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Hall official delves into school funds
Deal picks local representative to study how school money is dispersed
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A new statewide commission with a Hall County representative will investigate how Georgia's public schools are funded.

The Education Finance Study Commission will look into the state's 26-year-old Quality Basic Education formula that dictates how much money each school receives based on enrollment numbers.

Gov. Nathan Deal announced his picks for the commission Tuesday after signing House Bill 192 that establishes the group. Hall County Schools Deputy Superintendent Lee Lovett will take one spot
at the table.

"I think it will be an interesting assignment," Lovett said Wednesday. "Although QBE has been amended some over the years, this is a look to see if this is the best formula for funding education in Georgia."

HB 192 requires the commission to study the cost and resources required to educate a child in Georgia's school systems.

Under the legislation, the commission will also review different types of educational funding, particularly federal dollars from Race to the Top.

The 20-member commission includes 10 people tapped by Deal, four senators appointed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, four representatives named by House Speaker David Ralston, State Superintendent John Barge and Scott Austenson, chief operating officer of the Georgia Department of Education.

"The members of this commission have both the knowledge of education and the expertise in education finance required to find the right ways to balance the educational needs of Georgia's children with the appropriate resources to fund them," Deal said. "I look forward to seeing the commission's evaluations as we seek to find the best, most fair way to pay for our children's education."

The commission will meet quarterly and must have final recommendations completed by Sept. 30, 2012.

"I don't know what we can do to QBE to fix the financial situation as it is right now, but I guess it's as good a time as any to talk about it," Lovett said. "I'm sure portions of it are outdated, especially with the different weights for different programs."

The General Assembly enacted the Quality Basic Education Act to provide sufficient and equitable financing for schools.

The requirements included a statewide basic curriculum, statewide performance standards and quality educational programs in schools.

Lovett keeps track of the Hall County Schools budget and is well-versed in how the funding formula has worked over the decades.

"I don't have any running issue with the QBE law myself, but this is a good opportunity to get input from others and bring it to the table," he said. "I will be able to communicate with other school officials and superintendents to address the issues that they feel should come up."

The commission features lawmakers who have served on education and appropriations committee in both chambers, including Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

"I'm glad we got this approved. We've been working on it behind the scenes since last May," England said Wednesday. "We're not saying QBE is broken, but in the beginning it was set to be reviewed every three to five years and that has fallen through the cracks. We've addressed it piecemeal throughout the years."

England wants to look at the different weighted sections for funding. For example, the current formula doesn't include a weight for technology.

"There were no computers in classrooms in 1985, and now there's one in every class, if not 25," he said. "We also need to look at electronic media, such as replacing textbooks, for when that may happen."

England and others began discussing the concerns a few years ago and are ready to tackle some tough questions.

"We came to realize the shortcomings and outdated pieces," England said. "We need to sit down and have an in-depth look and raise concerns to the surface so others can talk about it and address it with legislation."

 

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