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Jeff Meadors: Parents need to arm themselves with knowledge of school finance

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

It is time to face the changes.

The money under the mattress for public education is nearly gone. In 2009, 2010 and 2011 schools received federal dollars that won't show up in fiscal 2013 as systems poke along on the fumes of state and jobs dollars as temporary buttresses for the 19 programs propped up by QBE, funded today at 1985 levels.

There are two solutions: raise the millage or cut expenses, and with the push for HR 1162 on the fall ballot millage is a dirty word; it should be. As Doug Eza, financial consultant for GSBA, bluntly illuminates, "We won't get out of this mess until parents rise up to stop the carnage, but they need the tools to do so."

Knowledge of school finance is power.

The fiscal 2012 Amended Education Budget provides $87.9 million for midyear student enrollment growth, $7.6 million for state special charter schools with $2.5 million for virtual state special charter schools, $7 million for new math and science teachers, $5 million to soften changes in equalization, and cuts $3.4 million in funds for nutrition, transportation and school nurses.

The fiscal 2013 Education Budget boasts a total package in Georgia of $7.1 billion. The slight increase in QBE funding last year reflects additions of non-QBE programs to the QBE formula: transportation ($128M), school nurses ($30M), and nutrition and special-needs scholarships ($10M). State funding for K-12 is 12.5 percent below the level for fiscal year 2009.

Additions include $112 million for enrollment growth and Training and Experience (T&E), $2.8 million in differentiated pay for math and science teachers, $8.6 million in grants to state special charter schools, $3.6 million in nurses and $25 million in bonds for buses and the restoration of 10 school days to the pre-K program aided by the elimination of 2,000 slots.

Furthermore, a number of significant Senate and House bills survived with some signed by Gov. Nathan Deal. HB 397 was signed into law making substantial changes to open meetings and records laws, including changes to recording minutes and land sales.

SB 403 includes school nurses in the state formula funding based on FTE counts. SB 410 requires the development of annual indicators of the quality of learning by students and school climate for individual schools and systems and numerical ratings based on student achievement. This will impact communities and real estate values.

And compliments of Georgia cheating scandals, HB 692 allows for recovery through automatic salary decreases of bonuses paid to educators for student achievement where tampering is found.

HB 706 deletes or revises sections of Title 20, and HB 879 requires schools to train two teachers in each school exclusive of the school nurse to deal with students who are diabetic.

Money changes everything as school boards and systems aim to prove their worth to parents in a new age of accountability as vouchers and state charters appeal to voters generally disengaged, disenfranchised and disgusted with school climate and performance.

Jeff Meadors represents District 1 on the Newton County Board of Education. He may be reached at Jeffrey.meadors@gmail.com.