During the 2018 session, the Georgia General Assembly fulfilled our constitutional duty and passed a record $26 billion Fiscal Year 2019 budget, House Bill 684, which is based on a state fund growth rate of 3.20 percent over Fiscal Year 2018 amended budget estimates. I am proud to say that the majority of the FY19 budget focused on education funding.
With the proper appropriations, the Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula was fully funded and austerity cuts have been eliminated. The FY19 budget fully funds the QBE formula by allocating more than $166 million to the Department of Education (DOE) for additional funding in K-12 public schools bringing the total funding for education to $9.6 billion. This allocation will ensure that our local school systems receive 100 percent of the state’s portion [or financial obligation] of QBE. Below is the information by county on QBE for systems in Senate District 51. It is important to note that the actual allotments are calculated by DOE and reported here: https://app.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/qbe_reports.public_menu?p_fy=2000.
To address projects statewide, included in the budget is $15 million to fund the purchase of nearly 200 new school buses, $12.2 million for technology and vocational equipment and $260.7 million in bonds for K-12 school construction. Additionally, $16 million was appropriated to fund school safety grants throughout the state.
A study committee has also been appointed to address the concerns with school safety. This eight-member committee will meet across the state in coming months to discuss with students, teachers, parents, staff and other stakeholders the changes, things we should keep the same and things we should consider in regard to how school safety is handled.
House Bill 217 is another education-related bill that was introduced this session and was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal. Under HB 217, which will sunset in ten years, the present state-wide cap of $58 million for income tax credits for private school scholarships is expanded to $100 million. Additionally, this legislation establishes limits on the percentage donor scholarship organizations can claim for administration based on the amount of funds handled. This is great news for those who wish to give money to organizations that help fund student’s education and I look forward to seeing this program continue to have a positive effect on students across our state.
Lastly, there were several bills that touched on the Teacher’s Retirement System, but the most significant was the allocation in the FY19 budget of $362.4 million. Our teachers are the foundation for tomorrow and we want to ensure that their future is stable after they retire. We will continue to monitor the funds in the system and will fight to pass legislation that will benefit teachers across the state.
These are just a few of the things that the budget and the General Assembly touched on during the legislative session related to education. With this year being the biggest budget, and around 54 percent of that budget going towards Pre-K through post-secondary education, I am sure that we can all agree that our state’s future, when it comes to education, is a bright one.
If you have any questions about anything related to education funding or other legislation passed this session, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as the Senate Majority Whip. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.