted to local school districts, which will hit low-income communities the hardest.
This shift in responsibility comes at a particularly challenging time for school districts due to plummeting property values, which limit school district’s ability to increase local funding. Two-thirds of districts responded to the state’s lack of support by increasing local revenue, which is primarily generated through property taxes; however, few have been able to replace all of the lost state funding due to declining property values.
“To educate our children for a 21st century economy, policymakers must start properly investing in our schools,” says GBPI Deputy Director Taifa Butler. “The responsible way to do this is to take a balanced approach to the state’s budget that includes new revenue to support education,” says Butler.
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About the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute
GBPI is the state’s leading independent, nonpartisan nonprofit engaged in research and education about the fiscal and economic health of the state of Georgia. GBPI provides reliable, timely analysis of Georgia’s budget and tax policies, and promotes greater state government fiscal accountability, improved services and an enhanced quality of life for all Georgians.