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Senate Research Committee Reviewing Education Funding

ATLANTA – The Georgia Senate Research Committee on Education Funding Mechanisms will meet next Friday to consider what changes are needed in how schools are funded in Peach State.

Senate Majority Leaders Mike Dugan and R-Carrollton chair the committee.

Other members of the committee are Senators Chuck Payne, R-Dalton. Nan O’Roch, D-Atlanta; Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta. and Billy Hickman from R-Statesboro.

The commission grew out of a Senate resolution passed by Congress this year. Prepare recommendations for consideration by the General Assembly during its 2023 session.

The committee may focus on quality basic education (QBE) schemes. This formula allocates school funds based on the number of students in the district and other factors.

Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Educators Association, said: “We need to make resources available so that we can provide a balanced education for every child.”

She pointed out that teachers and schools are now being asked to do more than they used to.

“We can’t get enough counselors, social workers and nurses in the formula, we know we need them,” Morgan said.

Some key school employees, such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers, aren’t on the state payroll, so it’s up to school districts to set salaries, Morgan said.

“We’re short … partly because we don’t have a pay scale to guarantee at least a liveable minimum wage in these support positions,” Morgan said.

Some advocates have called on the commission to consider revisions to the formula to ensure districts have sufficient resources to support the education of children living in poverty.

Georgia is one of six states that lacks an “opportunity focus” where school districts provide additional funding to educate low-income students.

“The biggest blind spot in our education funding system is the students living in poverty,” said Stephen Owens, senior policy analyst at the Georgia Institute for Budget Policy, an innovative think tank in Atlanta. .

“The state recognizes the unique needs of students with disabilities, English learners, and Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) children,” Owens said.

“It’s time to help with the biggest challenge we have in schools: the relationship between opportunity and parent income.”

“It costs more to educate students living in poverty to get the same academic performance,” said an independent nonprofit focused on improving education across the state. Dana Rickman, president of a Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, explained.

“It has nothing to do with their intelligence or potential. They just have more challenges, and that should be accounted for,” Rickman said.

Rickman said he hopes the commission will consider conducting a cost study to better understand education costs in Georgia.

“We have had all these discussions with teachers and administrators and we expect to see results like this from our students. I don’t know if it will take,” Rickman said.

“Understanding the cost structure behind what we’re spending money on helps guide our decisions,” Rickman says.

With the state’s current budget surplus, this is a good time to put the cost of education into perspective, she added.

Some proponents may push for expansion of Georgia’s voucher and school choice programs.

“Enabling school choice for every family must become a reality for Georgia,” said Cole Muzio of the conservative organization Frontline Policy Council. “Dollars should follow children. Empower individual children to achieve their goals, empower parents, and improve education in Georgia as a whole.”

Others, like Terence Wilson, disagree.

“Funds devoted to vouchers should be reinvested in public schools that can meet the needs of all students, especially those with disabilities,” said a nonprofit that specializes in educational equity. said Wilson, regional policy director for the Association for Intercultural Development Studies.

One of the commission’s models comes from Georgia’s northern neighbor, Tennessee. The state revamped its education funding system earlier this year.

Christian Barnard said in an article released Friday by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, that Tennessee’s reform efforts have been successful because they moved forward quickly and gathered detailed feedback from stakeholders across the state. He said it was because

“If Georgia legislators want to maintain the K-12 fiscal reform strategy this time around, they need to focus on setting a clear vision, establishing a transparent public participation process, and following an efficient timeline. We need it,” said Barnard.

The study committee will meet next Friday, August 19, at 1:00 p.m. at the State Capitol. The commission also launched a website where Georgians can live stream the meeting, sign up to testify via Zoom, and submit written testimony.

The Commission will also meet in Savannah on September 16th and in Columbus on October 21st.

This article is available through a news partnership with the Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.