Are school budget cuts really holding Georgia back?

“Education is economic development,” Jason Carter said time and again during last Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate in Perry, usually before faulting Gov. Nathan Deal for Georgia’s lack of school funding and lagging economy.

Carter is correct about one thing: In the long run, education drives the competitiveness of a state and its workers.

Unfortunately for his argument, “the long run” regarding education and the economy takes us back to well before Deal — or any Republican — took the reins in Georgia.

If you are in the “prime working age” range of 25 to 54 years old and grew up in Georgia, more than half of your k-12 education was complete before any Republican governor signed a single budget in this state. In fact, if you are over 30, chances are you finished high school before Sonny Perdue’s first budget took effect.

If Carter thinks the problem for Georgia’s economy is that its work force isn’t sufficiently well-educated, he should blame the Democrats who ran this state while the vast majority of our home-grown workers were growing up.

But what about future workers? Shouldn’t the budget cuts of the past several years — about $1 billion annually, as Carter is apt to remind us — be showing up as a downturn in the educational achievement of Georgia’s students?

I’m afraid that argument doesn’t stick, either.

Georgia, like every other state, participates in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. It’s considered the gold standard of standardized tests, the “nation’s report card.”

In 2003, the last year before any of Georgia’s students ever had to contend with a GOP budget, our fourth-graders ranked 37th nationally in math and 38th in reading.

By 2013, the most recent year of the NAEP, our fourth-graders had moved up five spots in math and nine spots in reading. This, even though that particular cohort had spent their entire school careers under the weight of those “austerity cuts” Carter talks about so often.

Ah, you may ask, but aren’t the poorest kids being left behind as budgets fall and poverty rises? In a word: Nope.

Our fourth-graders who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches at school rose seven places in the math rankings and a whopping 22 spots in reading compared to poor kids from other states.

Eighth-graders, the other group that’s tested in all states, showed flatter gains overall. They moved up just one spot in math between 2003 and 2013 and three spots in reading.

Once again, however, breaking down the stats by income level shows a promising trend. In math, Georgia’s low-income eighth-graders moved up eight spots. In reading, they rose 18 spots.

All that said, our current rankings still leave much room for improvement. Overall, our fourth- and eighth-graders still haven’t broken into the top half of the rankings — although, as a bright spot, our low-income kids are in the top half for reading in both grades.

Still, gains on these tests have come steadily, despite the budgetary doom and gloom. Embracing more outcomes-based reforms would make them come even faster. But on the evidence, money for schools hasn’t been the problem.

Reader Comments 0

82 comments
ECGAI
ECGAI

Lets see - due to funding cuts:

* Class sizes have "ballooned" resulting in less one-on-one time per student

* Teacher pay is just now being restored back to the level of SEVEN years ago. This has demoralized an already stressed workforce.


So what do you think - have funding cuts affected Georgia education? (Sarcasm intended)

Moderate_line
Moderate_line

Among the ten countries with the largest expenditure per student by secondary educational 

institutions, high teachers’ salaries and low student-teacher ratios are often the main 

factors explaining the level of expenditure.


At the primary and secondary levels there is a strong positive relationship between 

spending per student by educational institutions and GDP per capita. The relationship is 

weaker at the tertiary level, mainly because financing mechanisms and enrolment patterns 

differ more at this level.


http://www.oecd.org/edu/eag2013%20(eng)--FINAL%2020%20June%202013.pdf

straker
straker

Kyle - "our teacher pay is ninth highest in the country"


According to the National Education Association, there are 29 state that have a higher teacher salary than Georgia.


I doubt adjusting for inflation would change that figure much.

Raja44
Raja44

I've heard the NAEP is a pretty good test.  But I've also heard that school districts are able to select, or cherry pick, who takes this test -- it isn't taken by all students across the board. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but if it is even somewhat true , then it pretty much negates its use to compare Georgia with other states.

Moderate_line
Moderate_line

According to Kyle. Georgia seems to be achieving around the average for a country which is below the OCED average in Math, Science and Reading.  Not exactly something to brag about. Canada is above average in all three. What are they doing they we are not?


If you look at salary the United States is somewhere slightly above the middle, however, American teachers spend more time teaching than teachers in other countries. American teachers spend 1080 hours teaching while the OCED is about 794 for primary. Obviously there is something different but what?


For me the discussion should not resolve around money. It should resolve around what would improve the schools. If that takes more funding then so be it but arguments of spending more or less are not really going to convince me.



http://www.businessinsider.com/pisa-rankings-2013-12

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/09/teacher-pay-around-the-world/

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"he should blame the Democrats who ran this state" who are now the Republicans running this state. 


