Friday, October 17, 2008

Can You Say “Shibboleth?” (I though you could)

I was not the least bit surprised to read that four of the six candidates for the Clarke County Board of Education claim that the school system is under-funded (Jim Geiser and David Huff get high marks for recognizing that simply throwing more money at them is not the solution for the CCSD’s conspicuous ills).

For years now, local education officials, both the elected ones and the bureaucrats, have been hiding behind the “lack of funding” argument to deflect criticisms of the District's abysmal performance – the problem is that the actual numbers tell a much different story.

The CCSD is in about the 95th percentile statewide insofar as per pupil expenditures are concerned. Its spending far outpaces the state average in all seven categories tracked by the Georgia Department of Education, and has done so for many years. We can haggle over what portion of that money comes from the state versus what portion of it is raised locally, but that argument entirely misses the point that the dramatically increased spending of recent years has failed to improve the academic performance of the CCSD’s students.

The last time state funding to the CCSD actually decreased was FY 2004. Since then, the amount of QBE dollars flowing into the Classic City has increased substantially, both in absolute and percentage terms. The same funding formula applies to all of the 180 school systems in the state and yet, when matched against our neighboring school systems or against similar school systems around the state (in terms of size of student population and/or student demographics), the CCSD consistently underperforms – and does so while spending far and away more money.

For the seven years in question, FY 2003 through FY 2009, “austerity reductions” totaled $12,062,336 (but remember that only in two years were there actual cuts, the other five years are merely reductions to projected increases). That amount sounds big, until you compare it with the amount contributed by the state to the CCSD, which comes to a staggering $316,423,101 over the same period.

Thus, the expectation that if only the state had chipped in an extra 3.8% on top of the massive increases in funding that actually occurred, the situation somehow would be substantially different defies logical explanation.

Look at it another way. The total of austerity reductions ($12,062,336) divided by 79,763 (the CCSD’s total FTE count for FY 2003 through FY 2009) divided by the seven years in question yields an insignificant figure of $151.23 per pupil per year.

And this is why our dropout rate hovers around 40%? This is why our test scores routinely lag below the state average? This is why our AYP scores are so shockingly poor?

Not a chance.

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1 comment:

hillary said...

Jim, could you maybe consider the amount by which expenses such as energy costs have increased over the past four years?