State Considers Student Funding Overhaul

At a recent Cobb County, GA Education Reform Panel Discussion, panelists discussed recommendations made by Gov. Nathan Deal's Education Reform Commission. The recommendations could lead to a potential student-funding overhaul if Georgia lawmakers adopt them during the 2017 Legislative session. GCSA Executive Vice President Andrew Lewis says a student-funding overhaul is needed. He says unequal funding is one of the barriers charter schools face. He says the state’s 32-year-old student funding formula is outdated and was created before the existence of charter schools. “The funding formula is not set up for the existence of charter schools,” said Lewis. “What we see is charter schools not being able to receive the level of funding equity for their children that traditional public schools would receive. When you add on top of that, that charter schools pay for their own facilities, which is typically 10 to 12 percent of their operating revenue, you’re looking at a charter school in the state that is typically receiving around 70 percent of what the traditional public school is receiving.” International Academy of Smyrna Principal Kari Schrock said because charter schools are autonomous they have to pay for everything out of the same bucket of money. As a result, she says after paying for things like the light bill, water, textbooks, teacher salaries and benefits, the remaining amount goes to the school’s instructional budget. She says the opposite is true in traditional schools, because school districts pay for most expenses and the amount that goes to the schools are for the instructional budget.

Both State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) and State Rep. Erica Thomas (D-Austell) say changes to the formula are needed, but getting a new one to the governor’s desk won’t be easy. They say that’s because some of the colleagues they work with are hesitant to change a formula that’s been in place for more than three decades. StudentsFirst, 100 Black Men of North Metro, Inc. and The Lieneur Group partnered with Georgia Schools Association for the event. Attendees also viewed “Most Likely to Succeed,” a critically acclaimed documentary film that describes how the current U.S. educational system, which was developed a century ago, leaves many graduates unprepared for the 21st century.

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