Georgia’s Education Spending Declined 12 Percent in Last Two Recessions

ATLANTA, November 1, 2012 – Education spending in Georgia declined about 12 percent overall from 2002 to 2011, an average of nearly $1,200 per student, according to education policy expert Cynthia Searcy. This reduction resulted from a 25.1 percent real decline in state revenues and a 6.2 percent reduction in local revenues, which were partially offset by an increase in federal revenue during the same period.

Nearly 88 percent of the state’s school districts collected less revenue per pupil (adjusted for inflation) in 2011 than in 2002, Searcy said during a presentation at the Fiscal Research Center’s Forum on the Future of Georgia School Finance at Georgia State University on November 1.

“Median annual declines in state aid to school districts of 4.7 percent from 2007 to 2011 compounded the declines from the 2001 recession,” she said. Searcy is on the Georgia State University faculty and is an assistant dean in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.

 In FRC Report 251, “Impact of the Recession on School Revenues across the State,” Searcy examines the changes in revenue sources for Georgia school districts from 2002 to 2011 and how individual districts responded. She also explores whether and how the changes in per pupil revenues and district responses vary by level of student poverty, minority status, location and changes in property values.

“The underlying factor driving total per pupil revenue reductions was a district’s ability to raise local revenue in the face of state reductions,” she said. “Districts with the steepest declines in local property values have experienced larger reductions in per pupil revenues as a result of constrained options for increasing local revenues.”

Searcy notes that federal per pupil revenues increased each recession in a pattern that aided districts with high proportions of students in poverty with larger funding increases compared to those districts with fewer students in poverty. However, the size of the federal share is so small – despite federal per pupil revenues growing by 77.6 percent over this period, that it was not enough to offset total per pupil reductions.


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