Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

September 28, 2013

The Schoolhouse Squeeze

Report sheds light on school funding cuts

VALDOSTA — A new report released by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute brings light to the huge cuts being made by the Georgia Legislature in state funding for public schools. This report, titled The Schoolhouse Squeeze, offers a summary of all of the public school systems in the state.

According to the report, Lowndes County and Valdosta City schools have faced serious cuts in recent years. The report summarizes for both schools what percentage of their students are economically challenged. It explains the amount of additional funding that would be required based on the Quality Basic Education (QBE) program's formula, which is the primary source of state money for public schools. It also summarizes the value of taxable property now versus in 2008, the total cut in QBE funding since 2003 and the percent change in state funds per full-time equivalent (FTE) student since 2002.

According to the report, Lowndes County serves 10,180 students, just over 50 percent of which are economically disadvantaged. Fully funding the amount determined by the QBE would require sending $669 more per student to Lowndes County. The value of taxable property changed by 4 percent between 2008-2012. There has been a cumulative cut in QBE funding of $49,925,952 since 2003; that's a percent change in state funds per FTE of over -19 percent since 2002.

Wes Taylor, Superintendent of Lowndes County Schools, said of the report, "In the last 10 years, we have experienced a reduction in the percentage of funding provided by the state from about 56 percent in 2002 to approximately 49 percent today. During these challenging financial times, our local community has experienced an increase in their share of funding education from about 38 percent to approximately 42 percent. The portion provided from federal funds has fluctuated between 6-9 percent."

Taylor also added, "In spite of our current circumstances,  budget reductions, reduced staff, increased class sizes, and furlough days our greatest resource is still our people.  Dedicated, committed, highly qualified, and caring people who continue to make a difference in the lives of our children."

According to the report, Valdosta City serves 7,659 students, just over 75 percent of those students are economically disadvantaged. To fully fund the amount determined by the QBE, they would need to send $648 more per student to Valdosta. Also according to the report, the value of taxable property rose by 3.6 percent between 2008-2012. There has been a cumulative cut in QBE funding of $36,327,698 since 2003; that's a percent change in state funds per FTE of over -17 percent since 2002.

Superintendent of Valdosta City School, E. Martin Roesch, commented on the report saying, "I feel the report is an accurate representation of our system.  With the reduction in QBE funds, VCS had to increase class sizes and cut personnel through attrition.  86 percent of our budget is personnel.  We were fortunate to receive the Race to the Top grant which helped us to keep moving forward with instructional improvement initiatives."

A full version of the report can be found at http://gbpi.org/the-schoolhouse-squeeze-2. To see the full report, click the "Download the report" link.

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