“[The greatest impact of the QBE austerity cuts have been] class size increases, elimination of teachers, para-professionals, secretarial and administration positions, furlough days, classified employees’ pay scales have been frozen for five years, elimination of art and music in the elementary schools, and outsourced custodial.”
Thirteen years of austerity cuts imposed a new normal on Georgia’s students and it is not good for them. District leaders make this clear in GBPI’s latest report on education funding, Cutting Class to Make Ends Meet 2014. The new normal means students in one-third of the school districts participating in the survey are in class for less than the standard 180 days this school year. Students in most districts, 85 percent, are in classrooms with ballooning numbers of students. This makes it much harder for teachers to develop targeted instructional strategies for individual students.
Students in 46 percent of districts get less art and music than they did five years ago, if they get any. Elective courses are also on the chopping block. More than 60 percent of districts surveyed say they eliminated some electives. Thirty-six percent say they cut back on programs for low-performing students, risking their academic success. Districts also say they cut spending on instructional materials. Students and teachers alike tell stories of sharing books because there are not enough to go around, or of not having any books at all.
The new normal hits teachers hard too. Sixty-one districts report furloughing teachers this year, cutting planning and curriculum preparation time, as well as deepen their own professional knowledge. Furloughs also cut their pay.
Cutting state funding for public schools is not a strategy to build a vibrant future for students or for the state. It should be normal in Georgia for every student to get the resources needed to master a challenging curriculum that prepares them to join the 21st century workforce. Accepting the status quo means they will not and, as educators know, students will pay the price.
“I fear that the public will feel that we can manage at a ‘new normal‘… however student achievement suffers, meaning student opportunities suffer. We must be responsible and plan for the worst and our children suffer because of that.”
Wilcox County Schools