More money for schools: Georgia’s next budget to fully fund education

For the first time in over a decade, Georgia’s education budget will be fully funded under a compromise negotiated under the Gold Dome Tuesday.

The fiscal year 2019 budget will close a lingering $167 million shortfall between what the state’s education funding formula says schools should get and what lawmakers and the governor actually have been giving them.

The state Senate and House of Representatives each passed slightly different budgets for the fiscal year starting July 1, so they had to reach a compromise in a conference committee.

They emerged with a budget that fully funds the Quality Basic Education Act formula for the first time since 2002, when then-Gov. Sonny Perdue implemented "austerity" cuts.

“Fully funding QBE will help ensure all of Georgia’s students – regardless of region, county, or ZIP code – have access to world-class public schools,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said after the agreement was negotiated.

Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, said at the appropriations conference committee Tuesday morning that the funding gap had weighed on the minds of lawmakers for years and applauded Gov. Nathan Deal and his staff for making it possible to finally close it. State revenue estimates rose $195 million, which produced the extra money for the education budget.

“We’re excited about that and tickled and again incredibly thankful to our governor,” said England, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The gap between the formula's promise and what the state actually paid schools was over a billion dollars wide when Deal took office seven years ago. He vowed to re-write the formula, a goal he was unable to accomplish despite the efforts of a year-long "education reform" commission. Still, he consistently added money to the school budget and gradually closed the gap as the state's budget recovered from the Great Recession.