Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Chamber Forum on Education Funding Sobering

In an effort to educate the community on the complex issues of education funding, the Chamber presented a forum on October 2nd featuring a very knowledgeable panel of key national, state, and local speakers, each with particular expertise in education funding. Following their presentations, the speakers were available for a question and answer session.

To begin at the national level, Mr. Dennis Bega, Senior Policy Advisor, US Department of Education, spoke about the No Child Left Behind congressional statute (NCLB). The intent of NCLB was to ensure that all students had the opportunity to receive an education that would allow them to maximize their potential. Despite an increase in federal funding to help school districts comply with requirements, NCLB has created budget challenges at the local level.

Representative Jan Jones, Vice Chairman, House Appropriations Committee – Education, gave an informative overview of the State Education Budget. Funding for education is a primary responsibility of state government with 39% of the total budget going to K-12 education. Due to the economic slowdown, a 3.5% reduction in education funding will likely occur next year. State Funds account for a little over 50% of public school funding on average. The remainder is funded by Federal (7.19%) and local (41.27%) dollars. Local funding statewide consists of property tax and E-SPLOST (optional) revenues.

The local perspective was given by Dr. John DeCotis, Superintendent, Fayette County Board of Education. Dr. DeCotis spoke on the excellence of the Fayette County public school system based on a variety of state and national standards, detailed current needs and where cuts have already been made. The Fayette County Board of Education is asking Fayette County residents to consider a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to help make up budget shortfalls as state funding for education is reduced. Based on declines in sales tax receipts, the Governor’s office anticipates a K-12 funding reduction of 2% for this year ($153 million) and 3.5% ($229 million) for 2010.

Dr. DeCotis also outlined the projects that would be funded by the E-SPLOST if it passes.

The forum provided an opportunity for citizens to gain a broad perspective on the issue before they vote in November. The entire forum will be posted on the Chamber website at

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