ATLANTA -- The state of Georgia should add some $258 million in school spending next year, and another $209 million when it can, and divvy it up differently, a blue-ribbon panel charged with advising Republican Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday.
"The state passes out over $9 billion a year," said Charles Knapp, chairman of the Georgia Education Reform Commission. "This formula drastically changes that, passes out the $9 billion on a student-based formula."
The commission voted to recommend tying school funding to individual students, rather than using the current complex formula that takes into account things such as class size and teacher qualifications.
The new formula would give different weights to different kinds of students. Students from poor families or those learning English as a second language would generate more cash for their school, for example.
If the state adds the entire $467 million total that's recommended, no school district would lose funds, according to the commission's calculations.
But, Knapp said, the commission recognizes that there are state budget constraints that probably would prevent adding it all at once.
The commission finalized its recommendations at a Thursday meeting in Atlanta, but earlier draft versions resurrected some long-standing complaints about school funding.
The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, an Atlanta think tank, wrote in a report that the old formula needs updating, but it said schools have long been shortchanged, leaving them with large class sizes and pared-back programs.
Margaret Ciccarelli, director of legislative affairs for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said just after the vote that the recommendations would have been better informed if classroom teachers had been named to the commission.
"If teachers were here, they would ... share their concerns about ongoing austerity cuts. They would express frustration with rising class sizes and difficulty in developing meaningful relationships with students," Ciccarelli said. Teachers miss planning time, and school districts worry they don't have enough transportation money, she said.
Deal set up the commission, made up of a group of education administrators, business leaders, lawmakers and others, earlier this year and asked the group to study pre-K through 12th-grade education in the state and recommend improvements.
The commission will formally present its report to Deal in the coming weeks. It will be fresh in everyone's mind as Deal drafts his proposed state budget and as the Legislature forms its own ideas. The next legislative session begins in January.
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