Adequate Funding for Schools Should Be Our First Priority

 

 

Posted: 2/26/2018 11:25 AM
Filed under: education funding, equitable school finance, First Priority Act, Georgia

Raymond C. Pierce // February 27, 2018


As printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution  

February 25, 2018

The proposed tax legislation proceeding through the state legislature presents an extremely important moment for our Georgia policymakers to make a critical decision in the best interest of our children.

In 2017, Governor Deal signed into law the First Priority Act, which is the state’s signature education policy. This Act was designed to improve the quality of education in the lowest performing schools in the State of Georgia. Unfortunately, the state has not devised a method for funding this critical need for our children.

Now, the state finds itself in the favorable position of possibly realizing a windfall as a result of recent changes to federal tax law. Some reports estimate this windfall at $5 billion over the next 5 years. Strangely, of the current proposals for use of these funds, there has been no mention of funding the state’s key education initiative, the First Priority Act, or bridging the $167 million dollar gap in public education funding created by austerity cuts this year alone. The equity imperative lies in the fact that the vast majority of the schools targeted in this plan are serving a majority of students who are low-income or students of color. This is but one example of how equity should remain at the center of the policy decisions that must be made to bolster a stronger education system here in Georgia to which all have access. Allocating a portion of the windfall dollars from the budget and directing them to the schools that need them most would appear to be the most prudent use of funds and the most likely to have the greatest return on investment.

Given the increasing importance of educating the young people in our state, and our nation, wisdom calls for slowing down these deliberations and adequately investing in the First Priority Act. Otherwise, the goal of the Act becomes unattainable. 

The tax cut currently being fast-tracked could result in long-term diminishing revenues that will seriously restrict the state’s ability to fund operations including those necessary for the education of our young people. Like many states in our nation, Georgia is in dire need of an educated workforce and a young citizenry prepared by our public schools to ensure a thriving future for all. We urge the General Assembly to slow down and adequately inform the current debate by fully considering the fundamentals of the education needs of the State of Georgia and the investment necessary to realize them.

 

Raymond C. Pierce serves as the President and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation where he is responsible for leading the organization’s vision and strategy in support of carrying out SEF’s mission to ensure equity and excellence in education for low-income students and students of color in the South. 

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