Proposed Basis for a Settlement
To accelerate the educational benefits for Georgia’s students and avoid a long, costly, and acrimonious trial, the Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia is willing to negotiate a formal settlement of its lawsuit against the State of Georgia.
Specifically, the Consortium is willing to enter into a compromise and withdraw its lawsuit against the State of Georgia if the Governor announces his intention to submit recommendations to the General Assembly for the funding of Georgia’s schools in a way which meets the criteria set forth in this proposal. If the General Assembly did not enact by the end of its 2008 session a funding method to fulfill these criteria, the Consortium would reactivate its lawsuit in the same status that now exists.
The Consortium is seeking the provision of an adequate education for every child in Georgia as promised by the Georgia Constitution. The desired outcomes include a significant improvement in student achievement throughout Georgia and a substantial increase in the percentage of students who earn a regular diploma from Georgia’s high schools. However, the Consortium is open to various ways of achieving this goal.
Since the Governor has appointed an Education Finance Task Force to recommend a new method of financing K-12 education in Georgia, the Consortium is willing to work with the Task Force in designing a plan which promotes excellence in Georgia’s schools and, for the purpose of this settlement, meets the criteria defined below.
Pending approval by the membership of the Consortium, the principles and criteria which are acceptable to the Consortium for the purpose of this settlement are as follows:
- Full-Funding of a Foundation Program
- Strategic Multiples for Students Who Need Extra Help
- Additional assistance would be provided to all of the students in grades K-5 from low-income families who need extra support to perform at grade level on a sustained basis, without separating these students from other students at each school. Although the exact nature of this intervention is still to be determined, the related funding would be at least as much as the amount needed to serve these students at a ratio of one teacher for every eleven students.
- Expanded opportunities would be provided to all of the students in grades 6-12 who need a non-traditional setting to meet the requirements for graduation from high school, without being limited to those students who have been disruptive or to an arbitrary percentage of all students. Although the exact nature of these programs is still to be determined, the related funding would be at least as much as the amount needed serve these students at a ratio of one teacher for every fifteen students.
- Accountability with Flexibility
- Recognition of the Differences in Local Resources
- The required local share for each system in the funding of the foundation program would vary in accordance with the taxable wealth of that system in relation to the total for the state as a whole, with an additional adjustment, if feasible, for the median household income of its residents.
- The State would provide additional assistance to enable every system to increase salaries and expand the services to its students beyond the floor represented by the foundation program on the same basis as a system with a taxable wealth per student equal to the statewide average.
There would be an effective and appropriate instructional program for every child in Georgia. The essential elements of this program would be offered through a foundation program that would be financed through a combination of state funds and a defined local share, adjusted for the taxable wealth for each school system. The cost of this program would be based on the individual needs of each student and would be determined in a comprehensive and realistic way, which is updated regularly. The foundation program would establish a floor in every school, which local systems could exceed by increasing the salaries of their employees and expanding the services to their students.
Although the exact form of the funding method is still to be determined, the financial support for the foundation program would be at least as much as the amount needed to provide the components described in Exhibit A in every school and system throughout Georgia.
To close the persistent achievement gap among various groups and increase the overall graduation rate, there would be additional intervention initiatives and non-traditional programs for all eligible students in grades K-12.
To encourage local discretion and responsibility, the funding method would allow sufficient flexibility to address the distinct educational needs of each community. Local schools would be accountable for educational results and would have to meet state standards, but would otherwise have considerable latitude in determining the best way to meet the needs of their students, unless restricted through a school improvement plan. A local system or school would not be deprived of flexibility solely because of the system’s relative lack of taxable wealth. Local systems could also raise funds in excess of their required local share to increase salaries and expand the services to their students beyond the foundation program.
The funding method would be based on a productive and fair partnership between the State and local school systems, in which the roles and responsibilities would be clearly defined. There would also be appropriate adjustments for the differences in the local resources available to each system in meeting the required local share and exceeding the foundation program.
Although the exact nature of these adjustments is still to be determined, they would meet the following conditions:
There would be enough state and required local funding to cover the general cost of the educational program for all students as well as the additional costs for all of the students who are now eligible for Special Education, English to Speakers of Other Languages, Alternative Education (in grades 6-12), Remedial Education (in grades 6-12), Gifted Education, and the Early Intervention Program (in grades K-5), but without arbitrary limits on eligibility.
Although the funding method might be entirely different from the approach shown below, the total amount of funding would be at least as much as the total cost of a foundation program calculated as follows:
- A classroom teacher, based on the current ratios for class size in each of the specific programs,
- Instructional support by paraprofessionals, counselors, art, music, and physical education teachers, technology specialists, media center personnel, psychologists, and school social workers, based on the current staffing ratios, although the total amount of such funding could be used in other ways,
- Textbooks, library books and media, supplies, equipment, travel, and instructional technology, based on a reasonable amount per student in each program,
- Staff development, in an amount not less than 1.5% of the minimum salary schedule then in effect for all covered positions,
- Facility maintenance and operation, based on the cost per student to maintain a typical school building at each organizational level,
- School administration based on the cost of supervising a typical school but in no event less than 10% of the certificated salaries at the school level,
- Central administration based on the cost of supervising a typical system but in no event less than 3% of all certificated salaries at the school level,
- Student transportation, based on the specific needs of each system according to State standards, and
- Additional grants in accordance with State standards for the extra costs caused by extreme sparsity and isolation.
Until the costs of items 3, 5, and 8 above can be determined on the indicated basis, the funding for these items would be no less than 70% of the actual statewide expenditures for these purposes in the most recent year for which data is available.
The total amount of salaries for all certificated positions would be not less than the total amount calculated in accordance with the State’s minimum salary schedule then in effect, although the distribution could be different from what is now the case.
Sept. 1, 2006