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Committee Workday: QBE Poverty Weight Considered by Senate Committee


The Senate Education Committee heard SB 284 by Sen. Jason Esteves (D-Atlanta), which would add a poverty weight to Georgia's Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula, a funding addition supported by PAGE in our 2023 legislative priorities. The weight, which Sen. Esteves referred to as an “opportunity weight,” would be based on the number of students living in poverty within a school district. Students living in poverty are defined as students who have families participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANIF). Students who have unstable housing or who live in foster care would also fall under this definition.  


Esteves stated that Georgia is one of only six states that does not provide additional funding for students in poverty. He went on to highlight the strong link between poverty and student performance and outlined many additional costs incurred by school districts that serve lower-income students. Such costs can be direct instructional expenses like additional tutoring or indirect costs such as food assistance or health clinics. He also noted that a poverty weight would benefit not only urban districts but rural districts in the north and south of Georgia, as well. Finally, Sen. Esteves framed the proposed poverty weight as a strategy to strengthen Georgia’s workforce.  


Many of the questions asked by committee members centered on whether additional funding could effectively address performance issues observed in school districts with higher concentrations of student poverty. Sen. Esteves responded that affluent students enter school more prepared and have more support options available. In contrast, students from lower-income families lack these supports and face additional issues like food insecurity.  


Sen. Freddie Sims (D-Dawson) noted that public schools and public educators must accept and serve every student but never get any credit for this important work. She went on to say that schools and educators are often criticized, but policymakers at all levels do not understand the challenges schools face. 

Stephen Owens of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute spoke in favor of the bill and stated that schools with the lowest CCRPI scores have much higher percentages of students in poverty than do schools with the highest CCRPI scores. 


Representatives from the Southern Education Foundation and the Intercultural Development Research Association also supported the bill, as did several college students who recounted their personal experiences in overcoming poverty.  

Committee Chair Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett) closed the hearing by saying he looks forward to working with the sponsor on this issue next year.  


As this hearing comes late in the legislative session, and the committee did not vote on SB 284, there is no chance the measure will pass this year. PAGE continues to support the addition of a poverty weight and urges lawmakers to continue exploring this proposal.  


Prior to SB 284’s hearing, a student addressed the committee about the Georgia Milestones test and indicated he believes the assessment sets up students for failure, as students are not properly prepared. He stated that the test was not about achievement and is instead about money. Further, he said that Milestones makes him want to return to private school. 


No Action Taken on Bill Targeting American Library Association  

SB 390 by Sen. Larry Walker III (R-Perry), would bar city, county, and regional library trustees and the University System of Georgia from using any public or privately donated funds on any materials, services, or operations offered by the American Library Association (ALA) and its affiliates. The bill's current version allows funds to be allocated for the certification of degree programs. It moves the certification of librarians to the Georgia Council of Public Libraries.  


Committee Chair Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) said he had specific concerns about broad terminology he wished to address with the sponsor before the next committee meeting. Other members may also submit their questions and concerns to the chair.

  

Upcoming Events 


Tuesday, March 26 – Legislative Day 39 

 

Wednesday, March 27 – Committee Workday 

  • House Higher Education Committee, TBA 

 

Thursday, March 28 – Legislative Day 40, Sine Die 

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