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Breaking news: School districts win under proposed Georgia funding overhaul


This is breaking news out of the Governor's Education Reform Commission meeting by AJC reporter Ty Tagami:

By Ty Tagami, staff writer

The state budget for education would rise by a quarter billion dollars under a proposal floated Wednesday by education reformers working for Gov. Nathan Deal.

The funding subcommittee of Deal’s Education Reform Commission was tasked with streamlining the way some $8 billion is divided among Georgia's 180 school districts and the nearly two dozen charter schools that operate under contract with the State Charter Schools Commission.

All but nine school districts come out ahead under the proposal. (They are Gainesville City, and Floyd, Burke, Coffee, Crisp, Lumpkin, Tattnall, Worth and Haralson counties.)

See how your system would fare.

The current formula, known as QBE (it stands for Quality Basic Education), was established in 1985 and has been criticized as too complicated and outdated. Deal wanted a simpler formula that gives schools more flexibility with how they spend the money.

The new proposal would add $241 million to the state education budget, increasing the total to $8.46 billion. Georgia has been under funding the current formula for more than a decade, with current year spending at least half a billion less than the formula requires.

The existing and proposed formulas share some similarities. Each would pass money to schools based on the composition of their enrollment, but the new model gives schools the money with fewer strings attached. Under the current formula, for instance, schools are reimbursed for the cost of each teacher based on where that teacher falls on the state salary schedule, which considers years of experience and educational degrees earned.

Under the proposed formula, schools, with some exceptions due to grandfathering under the salary schedule, would get a bulk amount based on the average teacher pay in the state, and allocate it to teachers as they see fit.

There are other differences. For instance, under the current formula, high school students are worth less than younger students, while the proposed formula rates older students as more costly to educate and has schools earning the least for students in grades four through eight. The existing formula has 18 categories. The new formula has 12, including a new category for “economically disadvantaged” students, giving districts more money for each student from a low-income household.

The mix of these "weights" will produce a different outcome for the same student under the existing and proposed formulas. What ultimately matters is the bottom line for each school district. Most will come out ahead if Deal agrees to spend the extra quarter billion dollars. Here is roughly how much more money metro Atlanta districts would get under the proposal.

Atlanta Public Schools: $3.2 million

City Schools of Decatur: $653,000

Clayton County School District: $9.6 million

Cobb County School District: $6.7 million

DeKalb County School District: $10.9 million

Fulton County School System: $11.9 million

Gwinnett County Public Schools: $27.5 million

Marietta City Schools: $832,000

The funding committee has scheduled one more meeting, on Nov. 12, before it presents its recommendation to the full Education Reform Commission on Nov. 19. The full commission will meet again in December before presenting its findings to Deal. The governor will then decide whether to craft legislation from the recommendations and present it to the General Assembly.

Lawmakers would then get involved and decide whether they think the proposed changes improve education.




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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.