As I have been sitting through education meetings this past week regarding the decision last week to postpone recommendations to reforming the QBE formula, it has been a frustrating experience. Yet, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully, this will not be a train. The Governor’s Commission on Education Reform Funding Sub-committee meeting this past week began with a discussion of this postponement as a possible positive: the added time will allow the sub-committee more time to reach a unanimous decision on recommendations for reform and ultimately for improving our education in the Peach State. Many are hoping that is true and that this dance is not another act in a kabuki theater of the General Assembly. Most of us are just hoping we are not wasting more of our time. One can certainly hope.
As I sat through legislators qualifying their suggestions with “I don’t know x, or z because I’m only a farmer/glorified ditch digger/insert non education related job here”, there seemed to be nonetheless a confidence in their assertions of education cost determination. The members present were the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Senate Education Committee and various leaders of interested parties. I personally deeply appreciated the humility of the members as they couched and qualified their assertions, yet I could not ignore the most glaring absence at the meeting:
The decisions made in this state whether budgetary, reform of some system, or even a small tweak in the Georgia Code always seem to lack what I would consider an essential element: data and the analysis of it. This is not because the data is not collected, but more because big numbers are scary- let’s be honest. From my experience, our part-time legislators use the knowledge of lobbyists to duke it out in debate and public forum rather than use their own policy analysts, OPB and Senate and House Budget Offices to determine policy. While the latter part of the meeting was helpful in that it discussed what data *MIGHT* be used in the next meeting (date still to be determined, agenda posted, and never to be streamed online), the meeting in which I sat had little to no numbers whatsoever.
…And this seemed to bother NO ONE!?!
Over the years I have become accustomed to the Senate’s lack of streaming their committee meetings, I have reluctantly understood that the legislative process in Georgia is a step back into an episode of Matlock and have grown to appreciate the predictable personalities of the politicians around the tables that decide our future. Yet I cannot help but question: how can you make a thoughtful, strategic plan for education funding if you have not looked first at the trends before you attend the meeting? Everyone wants better for their children, but how do we ensure their opportunities for success? How can anyone on the commission expect the citizens of the state to appreciate your hard work when your roster lists only your names, not your faces or contact information? How can you expect comprehensive input from any sources within the education field when you do not openly post your meeting dates and agendas in advance? Is preparedness somehow no longer a reasonable expectation of the folks who are deciding the future of how our state funds education?
This daughter of a farmer would like to know. She ain’t interested in wastin’ time no more.
And oh I, ain’t wastin time no more,
‘Cause time goes by like hurricanes, and faster things. ~Allman Brothers Band