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Georgia spends less on students than 39 other states. Does it show?


The AJC ran a news story about average state investments in education that merits discussion, especially when the governor wants to assume control of low performing schools and install them in a state-run district.

A June report out of Georgia State University shows the state --  one of three primary sources of school funding, along with local property taxes and federal dollars -- does not invest as much in education as many other states.

The report ranks states according to state and local dollars spent on education in 2011-2012. Not surprisingly, the top 10 states are largely in the Northeast and outperform Georgia academically.

Georgia ranked 34th in state and local dollars going to schools, investing $9,402 per pupil on average. New York invested the most in education, spending $20,812 per pupil.

However, when you subtract the local dollars flowing to schools and consider only what the state provides, Georgia falls to 40th on the ranking, spending $4,446 per pupil. (The 50-state average is $6,189.)

Increasingly, Georgia schools rely on funds provided by local property owners rather than by the state, which raises questions over how much control the state should exert over schools.

According to AJC education reporter Ty Tagami:

Georgia ranked near the bottom among U.S. states when it came to investing in education after the Great Recession, according to two new reports.

The state spent $4,466 per pupil during the 2011-12 school year, below the 50-state average of $6,189, according to a June report by the Center for State and Local Finance at Georgia State University.

Georgia spent less than any of its adjoining states except Florida, ranking 40th.

Georgia's rank rose six places when local revenue was added, since less than half of educational funding came from state coffers. But the total per-student amount of $9,402 was still less than the $11,337 average among states.

Georgia paid its teachers better than might be expected: The average salary during the 2013-14 school year was $52,924. That's below the national average of $56,610, but it's 23rd among states and above the per-capita personal income in Georgia of $39,097. (The state ranked 40th in per-capita income.)

Another study found similar results for 2012. The Education Law Center and Rutgers University reported this spring that Georgia ranked 36th in "funding level, " a measure that incorporates overall educational funding and per-pupil spending, with adjustments for regional wages, poverty, economies of scale and population density.

Two other interesting rankings in the report by the GSU Center for State and Local Finance:

•Georgia ranked second in the nation in the percentage change in in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions from 2009-10 to 2014-15. Georgia saw a 46.1 percent increase. (I read an interesting piece about how it's unlikely states will jump-start funding for higher education as Legislatures have happily discovered parents will accept and pay higher and higher tuition.)

•With 347,733 students, Georgia ranked 9th in the nation in full-time enrollment in public higher education in fiscal year 2014.


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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.