Re-Evaluating QBE Funding

Proper funding for our schools is of utmost importance. Students must have access to all the resources they need to succeed in life. Georgia’s current system for funding public education is based on the Quality Basic Education Act (QBE). Initially passed in 1985, this formula remains responsible for “distributing nearly $11 billion to…1.6 million public school students”.[1] However, little has been changed to the formula since its initial passage, despite Georgia’s educational needs and population having vastly changed. The QBE has shown to have a number of issues, mainly centered on its inability to properly and fully meet the needs of Georgia schools. 

The QBE determines funding for each school district based on three main costs. The first is direct instructional costs, largely composed of teachers’ salaries. This is determined by the number of teachers needed for the number of full-time students. Indirect costs make up the second cost, which can involve a multitude of aspects that “affect the students”, such as “libraries, school maintenance, and principles”.[2] This is determined through the number of schools in each district and the number of full-time equivalent students at each respective school. Finally, there are categorical grants which pay for other services such as school bus transportation, school nurses, and equalization grants which serve to provide “money to districts that have less ability to raise money through property taxes”.[3] However, the QBE does not pay these costs to the district outright, but first deducts the local “fair share.” This is the mandated share that the district must contribute to the school system, where for every $1,000 of property value, five dollars is taxed.[4] This share, of course, varies based on the income demographics of districts.

Among the most common criticisms of the QBE is that it is outdated. Since 1985, Georgia’s population has doubled.[5] Other expenses have risen but have not been adjusted for; notably, transportation costs have remained virtually untouched in the past decade, with the state paying more in FY 2002 than FY 2022 for transportation services.[6] Similarly, staff has also been affected, with teacher salaries not being properly adjusted to reflect higher living costs and Georgia having “yet to fully fund a previous upgrade in the number of school counselors per student”.[7]

Furthermore, the QBE has not made proper accommodations to account for lower-income students. This is especially pertinent given that the incorporation of local fair share, which, for lower-property value areas, becomes limited and a more significant concern. Georgia is one of eight states in the U.S. that does not provide any type of additional assistance or remediation for lower-income students that often reside in these areas.[8] This can be seen in its inability to meet grant funding for Georgia’s rural, lower-property value areas, owing an estimated $22 million.[9]

Overall, the QBE has demonstrated many shortcomings and does not adequately meet the needs of students and school districts alike. Although the QBE has been justified to be effective when fully funded, that does not always occur. The QBE went “underfunded between 2002 and 2017” due to austerity cuts, in addition to grants being underfunded by more than nine million dollars.[10] Georgia students deserve to have all their needs met fully, as deemed their right in the state’s constitution. To do so, the QBE must be reevaluated in terms of its methodology so that funding is distributed more effectively and properly funding and met.