Governor Deal’s Funding Formula Subcommittee on Thursday approved a proposed revision to the way elementary and secondary schools are funded by the state. The new formula, which we told you about on Monday, would replace the more than 30 year old Quality Basic Education Act as the method used to determine the distribution of around $8.5 billion to school systems around Georgia. The Education Reform Commission is expected to release its final report to Governor Deal next month, following a final committee meeting next week.
Approval of the new formula met with the support of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, whose regional advocacy director Ryan Mahoney said in a statement,
The school funding improvements recommended today by Governor Deal’s Education Reform Commission would empower schools, educators and parents to put their money where their students’ needs are. The commission’s plan would successfully modernize a 30-year-old formula that no longer reflects the requirements of today’s classroom. This moves Georgia away from a one-size-fits-all approach to a custom fit that focuses on the advancement of each and every student. The recommendations of the commission accurately reflect the will of Georgians, who voiced majority support in our poll for changing to a more flexible, more transparent, more student-based approach.
Earlier this week, the foundation distributed the results of a survey of 500 Georgia voters taken during the last week of October. In that survey, which has a margin of error of 4.5%, nearly half, or 49% of respondents said they would probably or definitely want a change in the school funding formula to one that is more student based than the QBE formula, which is based more on the characteristics of the school system, while 37% said they preferred the current system. Support for the student based system rose to 56% when respondents were told that the current formula was 30 years old. Democrats and independents were more likely to support a change in the formula than were Republicans. 53% of Democrats and 54% of independents favored a change, while only 41% of Republicans were in favor.
Related to the way state funds are allocated to school districts is the amount of money available to be distributed. When told that the state spends more than $9,000 per student each year, 45% of respondents said that amount was about right, while 15% said it was too much. One third, or 33%, said that the state should spend more money per student than it does now. In addition, 48% of those surveyed felt that the money received by the school systems was not spent effectively, and 40% said that schools do not have enough flexibility in determining how state funding is spent.
In a separate question, poll respondents by a wide margin said that the state should reform the way schools are funded before increasing the amount of funding, as shown in the chart to the right. 67% said it was more important to move to a different funding formula before spending more money, while only 25% said schools were underfunded, and the funding shortfall should be eliminated prior to changing the funding formula.
The Foundation for Educational Excellence survey provided some other interesting perspectives on how Peach State voters view their K-12 schools. When asked what single improvement could be made to improve public education, 34% listed smaller class sizes as their first or second choice, followed by increating teacher pay, favored by 33%. Keeping students safe in school was the choice of 20%, while other issues, including expanded school choice and reduced testing were favored by fewer than 20% of respondents.
89% supported inproving the transparency in how schools spend their monay, while 80% want to give schools more flexibility in how the money is spent. 79% of respndents want to provide incentives to school principals and administrators to spend the funds they receive efficiently, and 77% say that a school should receive extra funding if a significant number of students live in poverty.
You can see more survey results in the presentation below.