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What federal aid could mean for Georgia Public Schools

But long-term budget issues remain.

ATLANTA — A federal budget deal in Washington could mean more spending for local schools in metro Atlanta.  

The state has been steadily reducing its share of public school funding over the last 20 years – even as costs have soared.

One big cut is school buses. According to the Georgia Budget Policy Institute, the state-funded 54% of school transportation in the 1990s. Today the GBPI says it’s 14%, even though it costs more now to buy and run school buses.  

That money comes out of money used for education.

"So fewer teachers, fewer resources for struggling children because the state continues to undercut and underfund public education," said Stephen Owens of the Georgia Budget Policy Institute.

Owens says the federal government is due to infuse billions of new dollars into Georgia public schools. But in a state where Owens says class sizes have grown and technology has lagged over most of the last twenty years, the federal money is unlikely to fix chronic state underfunding of public education.

"Maybe instead of investing in human infrastructure, like school counselors or additional teachers, (schools) would instead use this money just for one-time expenditures, retention bonuses for staff, changes to the school building," Owens said. "If you hire additional people, you’ll just have to fire them again once this federal money runs out."

Owens says local taxpayers have picked up much of the slack left from the state’s underfunding of public schools. He says if the state wants smaller class sizes and better technology in public schools across Georgia, more state funding would do the most good.

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