Before It Is Too Late:
Rebuilding Public Education in Georgia
The effects of a “Low Budget Education”
Teachers, like all Georgians—including legislators and other policymakers—understand that current economic conditions make it virtually impossible to provide public schools with the same level of financial support as before the economic downturn. From their daily experiences, however, educators also recognize that the massive reductions in state funding over the last several years are causing real and serious harm to the education of Georgia’s children. What concerns PAGE members most is the realization that failure to reverse this funding slide will lead to the education of more students being seriously—and perhaps permanently—impaired.
PAGE members believe that the public and their elected representatives should be particularly concerned about the following consequences of providing Georgia’s students with a “Low Budget Education.”
- Schools in all parts of the state are being permanently closed.
- Many schools have cut the number of instructional days, forcing students to attempt to learn the same amount of information in less time.
- Class sizes have increased in virtually all schools, thereby giving each student less individual time and attention from teachers.
- Foreign language, music, art and physical education programs have been halted or scaled back.
- Fewer Advanced Placement (AP) classes are being offered, and many schools can no longer pay for the exams that are required to earn credit for the courses.
- Most schools no longer have full-time school nurses, with many having to rely on teachers and support staff to provide healthcare services despite their lack of medical qualifications.
- Nutrition programs have been reduced.
- “Field trips” and other outside-of-school learning programs have been halted or greatly scaled-back.
- Funding for school technology, textbooks and other classroom materials has been drastically reduced, thus leaving students without essential tools necessary to support their education.
- Educator furloughs are reducing the time teachers have to plan and develop the most valuable learning activities for their students.
- Teacher burnout, low morale and furlough-reduced salaries are encouraging early retirements and discouraging the best and brightest from entering the profession.
These are not reductions in education “frills.” They are reductions in core education programs that affect virtually every child in the state’s public schools. Although educators are doing their best to minimize the negative impact of budget reductions, common sense should tell us that students cannot be expected to learn as much with less instructional time, larger classes, fewer challenging classes, less nutrition, and out-of-date technology and textbooks.
Why this trend must be reversed NOW
Education is a cumulative experience. Knowledge is built on previous knowledge. The longer students receive a low budget education, the less knowledge they will have upon which to build later. Our children, grandchildren and future generations will continue to pay for our lack of support for education today.
It is not just students who will suffer from the state’s attempts to economize on public education. All of us will suffer, because the state’s economy and its future are dependent upon having a highly educated society and workforce. The public—and our elected representatives—need to realize that providing a low budget education for today’s students will delay, not escalate, the state’s economic recovery. If Georgia wants to lead the South and the rest of the nation in a sustained, energetic recovery, it must invest in its greatest economic asset — tomorrow’s engineers, scientists, teachers, computer experts, doctors, lawyers and business leaders.
What Needs to be Done
We, as a state, need to make a renewed commitment to public education in Georgia. This can be done by:
- Acknowledging that education is the key to a brighter economic future
- Committing to finding the revenue necessary to provide our students with the education resources they need, and deserve (a thoughtful approach to the state budget and revenue generation)
- Encouraging community collaboration in support of our schools
PAGE believes that the following issues need to be addressed promptly:
- Lowering class size to maximize student learning and safety
- Ending furloughs so that education professionals will have adequate time to prepare the most valuable learning activities for their students
- Support student instruction by funding support staff, including nurses and parapros
- Restoring funding for essential programs such as foreign language, music, art, physical education and Advanced Placement course exams
- Restoring funding for up-to-date technology, textbooks and other necessary classroom materials
PAGE members are also anxious to work with policymakers to address critical issues such as:
- Devising an inclusive and thoughtful approach to the evaluation and compensation of educators that recognizes the importance of increasing student performance
- Developing a new 21st Century funding mechanism and formula for public schools that adequately and accurately provides the funds needed for a quality education for all students