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Monday, August 10, 2009 - 2:05am

School Starts With Deficit

Today most public school students return for the 2009/2010 school year. And it begins for most school districts with a deficit, as the state is trying keep its budget in balance.

Public school funding is one of the largest state budget items and the economy is hitting schools hard this year. In an effort to bridge a $900 million budget shortfall, Governor Sonny Perdue asked 180 school systems to furlough teachers for three days this year. He can only ask for school systems to furlough teachers, but the money will be withheld either way.

Systems are dealing with the loss in various ways. Poorer rural systems like Peach County implemented a four day school week. Other systems with a larger property tax base like Atlanta, Cobb and Dekalb, will just pay the difference. Perdue spokesperson Bert Brantley says the state's formula for distributing school funds known as the QBE, is to blame for the inequality in school funding.

"It's a big concern, but there is no way to unevenly withold spending within the QBE system," Brantley says. "And so we have to go with a formula the governor has said is broken."

Brantley says Perdue has tried unsuccessfully to change the QBE formula in the legislature. Meanwhile many school systems have cut out teacher planning days, and cut teacher pay accordingly.

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