Georgia lawmakers have drastically cut per-student state funding for education not just in the past few years of economic decline, but for the past decade, according to a new analysis by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
The state has cut funding to the University System of Georgia by 19.8 percent since 2009, and slashed spending on the state technical college system by 11 percent in the same time period, according to the Atlanta-based think tank. During the same period, the state has cut spending on K-12 public education by 12.5 percent, and slashed prekindergarten spending by 11.4 percent, according to reports by GBPI analyst Cedric Johnson.
But the GBPI analysis notes that, when inflation and enrollment increases are taken into consideration, state spending on both K-12 and higher education has been on the decline since 2001.
“Serving more with less is not a recent phenomenon resulting from the Great Recession, but rather an ongoing, decade-long trend,” Johnson wrote.
Adjusted for inflation, per-student state appropriations for higher education have declined by 58 percent over the past decade – while the average increase in tuition and mandatory fees paid by students and their families is 92 percent, according to GBPI.
Just since 2009, the state has cut appropriations for the University System of Georgia down from $2.3 billion to about $1.7 billion. Next year the total goes up to $1.8 billion, but that’s still far below the 2009 total, according to the GBPI analysis.
Just as college students and parents now have to pay a higher share of the costs of higher education, local property taxpayers are footing more of the bill for K-12 education, Johnson said.
In 2001, the state paid about a 60 percent share of K-12 education costs statewide, and local taxes accounted for 40 percent; by 2010, the state share had declined to 50 percent, while the local tax burden had increased by 10 percent, according to the report.
More shifts to local taxpayers are on the way, Johnson wrote. Over the next three years, state officials plan to transfer much of the cost of health insurance for non-certified workers such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers from state sources to local boards of education, he said.
The legislature and Gov. Nathan Deal approved a modest increase in the K-12 education budgets for 2012-13, appropriating about $7.17 billion in state funds – up 1.3 percent from this year’s appropriation.
That translates to about $7,976 per pupil – but adjusted for inflation, that’s actually less than the $6,405 per pupil the state provided in 2001, Johnson said.