Georgia to Scrap 65% Law in K-12 Funding Reform

The state of Georgia is considering repealing a law that requires 65% of education funding to be spent in public school classrooms as part of an effort to reform how the state funds K-12 education, writes Dorie Turner at the Associated Press.

Critics say the legislation hasn’t improved student achievement, and as the state has seen significant cuts in the last few years, the move looks to give the 180 school districts of Georgia more flexibility in how they spend their money.

The 65% solution came in 2006 as part of an effort to help boost student performance. While the only other state to adopt the rule – Texas – has already overturned the law, Georgia is only now considering abandoning it.

“It certainly sounded like a very good idea, but it turned out based upon statistical data, it doesn’t have relevance to academic performance,” said state Senate education committee chairman Fran Millar.

“At the end of the day, academically, it didn’t make any sense.”

Many believe the turbulent economy, in which states and districts lost millions in education funding, has meant that school boards need relief from state mandates like the 65 percent rule. The commission is also said to be looking at repealing a law that requires the state school board to approve any expense over $100 made by local districts.

“This is the only way we have left for making our budgets balanced without raising millage rates,” said Forsyth County schools superintendent L.C. “Buster” Evans.

Mike Antonucci at EIA Online has always found the 65% solution problematic because “the definition of classroom spending was amorphous”:

“Principals and curriculum specialists weren’t classroom spending, but teachers’ dental benefits were. There was bound to be a lot of cheating to reach the magic number. Unions hated it. And even though unions hated it, I didn’t like it either.”

Antonucci had previously checked the 65% threshold for each of the nation’s 14,000 school districts and concluded that the smaller districts were more likely than larger districts to spend 65% or more in the classroom.

“The 65% solution was merely a manifestation of how money is spent in large school districts when compared to small.”

Antonucci feels this is a question that’s still worth exploring, “even as the 65% solution fades into education history.”