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Crisis looms in funding for education
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Forsyth County News
After a while, the litany of financial problems pouring forth from government entities at every level becomes numbing, leaving us desensitized to the real world impact buried in the woeful numbers being crunched.

Government furloughs, job reductions, program cuts, frozen salaries, manpower shortages, ignored infrastructures and crippled bureaucracies have become common in all branches of government as the nation’s economic malaise has lingered.

And with so many families facing hard times themselves at home, the plight of the public sector hasn’t really been a concern for many.

But we can’t afford to ignore what is happening to schools in Georgia.

The state board of education was told last week that Georgia schools could be looking at a deficit of as much as $1.4 billion in funding for next year.
That comes on the heels of massive budget cuts over the past two years that already have sent shock waves through public education in the state.

Proposing that the state consider increasing the cost of lottery tickets to generate more revenue for education, state School Superintendent Cathy Cox last week noted there had been some $3 billion in education budget cuts in a period of less than two years.

Since the state provides the bulk of financing for local school systems, the cuts, and those to come, have local school officials looking at every possible option to reduce spending and make more efficient use of existing revenues.

Among the more drastic proposals being discussed at state level are shortening of the school year, additional furlough days, higher student-teacher ratios and reducing salaries for educators. Some local school systems, meanwhile, are looking at the very real possibility of closing schools.

Sadly, some of the deep cuts now being considered will reverse positive steps taken to improve education in Georgia in recent years. Overcrowded schools, high pupil-teacher ratios and low salaries for teachers all were problematic issues the state has worked diligently to address over the past decade.

Drastic cuts that negatively impact the quality of classroom education ultimately may prove unavoidable, but every possible non-essential expense needs to be cut first.

There is no magic pill to cure the problem. But there is one certainty:

Any long-term solution to the state and nation’s economic problems is going to come from the creation of jobs. A business revival is essential to returning to prosperity. And any true business revival will depend on a well educated workforce, one capable of competing for jobs at a global level.

That workforce isn’t going to come from second-rate, under-funded schools.