As superintendent of the Tift County School System and on behalf of the members of the Tift County Board of Education, I draft this correspondence as a response to the recently-published opinion piece by Rep. Jay Roberts. The educational funding formula is extremely complicated, and when properly funded, extremely functional. As a matter of fact, the formula is so complicated; the state legislature requires all school board members to receive specific training on school finances. The following correspondence is lengthy, the short of it is, if the state funded the austerity cut for FY15 of $3,626,990, we would not be discussing a millage rate increase. We only ask QBE be funded at 2002 levels and consideration be given for fewer unfunded mandates.
Tift County is not the only county that could benefit from QBE being funded at 2002 levels. According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, between 2008 and 2012, 121 school districts have raised property tax rates. This number does not include systems raising property taxes for FY14. To date, Tift County has not raised school property taxes since 2005, and has maintained a millage rate below the state average. Also, not isolated to Tift, is decreased instructional days and decreased staff work days. The most recently available information indicates 95 percent of Georgia’s school districts increased class size, at least 80 percent decreased staff work days, and more than 70 percent have cut the instructional calendar.
Mr. Roberts’ article makes several points, many of which are errant (listed below numerically). Our response follows each point.
“70 percent of all new revenue into education and 54 percent of the total state budget goes into funding education.”
THE FACTS: We are proud that the state restored 30 percent of our cuts for FY15 (approximately $1,500,000 leaving an austerity cut of $3,626,990). It should be noted that the Georgia Constitution includes the following language, “The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia. Public education for the citizens prior to college or postsecondary level shall be free and shall be provided for by taxation…..” It should be noted that the 2004 amount was 53 percent for all educational programs, pre-K through post-secondary. The amount in 2014 for K-12 is 39 percent.