What about the children?
Look past the emotion-laden marches and past the rhetoric of “sacrificing our children for the budget” from the Capitol steps. Filter through teachers and administrators marching through the Capitol demanding no furloughs or pay cuts.
This is where we are: The money is not there, period.
In 2008, Georgia’s revenues were over $18.7B. In 2009, they dropped to $16.7B. For 2010, it dropped to $15.2B and for 2011, revenues are projected to be $15.8B. In three years, Georgia’s revenue has decreased by 15%. Revenues are down because unemployment is up. There are more than a few jobless Georgians that would have preferred furloughs as opposed to being laid-off. As explained in an earlier article, Georgia receives 46% of its revenues from individual income taxes and 30% from sales taxes. Higher unemployment means less income taxes are collected because the income tax base has dwindled. Consequently, unemployed Georgians are spending less money because the money is not there!
Education is 58% of the Georgia budget. If a line-item in your budget consumes 58% of your income, is this not where you would look first to save money?
Only educators are taking the hit…
Not true! The GBI has cut their budget by 20%, the Dept of Corrections budget has been cut by 10%, 3 of Georgia’s 7 Crime Labs have had their budgets cut, pay raises for state employees have been eliminated, the Public Safety Dept has cut their budget by 14% and the Juvenile Justice Dept has had their budget cut by 15%. Other departments have made the tough decisions and decided to do more with less. However, educators howl that they are being forced to make sacrifices while no other departments have. 11 Georgia state departments had the budgets cut by 20% or more. The Department of Community Affairs had its budget cut by 50% and the State Properties Commission’s budget was cut by 65%. Clearly, education is not the only area being asked to do more with less.
Can’t the state use its extra money…
What extra money?! The funds that Georgia held in its Reserve accounts for 2007 were $1.6B. By 2010, those reserve funds were down to $476M. The money is not there. The federal stimulus money was a one-time “shot in the arm” to the budget. A majority of those funds were used for medical programs.
What about the kids…
Let’s talk about what Georgia’s children are getting as compared to the nation’s other children: 1) an education that ranks 44/51, 2) average teacher pay that ranks 18/51, 3) student-teacher ratios that rank 23/51, 4) expenditures per pupil at 30/51, 5) ACT & SAT scores that are 41st & 48th respectively. In comparison, what are Minnesota’s students getting? They rank #1 in overall education, they have higher student/teacher ratios, spend more per pupil and pay their teachers slightly more than Georgia. What do Minnesota students get in return? ACT & SAT scores that rank 9th and 2nd in the nation, respectively. If Georgia’s schools were a company, the organization would be out of business.
So, through chants on the Capitol steps of “sacrificing Georgia’s children for the budget” our children are getting a third rate education at premium dollars.
The Governor convened a task force to create recommendations for saving Georgians money. K-12 education savings were a component of the recommendations. One recommendation includes outsourcing activities such as accounting, HR, janitorial and food services. These services would be considered back office operations to directly educating Georgia’s children. Another recommendation is to hold schools accountable for their budgets. All other organizations, departments and businesses are responsible for adhering to their budgets, why not educators? Certainly not last on the list of recommendations is to have educators invest 6% of their own pay in their own retirement.
If these actions and others aren’t enacted, there is one more option…
Increase property taxes…
How about a 1 mill increase in property taxes? That is to say, that for every $1,000 of assessed value your property taxes would increase by $1.00. For a $200,000 home, would you be willing to pay an extra $200 per year in taxes? The more pertinent question is what would you be getting for your money?
So, this is where we stand and those are our options because the money is just not there.
References & more information:
Georgia Budget in Review (FY2009A-FY2010): http://ltgov.georgia.gov/vgn/images/portal/cit_11783501/150752561Budget%20In%20Review%202009%20Session.pdf
Georgia State Senate Budget Task Force: http://ltgov.georgia.gov/vgn/images/portal/cit_11783501/157503072Ga%20State%20Senate%20Budget%20Task%20Force%20Final%20Report.pdf
Cherokee County Georgia Budget Summary: http://www.cherokeega.com/departments/countymanager/uploads/File/2009budgetsummary_full.pdf
Cherokee County: A guide to how property is assessed, how taxes are determined & current exemptions:http://184.108.40.206/custom?q=cache:–LVu4enSY4J:www.cherokeega.com/departments/taxcommissioner/uploads/file/forms/brochureforwebsite.doc+mill+rate&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=google-coop-np
Cherokee County Tax Commissioner’s Office: http://www.cherokeega.com/departments/department.cfm?departmentid=31
Report Card on American Education: A State-by-State Analysis http://www.alec.org/am/pdf/ReportCard08.pdf
Georgia Report Card: http://www.alec.org/am/pdf/education/2008_report_card/georgia08.pdf
Minnesota Report Card: http://www.alec.org/am/pdf/education/2008_report_card/minn08.pdf
Georgia Budget FY2011: http://www.opb.state.ga.us/media/12300/state_of_georgia_budget_fy_2011.pdf