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Opinion: Education $$$ cut again again despite record unemployment



Recovery Act funds alone could not shore up Georgia’s education budgets. Lawmakers cut between 13 and 15 percent from K-12, University System and Georgia’s award-winning Technical College System budgets for the upcoming fiscal year compared to 2009, before these recessionary cuts began.

Thousands of Georgians currently employed by the state education systems will join the ranks of Georgia’s record unemployment numbers. These include not only teachers, but nurses, cafeteria supervisors, bus drivers and custodians.

The State Board of Education just eliminated class size limits for the upcoming school year to allow districts to manage state cuts. Additional consequences will be more adjunct faculty at colleges and universities, salary cuts, furloughs and reduced supportive services such as tutoring, advising and professional development, as well as more drastic measures for some institutions.

A few K-12 school systems have already moved to a four-day school week or shortened the school calendar from 180 days to 160 days.

These cuts affect students, faculty and staff, but also local economies across the state. According to the state Department of Labor, K-12 systems are one of the 10 largest employers in every county in Georgia, and the largest in 96 counties.

In addition, 27 counties have a public post-secondary system among their top 10 employers. As an economist from George Mason University put it recently, “The macroeconomic worry is that widespread cutbacks by states and localities will create a drag on the economy. … It is folly not to recognize the impact on the broader economic recovery.”

The intent of federal Recovery Act funds was to give state lawmakers time to address their revenue declines from the Great Recession. Although Georgia’s budget deficit has been in the 10 worst in the nation, lawmakers chose to rely heavily on cutting state services; Georgia lawmakers did not take significant steps to shore up the state’s revenue system for education.

Recovery Act funds for education run out in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, causing bigger holes in school funding even as Georgia’s population of school-age children increases, more displaced workers seek job training, and more young people seek post-secondary education in order to enter the workforce. The revenue problem won’t end there, though, as state economists project weak revenues for several years to come, predicting the state will not regain FY 2007 level of revenues until FY 2014. This could mean more cuts in the coming years; without new revenue sources, K-12 and post-secondary education (which comprise more than 50 percent of state spending) likely will continue to face cuts.

Given these prolonged revenue problems, Georgia has four options for future education budgets. One option that gives states another year of time to solve their financial problems is for Congress to pass amendments to the war/disaster supplemental bill to add $23 billion in emergency education funding — effectively an extension of the Recovery Act’s state fiscal stabilization fund. These funds would go to state governments and help prevent education layoffs in Georgia and across the nation.

The other three options are: 1) increasing targeted state taxes such as the cigarette tax and repealing some tax exemptions; 2) shifting the costs to local governments and students; and 3) cutting education programs.

All of these options have policy implications that demand serious discussion. Relying on additional cuts to education, for example, raises questions about equity. Will some communities be able to offset the cuts with local resources, while communities with limited means cannot?

Continuing to vilify revenue measures while giving budget cuts a free pass is hurting our economy. We are faced with a limited number of budget choices going forward, none of which are ideal. A balanced approach to the fiscal crisis, one that includes raising state revenues responsibly and limiting additional cuts to services, will put Georgia in a better position to compete and prosper economically in the 21st century.

Sarah Beth Gehl is deputy director of the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. Her report, Highlights of the FY 2011 Education Budgets and the Four Options for Future Budgets, is available to download freely at The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan nonprofit that analyzes budget and tax policies to inspire responsible decision-making.





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9 Responses to “Opinion: Education $$$ cut again again despite record unemployment”

  1. Former Legal Secretary Now Retired says:

    You forgot one thing – if you are going to increase cigarette taxes then increase taxes on liquor; increase taxes on luxury cars; and above all make sure that our great Legislators who are not paying their state taxes pay them and publicly name them immediately.

  2. Ben says:

    Since the title of the article acknowledges that record numbers of people are unemployed, and therefore unable to pay the taxes that support government eduction, where would the writer suggest the money come from? The tooth fairy? Looks to me like we will eventually be forced to do what every other business does. Government will provide a level of service it can afford, not necessarily one that teachers and administrators insist we have. When government schools can provide a level of education as good as some of the thrid world countries who kick our butts now I’ll be more sympathetic to all the moaning and crying. We spend hundreds of billions more than countries who get significantly better results.

    I have an idea. How about having everyone pay for their own kid’s education and keeping the government out of it entirely? The reason government education at every level consumes such a huge percentage of the state and county budget is because it is funded with a limitless supply, till now, of tax money appropriated by politicians more worried about getting reelected than providing meaningful, effective education for the next generation.

  3. Kevin Ewing says:

    As a teacher I am angry! We get more and more cuts and still we are held to an increasingly higher standard. To the man who just wrote an opinion How about cuts from the top down? Where are the cuts in salaries and perks for the lawmakers in Atlanta? How about cuts to even those who are retired, to those those who don’t need really need extra health care benefits that the state provides? Any way you look at it both ideas are wrong. If as Ben suggests that people pay for their own children’s’ education then people should also pay for their own costs after they retire. Both ideas are ridiculous and selfish.

    The same people who complain about the quality of education in Georgia really don’t mind seeing the State kill whatever incentive we had to recruit and keep good teachers. I moved to Georgia 6 years ago because I believed that things were moving in the right direction in Georgia for education. I no longer believe that.

