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Posted by Bryan Long on May 18th, 2012

Photo courtesy familymwr via flickrOver the past decade, Georgia lawmakers decided that paying for adequate public schools and colleges simply isn't a priority.

Who needs good schools anyway?

Yesterday, we published a look at Georgia's K-12 funding from Joe Martin. (The damage being done to public education in Georgia).

And then the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute released two important reports on the state of Georgia's public education system.

The news is grim: Funding for Georgia's schools and colleges are at the lowest levels in a decade.

GBPI Executive Director Alan Essig delivers the news:

"Georgia has entered an era in which education leaders are expected to do more with less. This is the new normal for the state's education systems. However, persistent cuts to public education undermine efforts undertaken by the state to build a more educated and skilled workforce that attract good-paying jobs to the state. Without enhancing the quality of Georgia's workforce, our state won't thrive."

State and local support for each public school student is less than it was a decade ago.

The story for colleges and technical schools is just as bleak.

Since 2009, the University System of Georgia has experienced more than $450 million in funding cuts. With the state backing away from its support of higher education, tuition and fees have increased by more than 70 percent.

Georgia once awarded the HOPE Scholarship to expand the number of students who can afford college but under Gov. Nathan Deal, that scholarship is quickly being transformed into a student debt program. (Sign the petition to Save the HOPE Scholarship).

A college degree has become increasingly unaffordable for Georgians.

To make sure that no education has gone unharmed, lawmakers also cut funding for technical colleges.

Georgia's growth depends on our ability to build a well-trained, educated workforce that can meet business demands. Businesses consistently look to technical colleges to meet their changing needs. But the accreditation of Georgia's technical colleges is at risk because of funding cuts, which have force technical colleges to rely on more part-time adjunct faculty.

Georgia has won the race to the bottom of low-taxes. We're among the lowest taxed states in the nation.

But what did we win for our efforts? It's not jobs. It's not a better quality of life. And it's certainly not less government.

Alan Essig has it right:

"Education cuts have long-term impacts, not just on the children and families they serve, but on our state's economy and well-being. Georgia must find ways to increase investment in education that improve access, quality, and the number of student earning credentials that have value in the marketplace."

Georgia must invest in public schools and colleges. We must make education a priority.

Download GBPI's full reports here:

We are Georgians who are ready to once again lead the South.

Better Georgia is the state's fastest growing progressive advocacy organization. We are here to make sure our elected officials listen to Georgia families and the people who work hard each day. We fight to make sure elected officials pass sensible laws and policies that benefit everyone, not just corporations and the political elite.

Better Georgia is ready for our state to once again lead the South. We want strong communities and schools. We want quality jobs and a culture that attracts the best businesses.

The debate in Georgia has been between the right and the far right for too long. Better Georgia is working to change the debate and change our state. With your help, Georgia will be better than ever.

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