The state of Georgia uses the Quality Basic Education (QBE) program as its primary source of state funding. The Quality Basic Education Act was passed by an unprecedented unanimous vote in 1985, and it focuses on programs which the state authorizes and supports in an effort to provide a quality basic education to all Georgia children. Periodically, the Georgia General Assembly has amended the original Act, with the most recent change effective for fiscal year 2016. For funding purposes, currently the Act identifies 18 QBE programs.
Compensating for high-poverty environments is a critical issue to the state. Seventy percent of Georgia school district leaders say poverty is the most significant out-of-school issue that limits student learning.
“We want to lift the weighted funding formula that Atlanta Public Schools now uses here in Georgia,” said Dr. Kelly Ditzel, director of research & policy for Southern Education Foundation. “They are weighting certain characteristics such as ELLs and poverty. Many affluent, white parents are upset as they view this approach as their schools getting less. However, this is a first step to equity.”
Suggestions for improvement include developing a student-based funding formula based on three components: student-based funding, weighted student characteristics and categorical grants, as well as permanently adding money to the current K-12 state budget.
Under the budget for fiscal 2019, which begins July 1, the state will be pouring $9.9 billion into K-12 schools.
Changes are also needed in the areas of recruiting, retaining and supporting teachers. Over the past five years, enrollment in Georgia teacher preparation programs has declined by 16 percent. Of new teachers hired in 2005, only 44 percent have remained in education for the required 10 years to become vested in the Teacher Retirement System.
The new budget does not include state-funded pay raises for 200,000 teachers and state employees in the upcoming year. However, it does contain $361 million for the teacher pension system.
Current salary and career advancement structures in Georgia inhibit recruitment and retention. Solutions proposed include developing guidance to assist districts in developing a strategic compensation model and providing grants to support districts in developing strong teacher induction programs.