Georgia public education needs fixing. Phyllis Hatcher believes it is critical that our state distribute state funds more effectively to local school districts while also making sure that the money allocated is efficiently used to meet Georgia students’ needs. Our children deserve adequate funding that is spent wisely, well-trained professional teachers, and effective policies that will lead to all students getting the education they need to be productive citizens.

Unfortunately, our schools are not receiving the necessary leadership and funding from our state capital to achieve these goals. The General Assembly has been underfunding schools since 2003, cutting more than $9 billion from its Quality Basic Education formula over a 15 year period. Georgia’s public school students are getting $166 million less in the 2017 fiscal year than called for in the state’s funding formula. This is a smaller shortfall than in previous years, but districts continue to face fiscal constraints as they work to bring class sizes back down, restore discontinued programs, and raise teachers’ salaries after the recent recession.

Teacher salaries have not yet recovered from recession wage freezes, and teacher shortages continue to grow. Even money that has been allocated by the state for teacher raises often gets sidetracked to other uses by struggling local school districts. A recent Georgia Department of Education survey found that only 40% of school districts passed along the money as a salary hike. About 40 percent more used at least some of the money on a one-time bonus (and not necessarily the promised 3%) for fear they couldn’t afford to pay for the raise in the future if the state didn’t continue funding it.

This is a recipe for disaster. It is already increasing the financial burdens on our local school districts and county budgets while leading to larger class sizes, lower student achievement, a loss of qualified teachers, and greater stress on our local government budgets.

The state government must respond more forcefully to these challenges. We must properly fund our public schools and properly spend those funds in order to make our community and Georgia as a whole competitive. We must support teachers rather than make our teacher corp the scapegoat for government failure to properly address the underlying causes of poor student performance.

As your State Senator, Phyllis Hatcher pledges to reach out across party lines in the state Senate to support, reform, and improve our schools.