Delivering on the Promise to Georgia's Children
The Georgia Constitution requires the State of Georgia to provide an adequate education for every student in Georgia. Although the management of individual schools is delegated to local school systems, the State is ultimately responsible for the education of our students.
The most precise definition of an adequate education is found in the requirements set by the Georgia Board of Education for graduation from high school. Moreover, a high-school diploma is clearly the gateway to higher education or an entry-level job in today’s economy.
No one knows exactly how many of Georgia’s students are reaching this critical milestone. The State reports that about one-fourth of all entering night graders drop out of high school, but according to other estimates, at least one-third of Georgia’s students are not obtaining a regular diploma from high school. No matter which estimate is used, the low graduation rate is a personal tragedy for the affected students and a huge detriment to the economic prosperity and health of the entire state.
Good schools require dedicated teachers, effective leaders, active parents, and a supportive community, but they also need enough resources to support the instructional program. This challenge is even greater in those schools where many of the students are economically disadvantaged or speak a first language other than English.
The State of Georgia has been steadily shifting its responsibility in the financing of our schools to the local level. Even though the total actual amount of state funds has increased over time, the increases have not kept up with the growth in enrollment, the effect of inflation, and the needs of our students. The State's own formula for providing a basic educational program in every school is underfunded by at least one $1 billion or $700 per student annually (which equates to $17,500 for a class with 25 students).
Local school systems have to make up the difference. This is a substantial problem for all of the schools in Georgia, but it is particularly acute for the students in those school systems which lack the local tax base or the political will to cover the deficits in the funding of an adequate education.
The State is not fulfilling its clear obligation under the Georgia Constitution to provide an adequate education to all of our students, and it is not even following the laws which it has enacted to fulfill this obligation. Moreover, the situation is getting worse.
The primary goal of the lawsuit on the State’s responsibility in K-12 education is to improve the opportunities for all of Georgia’s children. Additional resources, spent wisely, are absolutely necessary, and raising the basic student amount in the funding formula would benefit every school in Georgia.
Additional information can be found at www.casfg.org.
JUNE 15, 2009