Oh wait. . . 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

Everyone: I was off yesterday but had the intention of moderating the comment thread anyway, albeit on a less-frequent basis. Unfortunately, due to some unexpected technical problems at home, that didn't go the way I planned. I apologize for that. I'm getting things up to date on this thread now, and I'll have a new post up shortly.

straker
straker

Some things to keep in mind:


1. money talks

2. you get what you pay for


  therefore


3. if you pay teachers good, competitive salaries, you will get good teachers.


If you're not willing to do this because "money for schools hasn't been the problem", don't expect to get and keep top quality teachers.

zekeI
zekeI

Money is not the problem! The system is the problem. Throwing more and more money at the education system does nothing but continue the problem. Unless parents, wealthy or in poverty, liberal or conservative, take charge and place goals and discipline on their children to achieve, nothing will ever change. There is more than enough money spent. A school facility costing $ 30, $ 40, $50 million or more does nothing to facilitate learning or the education process. And teaching to a test score does nothing to actually improve the education of our children. It only results in MAYBE a higher score on these standardized liberal tests!

ThomasAnderson
ThomasAnderson

So Kyle, what's the answer?  Keep cutting the education budget by a billion dollars a year?  Keep raising insurance costs and deductibles and giving teachers either no raises or 1% raises like some of us got this year? More tax cuts for the well off businesses, since they constantly whine about how much they are suffering from the supposedly high tax rates they pay and all of those tons of regulations that they never identify? Electing people like David Perdue, whose entire business history was spent proudly outsourcing middle class jobs overseas?  I guess one things for sure....if we rank 51st in unemployment as a state, we can't go any lower: the future is so bright with people like Nathan Deal that we should all buy more sunglasses!

Doug_B
Doug_B

By your argument, Kyle, we should continue cutting education funding.  It's coincided with gains in educational achievement, right?


In actuality, there have been many other changes going on in our educational system leading into the time you cite.  More money, especially for smaller class sizes, would most definitely help educational outcomes.

Trefusis
Trefusis

I staffed the initial NAEP Board and NAEP's first review panel, and never have felt that NAEP is especially valid for interstate comparison. The tests themselves made use of psychometrics that were fairly retro from their inception.  Mr. Wingfield is making the best use of NAEP however by emphasizing longitudinal comparisons within the State and by emphasizing the Math results, which always were the most reliable. 


The driving aimof NAEP, no bones about it behind closed doors, was to create instruments for use in federalizing education--a liberal dream of longstanding. In the past couple decades Georgia has rejected that political aim, in part by making tough decisions to forego a good many pots of federal funding.  So it seems only fair for Democratic candidates and Republican ones to bicker at election time as to who'd made the wiser decision, but that doesn't make me care how Georgia's NAEP scores compare to those of, say, Alaska, South Dakota, Hawaii or Kansas.  The situations are so different that there's no point in the pissing contest, even if you put credit in the science of NAEP testing.


All I want is for each age cohort of Georgians to do better than the cohort prior, and for us to have assessments that measure each student's individual progress, rather than an entire state's "performance" in some B.S. contest against Mississippi or Guam.  Counterproductive, merely showy public expenditures at the statewide level can't be shown to have any bearing on this, anymore than our nation becomes more secure simply by spending more on militarily-related projects; rather in that way it simply comes closer to bankruptcy.  Which is no security at all. 

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

So Kyle does Georgia rank last in education in the nation ?  If not then where does it rank ?

Skeetercat
Skeetercat

The cost of education goes up because of  inflation.  Twenty to thirty years ago we did not need the use of computers and software.  Now we do and they need to be updated over and over again.  Health care for employees has become more expensive. Additional students are constantly moving into this state, so we will continue to need more teachers and schools to house these students.  We also need to have competitive salaries for teachers in order to attract and keep the best and the brightest.  A teacher must have a four year degree and college is very expensive.  If salaries are low, who, in their right mind would major in education.  Schools need buses, fuel, janitors, cafeteria workers, supplies, heat, air conditioning, and so on and so on.  Because of 'austerity cuts" in the billions of dollars over the last ten years, teachers have been let go (9,000 of them), class sizes have grown, janitors have been laid off, computers do not work, teachers have had to purchase their own supplies, furlough days for everyone, no professional teaching days have been provided, and so on, and so on. Get a clue people.....teachers would like to get a raise once in a while.  We have families to feed, a house payment, car payments, etc. And by the way, if you do not know what "austerity" means...ask a teacher.

td1234
td1234

On top of those figures Kyle. 


Georgia is now graduating more children than they did during Democrat rule (even with budget cuts).


Here is one stat that most Democrats want to ignore and is not reported on often. 


Georgia now ranks 2nd in the country with the number of black students taking and passing AP classes/test. 


Georgia is in the top 10 in the country with all students taking and passing AP classes/test.