  4. Former Legal Secretary Now Retired says:

    Kevin – I promise you that I daily engage in emails with our School Board and our Legislators about the mistreatment of our teachers and will continue to do so as long as I have a breath in my body. With the horrible mess in Clayton County the past few years and the mess in DeKalb County that keeps getting more disgusting and nasty by the day and I firmly believe that SACS will be stepping into that quagmire soon, you are right, education in Georgia is not moving in the right direction. The biggest losers in all of this is the teachers and students. We need people in the State Superintendent’s office and the Legislator that will stop this downward spiral but sadly we don’t have those kind of people. Thankfully Kathy Cox is leaving and not too soon in my opinion – our gain – D.C.’s loss and people need to vote out every School Board member up for election this year. Personally I hope Brian Westlake gets elected State School Superintendent; I hope people will elect School Board members whose main interests is our teachers and students.

  5. Cherise says:

    Folks, it’s too easy to raise taxes than to scrutinize expenditures. I am not fooled when I am told, “We can’t cut anywhere else.” That’s horse hockey!!!! Let us simple-minded folks get into the financial files; we’ll find a lot of ways to cut spending. Salaries of head office people can be cut; the size of the State Board of Education can be cut. In case you didn’t know, our county school systems answer to no one but the voters so why do we have a large building in Atlanta with who knows how many floors and people that make up the State Board of Education? Our local county school board meets twice a month. They are not full-time employees, but yet, they receive benefits as if they were full-time employees. Our school system receives approximately 80 percent of our tax money. Citizens, you need to start delving into where the money is going and the high salaries being paid. You have every right to do this through the Freedom of Information Act. You can submit an oral or written request. I love our teachers, but their hands are severely tied by government when trying to teach our children. In my opinion, our teachers deserve every penny they receive. Our children are being dumbed down by government. I am all for doing away with the government school system and setting up homeschoolers in neighborhoods to teach a few children in their home for a nominal fee. It has been proved that homeschooling is superior to public education.

  6. Deborah Owens says:

    School Systems customarily overspend and have their priorities upside down. A new prioritization, and cut backs on extras would revitalize the budget and keep reserves where they should be. Continuing to borrow/beg funds and spend will inevitably create more [property] taxes, and an ever increasing government that feeds on itself.

    For instance, the Columbus/Muscogee County School Board/Library Board secretly planned a $250,000 statue to grace the entrance to the NEW overdone library. Both were unnecessary. And, the School Board built a very expensive NEW palatial admin building to glorify their existence. Teachers do not have enough paper, and kids are schooled in trailers, while some still walk through puddles to go to the bathroom. Many Kids do not have all have books at the start of school.

    The same old architects drain the school system coffers with their outrageous costs for things that are not needed. They have a real “IN” with the government.

    The City of Columbus has a $20 M budget for recreation, and pays hundreds of thousands for kids’ basketball teams that are not associated with the schools but part of an ELITE rec team. Problem is more than 50% of the kids are not even from Columbus. The city pays for vans and chauffeurs to travel two-three hrs. each way, to pick up out of state kids in the FLA panhandle and transport them to Col. for practice. The city takes them on trips to Las Vegas and any other place than want to go. We have a lifestyle of the rich and famous for out of state kids on the city rec dollar. The kids practice in the rec facilities and locals cannot use them.

    We have plenty of tax dollars, enough to cover all necessities, but we have governance by people who are fiscally irresponsible.

    Social Justice government agendas that presume to build character for children by being NANNYS to them, is putting the government in the poor house and the economy into a recession.

    If each person took on the Personal Responsibility to ask their government to STOP SPENDING and RE PRIORITIZE then there would be no issue in our state revenue.

    They waste Millions on their own offices, and outrageous programs for kids who do not even live in our state for GAWD’s sake!

  7. Georgia taxpayers says:

    The AJC reported on Feb. 25th that Chancellor “Davis could not immediately answer some questions, such as when Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) asked how many employees of the system have total compensation packages of more than $500,000.”
    When discussing more layoffs and furloughs in a recent article, President Michael Adams (UGA) failed to mention that he is one of those many employees.
    Gov. Perdue stated in his Aug 10, 2009 email response that according to Ga. Const. Art. 8, Sec. 3, Para. 1(c) “Georgia’s Constitution reserves to the Board of Regents the exclusive authority to do what they want with the tax dollars they are given.”
    In our strong opinion, new legislation needs to be introduced that would force some form of accountability back to the Board of Regents to someone other than themselves. We understand that more of their unaccountability will be disclosed in the next few months.
    Until then, take a moment to read Jim Wall’s full story:

  8. lynnbo says:

    Quoting Gainesville City School Superintendent Dyer “our children are of the labor force and many live in federal subsidized housing and receive free breakfast and lunch their parents work at Cargill, Kubota and Wrigley and we don’t want these children to be left alone or hungary” Gainesville is a business funded community that seems to pay its employees low wages. Most of the students are latino and I suspect illegal since they require ESL.
    She is crying about 10 furlough days and wants higher taxes. The circle of support for this slave labor has been driven thru the Hall County United Way. Whats a result…..the illegals have the few jobs that exist and are taking more as companies get bolder. Our youth can not find jobs, because the parents of the illegals have taken them at low wages and welfare assistance in order to save their children and get them educated with in state college tuition. This is not working out well for American families who where born here. But who have paid high taxes so the real estate, builders and bankers get slave labor.
    If you know how to stop this insanity and save the thousands of families Hall County is destroying please let me know

  9. Former Legal Secretary Now Retired says:

    Lynnbo – this same problems exists in the metro area of Atlanta also.