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    Organization: Georgia Association of Educators     Date: 4/25/2018

 

  Deal's amended budget gives school systems extra funds  
 

(Thursday,03/29/2018 ©  Cartersville Daily Tribune)

Bartow County's two school systems received news this week that they weren't sure they'd ever hear.

Gov. Nathan Deal announced Tuesday that he is amending the fiscal year 2019 state budget recommendation he presented in January to include an additional $167 million for K-12 education in Georgia, which will ensure the state is fully funding the Quality Basic Education funding formula and providing local school systems with 100 percent of the states share in financing for local schools, according to a press release.

An increase in the FY19 state revenue estimate of more than $194 million over initial projections resulted in the governor being able to funnel more funds to education next year.

"Georgias strong economic growth in recent years has allowed us to invest heavily in education, transportation, public safety and health care, Deal said in the release. These investments have in turn helped to create more economic growth by helping Georgia achieve and maintain its state as the No. 1 state in which to do business.This year, as a result of stronger-than-anticipated state revenue performance and federal tax reform, Im amending my FY 2019 budget to include additional funding in a number of areas, including education and transit, two areas that companies often cite as important factors in determining where they wish to grow and expand their businesses."

The additional funding will ensure the state is "fully doing its financial part to address [educators'] concerns" about a lack of funds being a barrier to achieving student success in the classroom, Deal said.

"Finally, fully funding QBE provides a stronger foundation to lawmakers and stakeholders to reform this outdated formula to accommodate the needs of todays students and 21st century classrooms," he said.

The QBE Act was enacted in 1985 to address the inequality in funding among the state's school systems.

"QBE is the state funding formula for education the formula that determines how much state funding each school district receives," Georgia Department of Education spokeswoman Meghan Frick said. "Since 2004, the state budget has imposed austerity cuts in other words, districts did not receive a portion of the state funding they would receive under a 'fully funded' QBE."

State School Superintendent Richard Woods thanked Deal for his proposal to fully fund QBE next year.

"This is great news and would be a historic investment in Georgias schools and students, he said.

Cartersville Superintendent Dr. Howard Hinesley said the move was "good news for our school system and for public school systems throughout Georgia."

"We appreciate Gov. Deals leadership in addressing the funding formulas shortfall," he said. "We also appreciate the leadership of the lieutenant governor, speaker of the House of Representatives and members of the House and Senate for their support."

Hinesley said the school system stands to gain an estimated $400,000 increase in funding for the 2018-19 school year.

Bartow County Superintendent Dr. John Harper seemed cautiously optimistic about the austerity reduction being eliminated.

"Onbehalf of the children in Bartow County, we are very excitedif final allotments from the Department of Education do reflect this revenue increase based on the recent announcement by Gov. Nathan Deal," he said. "When I see decisions made at the state level to benefit our children, Im pleased. Were looking to utilize the fundsto best fit the needs of our children.

Since the austerity reduction was implemented in 2004, Bartow County has lost more than $70 million, Harper said.

But if it is eliminated for FY19, the school system will receivean additional $1.3 million next year, he added.

Both superintendents said QBE has not been fully funded since they've been in their positions, "and this measure still does not fully fund the QBE," due in part to changes in budget practices and unfunded mandates like increases in employer contributions to the Teacher Retirement System and the state health benefit plan, according to Harper.

Another problem is the calculation of the formula, which "has not been revised since originally developed" in 1985, Chief Financial Officer Megan Brown said.

"BCSSs general fund budget is approximately $116 million," she said. "We received approximately $71.5 million [from the state] in FY18, and therefore, the gap in that has to be made up of local revenue.

As for QBE being fully funded beyond the FY19 budget, "it will be up to the next governor and General Assembly as to how to craft future budgets," said Jen Talaber Ryan, Deal's deputy chief of staff for communications.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said the budget, which elevatesappropriations for public education to the highest levelin state history, proves that conservative leadership can deliversignificantpublic investment in the students' future while also reducing the tax burdenon Georgia families.

Educationis the great equalizer that gives every Georgian the tools to become personallyand professionally successful," he said."¦ Were investingmorein our students than ever before, and were doing so at a time when werereducing income taxes on everyGeorgian who earns a paycheck. Fullyfunding QBE will help ensure all of Georgias students regardless ofregion, county or ZIP code haveaccess to world-class public schools."

State education organizations also applauded Deal's move to fully fund QBE and end the austerity cut to the QBE formula, which will "eliminate the final $166.7 million austerity measure still left in the K-12 public education budget," according to the Georgia School Boards Association.

Our public schools have faced grave financial challenges over the years, and despite those odds, schools have persevered," GSBA Executive Director Valarie Wilson said. "We are thankful to Gov. Deal and the legislature for this historic restoration of funds to educate Georgias public school students. We have much work to do, and the stakes are higher than they have ever been.

When Georgia Association of Educators members heard about the governor's proposal, "we were, of course, elated, President Dr. Sid Chapman said.

"Fully funding our public schools has been on GAE's priority list since QBE was implemented," he said. "Our members felt the impact firsthand of not having everything they needed from the state to add to their resource coffers."

Educators realize Deal's proposal "is not an actual update to the state funding formula, which is still needed," Chapman said, but they "applaud the governor for fulfilling the state's responsibility to our public schools and Georgia's children."

"We hope subsequent legislatures take his lead and continue to do what is right for Georgia's public schools," he said.

The school systems aren't the only education institutions in Bartow County benefiting from the proposed total budget increase of $194.8 million.

Chattahoochee Technical College will be in line for funds to build a $23.5 million health education center for its Marietta campus as well as an $8.9 million center for advanced manufacturing and emerging technologies at the North Metro campus in Acworth, according to President Dr. Ron Newcomb.

"We are so appreciative of the governors and General Assemblys commitment to the college and its students, he said. Todays employers have an increasing demand for highly skilled workers to fill well-paid jobs in both health care and advanced manufacturing. Our mission at Chattahoochee Tech is to strengthen both individuals and businesses through workforce training. These new facilities will help us in fulfilling this mission.