CreamofBuckwheat
CreamofBuckwheat

Our public school systems have become an even bigger component of the nanny state whereby kids are fed and well indoctrinated with the progressive psycho babble of multiculturalism and political correctness. The budgets have swelled to the point that many corrupt "public servants" have figured out many ways of bilking those dollars. The kids are getting dumber in general due to constant curricular revisions. The system has gotten too big and complex and this will never be corrected. Too many folks skimming too much money.

JackClemens
JackClemens

Murray County in northwest Georgia is a great example of making due with what you have, whatever that happens to be. During the economic downtown, the schools there have dramatically increased both their graduation rate and standardized test scores. Good on them.

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

Well Kyle. there are lots of questions......Republican's been running the state of Georgia since 2003 there still only seems to be questions and not answers ?



LDH2O
LDH2O

The argument that GA was not hurt by its budget cuts because it did well compared to other states is not valid unless you have those other states' budget status also. I looked around and did not find a good source for state education trends for the last decade other than some that show up and down. Since there was additional short-term federal money, that clouds pictures also. Finally it is hard to know if a state reports basic education (PA does) or all educational money.

Tiberius-Constitutionus
Tiberius-Constitutionus

Methinks it would be better to focus not on who did what to whom and when, but rather on what the problem is and how best to fix it.  No partisan BS.  No partisan filters.  No 'us' vs. 'them.'  Just how can we fix this for everyone's benefit.  Alas, in modern day America, that's asking too much.  And, with all respect, Kyle, since you aren't alone in this (and by that I mean, you're not alone on the conservative side, nor is it to suggest that your equal, but opposites don't exist on the progressive side), you're just adding fuel to the fire.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

As you may have already noticed, comment approval will go a little slower than usual today.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

NAEP is not a way to measure much of anything.  I know they claim a good sampling technique, but I also saw how the sampling was manipulated in my system.  Does not inspire any kind of confidence.


We want to see how Georgia students are doing?  Test all of them with a test used all over the country. But of course the GOP is afraid of that.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Kyle’s main argument in today’s OP is remarkable for its irrelevance. In essence, he argues that during the time of Republican administration and educational budget cuts between 2003 and 2013 the ranking of Georgia students has improved. What does that prove about the change in the education Georgia students have received during that time? Absolutely nothing. A change is ranking is meaningless without some measure of quality associated with it. It is like arguing that a tennis player with a certain ranking is automatically a better player than a player with a lower ranking several years ago – an obvious fallacy.

Astropig
Astropig

The high school graduation rate has also gone up dramatically under Republican administration.We were last in the nation in the last full year under Democrat government.

RickinGrayson
RickinGrayson

Government money has flowed into schools for decades without much increase in student achievement. 


Mr. Carter should state just how this money will be used to increase achievement.  He should point to the research that provides proof that more money equates to better student achievement.  Just like colleges with their fancy sports facilities and dorms, I have seen Gwinnett High Schools that are fancier than anything I could have dreamed about when I was in HS.


He should also state why Democrats at the state and national level support Obama's idea of bringing in more foreign immigrants with STEM degrees when so many US citizens with STEM degrees do not have jobs.  Those that have jobs would have much better careers without all the completion from foreigners on H1-B visas (and a whole list of other visas used for the same purposes).


Mr. Carter should explain to HS students who want STEM degrees and careers just why they should dedicate themselves to what is a difficult task when Democrats will be flooding the STEM job market with foreigners!


Issues like these may work to draw votes, but it is only because those voters are also low information voters without much in the way of analytical skills to determine a good idea from a bad one.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

By 2013, the most recent year of the NAEP, our fourth-graders had moved up five spots in math and nine spots in reading. This, even though that particular cohort had spent their entire school careers under the weight of those “austerity cuts” Carter talks about so often.


By this logic if we just keep cutting we will keep moving up in the rankings.

And of course this means we really don't need Charter Schools anyway.

Just keep cutting the budget and things will get better and better. Right ?

Trefusis
Trefusis

@ECGAI  As to increases in class size (pupil:teacher ratio), the answer is no, those changes have not been sufficient to affect "Georgia education", if by that you mean student outcomes.  Certainly the change of ratio does affect the shape of Georgia education as an industry, however, in that it diminishes demand for new teachers. 


Moneys spent on reducing class size are more productively spent on long-range plans to reduce the scale of schools.  School size is markedly more closely correlated than class size not only to student performance and persistence but also to teacher satisfaction and retention.  All four factors have been of deepest concern for me, all my life.  In my field these are four of the crucial life signs, as body temperature or heart rate might be to an EMT or an RN.


Kyle reports that salaries here have remained pretty strong despite the tidal shifts and economic downturns in GA.  Because I trust his reporting this comes as good news in this household.  The salary question is complicated, however.  Who/How/Why/How long.  And that's another story that doesn't fit into an election-season format.  AJC has looked at it in detail, repeatedly, but this is the month of bumperstickers.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@straker "I doubt adjusting for inflation would change that figure much."

