Published on: 02/18/08
In what might be the biggest "bait and switch" in many years, Gov. Sonny Perdue's three-year-plus effort known as Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2) has been translated into legislation sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth).
Something got lost in translation.
Launched as a way to revisit the 20-year-old Quality Basic Education funding formula for the state's public schools, the IE2 task force spent more than three years gathering information, traveling the state, holding public hearings and visiting schools. Their work, they told us, was to develop new cost models based on best practices in the elementary, middle and high schools.
The questions they were asking seemed reasonable: What are the current best practices in our schools? What does it cost to operate such a school? What should be the state share and what should be the local share of those costs?
They were also going to re-examine the funding partnership between the state and local districts, a relationship that has grown increasingly tense as the state share of education funding has retreated substantially, forcing local systems to seek additional funding to replace vanished state funds.
Some months ago, the IE2 group released a cost model for the elementary schools. While not perfect, the model seemed to be a substantial improvement from current practice. We praised the work of the task force at that time. Education leaders across the state anxiously were awaiting the cost models for the middle and high schools as well as the other items on the IE2 agenda such as recommendations for innovations in funding high-cost programs for special education students or students from impoverished backgrounds.
Instead, Coleman's legislation, touted in a news release issued by Perdue's office, "sets up a system of performance contracts that allow for greater flexibility in return for increased accountability."
Say what? Who changed the subject? How did we go from funding to flexibility?
There is already plenty of charter school (read flexibility) legislation on the books — most of which we have supported. The "flexibility" Coleman's legislation refers to would give districts a choice of the current local-state relationship, a charter-schools relationship similar to legislation passed a few years ago, or a systemwide charter system based on the 2007 bill passed at the behest of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Flexibility in how districts spend state funds that have been decreased over the past four years by more than $1.6 billion is a pretty thin product for a three-year "investing in educational excellence" task force. What investment? While overall funding for student growth and the faculty required to teach the added students has increased, virtually all other aspects of education funding have been neglected or substantially reduced.
We are operating our schools in 2008 using a funding formula created in the mid-1980s. Does this make sense to anyone? Through IE2 and Coleman's legislation, Perdue and his task force have not only "kicked the can down the road" for more than three years, they have, with the collusion of Coleman — at the 11th hour — changed the subject. Our public schools, and the 1.6 million students who attend them, deserve better.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Sonny Perdue Leads Assault on Georgia's Public Schools
Collusion and Corruption, both with capital Cs. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: