Public schools across the country are struggling to educate students while protecting their health in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic with no federal funds beyond what Congress approved in March in the CARES Act. Yet several states have moved quickly to cut their support for public education just when schools need more resources, not less.
Georgia is among the states that have enacted a “pandemic cut.” An Education Law Center research report released today, Georgia: Equal Education Cuts, Unequal Impacts, analyzes a $950 million, 10% cut in K-12 state aid passed by the Georgia Assembly in June 2020.
The cut was removed in nearly equal amounts across the state – approximately $500 per pupil on average – from both the poorest and wealthiest districts. The cut is a recurring reduction in the overall level of state support for public schools and impacts poorer districts the most since they are more dependent on state aid and are less likely to be able to raise additional local revenue to compensate for the cuts.
As the ELC report documents, the “pandemic cut” will create even more severe funding gaps in coming years if these funds are not reversed and restored. The cut mirrors the pattern followed in the Great Recession, when Georgia’s elected representatives reduced state aid, causing a structural deficit in the state budget’s support for its public education. These cuts fell hardest on districts with high enrollments of low-income students and other at-risk student populations – the very districts least able to offset the cuts with increases in local taxes.
ELC’s Resource Equity Research Project is closely tracking cuts to school aid enacted by state legislatures in the pandemic, with a focus on the impact of these cuts on higher poverty school districts. In the last few months, ELC has released reports on “pandemic cuts” in New York, Texas and Michigan.
“Our goal is to give advocates for school funding reform in the states timely and easy-to-access research for use in their campaigns to press governors and legislatures to maintain state support for their public schools during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mary McKillip, ELC Senior Researcher. “It is critical we redouble our efforts to prevent a repeat of the devastating cuts that occurred in the Great Recession.”
ELC’s report on Georgia’s pandemic cut is available here, along with details on resource needs and cuts at the district level.
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