Valdosta Daily Times

March 19, 2013

State Rep. Ellis Black's legislative roundup

State Rep. Ellis Black
Georgia General Assembly

VALDOSTA — I place great stock in a number of old clichés.  One my dad taught me is “If you don’t look after your business, someone else will,” meaning they will end up with your business, your money or whatever you have of value that is at stake.  Nearly three fourths of the tax dollars collected by state and local governments in Georgia is spent on education and that kind of money draws people with a lot of different agendas.  This fact alone makes the funding of your local schools very much your business.



I cannot stress too strongly that every taxpayer should stay in close communication with your local school board in order to be assured that your state and local tax dollars are being well managed by your local system.



The state funding processes for education are far too complicated for me to attempt explaining in this email, but I will say the citizens, educators and political leadership of rural Georgia have not been looking after our business as well as we should have in recent years. In the past we have had programs like the Equalization Grant that provided additional funds for the smaller rural counties that had less wealth than the urban and suburban areas. In 2012 the formula for determining how the Equalization Grant would be awarded was changed in such a way that some of the small rural counties no longer receive any funds at all, and a couple of the large suburban counties are getting a major portion of the funds.  Additionally, the total amount of money for this program was greatly reduced.



Another program that was designed to aid the smaller rural counties is the Sparsity Grant and it has been recommended by the Governor that this program be eliminated.



I have taken a proactive role in protection the funding for rural systems and have formed an informal coalition of likeminded legislators on this topic.  We have been successful in keeping the Sparsity Grant in the budget and we were able to place additional funds in the Equalization Grant for this year. However, the Equalization Grant remains are far short of where it was funded in years past. It is my goal to expand this coalition and continue to make changes that lessen the gross disparity in education funding across this state.



Our overall state funding for education has been reduced due to the economic recession that we are struggling through, but please keep in mind that the funding for Kindergarten through grade 12 has been cut far less than most any other department.  I am proud of these smaller cuts in K-12 education and feel they demonstrate my commitment and the commitment of the majority of my colleagues in the legislature to providing the best education possible to our children.



This past week was the lull behind the storm of day 30 which is the last day a bill can pass one house and be considered by the other.  Most of our time was spent in committees acting on Senate bills.  Next week I’ll discuss some of these Senate bills that look like they may have a chance of becoming law.



Details on any of the bills that have been introduced this year can be found at:  www.legis.state.ga.us



Please feel free to contact me whenever I can be of assistance.



Ellis