Me, too. But cost-of-living is another matter. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Moderate_line "For me the discussion should not resolve around money. It should resolve around what would improve the schools. If that takes more funding then so be it but arguments of spending more or less are not really going to convince me."

I agree. But I'm not the one campaigning for governor on the premise that spending more money will fix everything.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude See my comments below. The people who actually ran this state -- governors, lieutenant governors, legislative leaders -- haven't changed their party affiliation.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Doug_B "By your argument, Kyle, we should continue cutting education funding.  It's coincided with gains in educational achievement, right?"

Actually, that doesn't follow from my argument. There's no evidence that achievement would continue to rise as the budget fell further and further. However -- and this is the point of the post -- nor is there evidence that we need to increase funding in order to raise performance. Rather, I think we are better-served to focus on outcomes rather than inputs, which is something Carter and his fellow Democrats don't seem to want to talk about.

Trefusis
Trefusis

@Skeetercat  Thank you, Skeetercat. Many years ago we ran a model for Carnegie to see what would happen were we roughly double the salaries of K-12 public school teachers nationwide.  A: such a move would've busted the budgets all the larger states, including GA.  Our given stipulation was that every teacher would be paid the salary of a Mechanical Engineers reporting they tax returns in 1986.  We ended up introducing some pretty radical algorithms; for example, the loss of the bulk of the teaching force and its replacement, or "backfilling", by semi-deputized ranks of volunteer retirees and of collegians conscripted to offset student debts.  The Feds no all this stuff, and the modelling of still more wild concepts has been conducted since then. Believe me, everyone's aim in my time was to learn what it would take to empower and ennoble teachers and reward them commensurate with their importance in American society.  To avert the effects of the "austerity" to which you refer.  I doubt that either Candidate Deal or Candidate Carter has any idea that such advanced forecasting has been done for quite a long time.  I wish that Mr. Carter would get that we can't spend our way out and that Mr. Deal would get that we can't fake our way out.  The system is structured against its own aim, which is the growth of learning and even education.

luckjoe
luckjoe

Murray county has a strong business minded superintendent, a strong no nonsense HR Director and a strong school board.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Tiberius-Constitutionus I have written MANY, MANY times about ideas for making education work better in this state. You have been around this blog long enough to have seen those columns.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady 

" Test all of them with a test used all over the country. But of course the GOP is afraid of that."

I thought Democrats were violently opposed to "high stakes testing"? What changed?


Also, if you thought you saw the data being manipulated, did you raise the alarm? Did you blow the whistle on cooked numbers? If not, why?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

Um, the NAEP is used all across the country. And it is generally thought to be less prone to manipulation than other such tests.

LDH2O
LDH2O

@Astropig  Recently the way national graduation rates are calculated changed to a "cohort' system from the Leaver system so you cannot compare before change apples to after change oranges. looking at it now, only Nevada and New Mexico posted lower graduation rates than Georgia’s 67%  for the 2010-11 school year. Nothing to crow about here.

Mr_B
Mr_B

@Astropig As we have increased the number of avenues (other than the old-fashioned sitting in a classroom, study and pass the tests method) of achieving a diploma sure, grad rates have gone up. STARS, PLATO, Georgia Virtual School: all have their place for kids who don't do well in a regular classroom setting. But don't make the mistake of confusing what these courses offer as in any way developing the ability to think independently.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar "By this logic if we just keep cutting we will keep moving up in the rankings."

I'm afraid this comment merely shows what passes for "logic" in your mind, Headley.

luckjoe
luckjoe

Unfortunately too many parents are not involved with their children. No breakfast, no homework supervision, no bedtime supervision, no responsibility or accountability. Tax dollars do not fix that.

Moderate_line
Moderate_line

@Kyle_Wingfield @Moderate_line: I doubt the premise by the Democrats is that spending more money will fix our everything. The main arguments are higher teacher pay. More focus on special ed kids, etc. Conservatives have valid arguments about the cost growth of the non-teaching part of education.  Unfortunately those things are not what politicians use because they are more complex and harder to sale.

Mr_B
Mr_B

@Kyle_Wingfield Like all standardized tests, the NAEP does a great job of measuring whatever it is that standardized tests measure. What it doesn't measure is the student's ability to manipulate information in new and meaningful ways.


If your educational goals are to create a body of students who would make fantastic Jeopardy contestants, standardized testing can tell you something.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Kyle_Wingfield I realize that, Kyle.  But, in my experience, it is NOT dependable, due to the sampling bias possible (that i saw with my own eyes)

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Mr_B "Like all standardized tests, the NAEP does a great job of measuring whatever it is that standardized tests measure. What it doesn't measure is the student's ability to manipulate information in new and meaningful ways."

Fair enough, but what else do we have to compare success or failure from state to state?