Having perhaps seen the error of their ways, and hopefully having learned that faddish political movements aren’t necessarily the best way to improve education, Georgia lawmakers are considering eliminating an ill-advised mandate requiring local school systems to spend at least 65 percent of all education money received from the state in the classroom.
You can almost visualize educators across Georgia nodding their heads and saying, “I told you so.” And they did.
Back in 2006, having state governments dictate to local school systems how much money had to be spent directly on classroom instruction was a popular political movement. Working from the assumption that too many tax dollars were going toward administrative costs and other expenses outside the classroom, politicians in several states decided they knew better than local school authorities how money should be spent.
It was a simplistic approach to a complex problem that has resulted in massive volumes of bureaucratic paperwork and wasted time. The state senator who championed the bill in 2006 said last week there is no evidence it has improved education in Georgia.
A major problem with the concept is that it draws arbitrary lines to separate elements of the educational process that simply can’t be separated in any fashion that makes sense. Students can’t learn if they don’t get to school, but money spent on transportation isn’t money spent “in the classroom.” Many students can’t succeed without the help of school counselors, but that’s not classroom money. Schools have to have all sorts of support personnel just to function, but they aren’t necessarily classroom personnel.
No mistake, the basic premise is sound. The classroom is the most important part of the educational experience, and the classroom teacher the cornerstone to academic success. Always. But to simply pick a number and apply it statewide in a cookie-cutter approach to school financing made little sense in 2006, and less now.
When the 65 percent bill was passed, many school systems in Georgia already were spending that much, or more, on classroom instruction anyway. For the most part it was a solution in search of a problem, and now is a problem itself.
Forsyth County Rep. Mike Dudgeon is a major player in the attempt to remove the 65 percent mandate as part of a larger effort to revamp and update a number of education related requirements that aren’t needed. He is to be applauded for doing so.
Hopefully Dudgeon’s fellow legislators will realize that tying the hands of local school administrators with requirements like the 65 percent rule that sound good politically but make little sense educationally is not the way to improve Georgia’s public school. Sadly, political fads often seem more popular than logical analysis and practical solutions when the state’s lawmakers determine that they are best suited to make Georgia’s schools better.
We hope Dudgeon and his supporters are successful in getting the 65 percent rule off the books.