State money for schools outpaces Fayette pupil growth for decade

Those who keep up with the Fayette County Board of Education are well aware of the tens of millions of dollars in austerity cuts by the Georgia Department of Education in recent years.

But what about the state dollars — called QBE (Quality Basic Education) dollars — that help fund the local school system?

Over the past decade those dollars increased by 23.5 percent, while the overall General Fund budget increased by 46.7 percent. At the same time, student enrollment increased by 9.4 percent.

Public school funding sources and the requirements that accompany those dollars are awash with controls, regulations and specifications from state and federal bureaucracies. Those requirements turn many things that should be black and white into something more inherently gray.

And while fiscal issues, such as budgets and the millage rate, get the attention of the public, there is a question that is rarely, if ever, asked. Have the state QBE dollars increased or decreased during the past decade and how do they look compared to the Fayette County School System’s student enrollment and the General Fund budgets for those years?

The following are state QBE dollars allocated to the Fayette County School System over the past decade, beginning with the 2010 school year that ended in May. These dollars do not include federal stimulus funds or local property tax and vehicle tax dollars.

With the exception of 2004, the amount of state dollars increased annually between 2001 and 2008. It was in the 2009 school year that began in August 2008 that the effects of the recession became clear.

2010 - $86 million
2009 - $86 million
2008 - $92.6 million
2007 - $87.2 million
2006 - $78.2 million
2005 - $75.2 million
2004 - $74.5 million
2003 - $75.2 million
2002 - $75.4 million
2001 - $69.7 million

A look at the enrollment figures supplied by the school system shows a steady increase in the student population from 2001 through 2007. Those figures began to decline in 2008, a trend that continued through the 2010 school year that ended in May.

2010 - 21,683
2009 - 22,047
2008 - 22,108
2007 - 22,367
2006 - 22,291
2005 - 21,531
2004 - 21,195
2003 - 21,314
2002 - 20,337
2001 - 19,832

Among other things, the number of students directly affects the number of classroom instructional staff on the payroll.

For the purpose of comparison, the General Fund budget totals for the past decade are below. These figures represent QBE funds along with local tax categories and some federal funding. The reader should note that, like other businesses, the large portion of dollars go to pay the more than 3,000 employees and, at least in times past, to provide for things such as salary increases.

2010 - $185.5 million
2009 - $197.1 million
2008 - $192.9 million
2007 - $186.7 million
2006 - $164.2 million
2005 - $155.9 million
2004 - $149.6 million
2003 - $142.3 million
2002 - $135.8 million
2001 - $126.3 million