Adequate Funding of Education in Georgia: What Does It Mean, What Might It Cost, How Could It Be Implemented?
50 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2011 Last revised: 20 Oct 2011
Date Written: September 26, 2010
Adequate education expenditures are what are required to achieve specified educational objectives, such as a specified pass rate on some exam. While defining adequacy is relatively easy, measuring it is another thing. Several methods have been used to estimate the cost of providing an adequate education, but none of them is without its flaws. Based on adequacy studies for other states, we selected a per student expenditure of $7,500 (for FY 2004) as a reasonable estimate of the cost of providing an adequate education in Georgia. To achieve a minimum per student expenditure of $7,500 for all school districts, would have required an increase of 11.8 percent in total state and local spending on education. This increase is before any adjustment for inflation and enrollment growth. This would be a challenge, but not a huge one. To ensure that all school systems in the State have $7,500 per student, the State would either have to require a sizable increase in local property taxes, 5 mills on average, or increase its expenditures on education by up to 82.4 percent, which would allow a substantial reduction in property tax, or some combination of the two. No one knows when or how the Georgia Supreme Court will ultimately rule on the compliant brought by the Consortium of Adequate School Funding in Georgia. But given that most states have lost adequacy suits, the likelihood that Georgia will lose its case is high.
The State has several options, but choosing among these options is not easy. The State can assume that it will win the case as it did in 1981, and thus not do anything until the Court rules. (Simply ignoring the issue is tantamount to assuming the State will win.) If the Court does rule in the State’s favor, the State will have no legal requirement to make any changes in the education funding level. However, if the Court rules against the State, the State will be directed to implement changes in education funding, and perhaps major changes. At that point the State can either follow the Court’s ruling or resist the Court, as many other states have done. Alternatively, the State might assume that the Court will rule against it. In this case, the State could choose to begin to address the issue by slowly moving toward an adequate funding of education. But if the Court then rules in favor of the State, the State will have increased education spending to a level that may not have been necessary. Deciding how to proceed is a very difficult decision since there is no one correct decision. It is also a very important decision since the expenditures at issue are very substantial.
Keywords: Education, Cost adequacy, Georgia
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