Georgia’s public schools are not fully funded. The General Assembly provided $1 billion less to school districts than the state’s own K-12 funding formula calculated they need to educate their students this year. A glance at the state’s budget for the funding formula, also known as the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula, makes that clear. Despite this, there is a misperception that public schools in Georgia are fully funded. What’s behind this misperception? Confusion about the difference between fully funding the QBE formula and state funding related to enrollment growth.
Fully funding public schools means providing them with the total amount determined by the QBE formula. Districts would get an average of $633 more per student if the QBE formula were fully funded this year. This adds up fast. It means almost $16,000 more for a classroom of 25 students for example.
The General Assembly did allot more money to the QBE formula for the 2013-2014 school year than it did in the previous school year but that is because the number of students in our public schools grew. In other words, lawmakers funded enrollment growth. This minor increase did not begin to fill in the cut to the QBE, however. It only ensured that state funding per student would not fall even farther behind.
The QBE formula is complicated and can be hard to understand. What is easy to understand is that Georgia’s schools don’t have the resources needed to best serve students.
2 thoughts on “Yes, Georgia’s Schools Really are Underfunded”
Thanks, Claire, for this clearly written piece and for the effort you put into the survey of Georgia’s school systems. You explained quite well the difference between the actual funding by the state and the funding that is required by the basic formula in state law, but what makes this comparison even worse is that the formula itself is terribly out-of-date and becomes more so every year. There have been no adjustments in the non-salary items in the formula for well over a decade, and the salary schedule for teachers has been frozen for several years. Does anyone think that the cost of utilities, to cite only one example, has not risen over the last decade? And what about the cost of textbooks or the fuel for buses? The deficit between state funding and what the formula would have been if the non-salary components had been adjusted for inflation increases by several hundred million dollars more to at least $1.5 billion. And even this comparison is based on the flawed assumption that the formula was correct to begin with. It’s true that local school systems have made up much of the difference, but their ability to do so has been exhausted, especially for those systems with a low tax base per student. In any event, there is no escape from the simple truth that the state has not fulfilled its responsibility. Yes, state funding for our schools has risen over time, but not by enough to keep up with the growth in enrollment, the inflation in all costs, and the increasing needs of our students. I continue to be astounded that our state leaders will not acknowledge this simple reality. Thanks for what you are doing to bring clarity to this vitally important subject.
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