IMAGINE you were offered complete funding to educate yourself, and you asked how the benefactor was going to do it. They present to you a formula so complicated, even your benevolent donor couldn’t explain it to you.
Furthermore, a year into your arrangement as you are looking back on the records, you realize many months went by where you were underfunded. The only response you get as to why this happened is more gibberish about other expenses in other areas.
Such is the case with the Quality Basic Education Act crafted in 1985 by Governor Harris after a two year study to equally fund GA schools.
QBE is confusing, outdated and fails to fund the schools it serves.
Politicians walk by it like the litter box nobody wants to empty.
Since 1951, there were other attempts to address the dismal education system in Georgia. The Minimum Foundation Program tried to diminish the racial inequalities in the school system, and Governor Jimmy Carter’s Adequate Program for Education in Georgia (APEG) made steps forward.
Unfortunately, each property tax funded program failed to elevate the status of educational excellence, so Governor Harris took his turn to equalize the funding of schools across Georgia believing that redistributing money would solve the issues at hand.
Quality Basic Education (QBE) as originally written asked for four changes:
1. Administration and Teacher competency tests and evaluations
2. Readiness tests for children entering first grade
3. Weighted formula for the distribution of state tax dollars based on educational needs
4. Equal access across the state to educational resources
The weighted formula is not easily explained. At a recent candidate forum (Zoom) in which I participated, the questions about QBE drew blank stares from many of the candidates, and it should concern every taxpaying citizen in Chatham County because over one half of every local property tax dollar out of your pockets goes to funding education.
Those state leaders who themselves don’t understand the formula will be voting on expenditures that will affect not only the lives of our children, but it will have a profound effect on our ability to draw new industries here as they seek an educated work force.
The real solution is to take the antiquated QBE and toss it out – not tweak it.
There is a history of legal institutions advocating for a move away from property taxes as a means of funding public schools. One such court case was McDaniels vs Thomas (GA) in 1981 which was clearly asking the question as to whether or not the method of funding our schools was constitutional or not.
The case was most likely the first punch at Jimmy Carter’s APEG law as it saw an inherent unfairness in the use of Ad Valorem taxation to fund schools.
It went further to say, “it should be abandoned at the local level in favor of the more equitable sales, income, and use taxes.”
Burke Day was an advocate of phasing out QBE over a four or five year period and replacing it with a sales tax. This of course would require a great deal of political wrestling at the capital and locally as new ideas in Savannah are treated with great disdain and suspicion. It would not be easy.
In the case of San Antonio School District vs Rodriguez in 1973, the question before the Supreme Court of the United States was whether or not an equalized educational funding system was a “right” under the US Constitution. They ruled it was not, but it seems silly to consider education anything less than a necessity.
This was clearly a case of where institutional racism reared its ugly head against Americans of Mexican descent, and that bias against Mexican-Americans is alive and well today.
Justice Thurgood Marshall could see through the inherent injustice when he wrote in his dissent, “The majority’s holding can only be seen as a retreat from our historic commitment to equality of educational opportunity. ... In my judgment, the right of every American to an equal start in life, so far as the provision of a state service as important as education is concerned, is far too vital to permit state discrimination...”
In the weeks ahead, we will dissect the issue between those who believe the system can be tweaked, revised or reformed, and those who search for a whole new paradigm to bring about excellence in education across the state.
We will also bring the tough questions to future zoom meetings and live forums to engage with political leaders to see exactly where they stand on this very important issue.
Complicated conundrums can be unraveled by careful study, patient minds and a reasoned approach. Perhaps GA politicians should look to the successful states that accomplish more with less and highly value education more than personal political gain.
Surely our children and our future are worthy of that.