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Georgia chamber gives input on education
Glynn County Board of Education members like the suggestions they are hearing from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber released a study last week, called Smarter Funding, Better Outcomes: Georgia's Roadmap for K-12 Finance Reform. The recommendations, if adopted, would drastically change the public education funding formula and give more flexibility to school systems in how they spend state money.

School board member Millard Allen said the most important recommendation made by the chamber asks legislators to revise a formula -- unchanged since 1985 -- that is used to determine how funding is allocated to local districts.

"That is only about 25 years overdue," Allen said.

Since elected to the board in 2006, Allen has heard calls from state school administrators for changes in the funding formula, but to date, those changes have not happened, he said.

The chamber is suggesting basing funding allocations on the relative cost of educating students, rather than simply basing it on the number of students in a system.

The chamber also suggests creating incentives to foster instructional innovation.

It hopes to accomplish this by lifting as many restrictions on state funding and expenditures as possible and by offering innovation grants to districts that develop new ideas.

Allen said fostering innovation and allowing more wiggle room sounds good to him.

"Any move towards flexibility would be appreciated," Allen said.

The state chamber also recommends building a more comprehensive data reporting system that links expenditures and student outcomes in a meaningful way.

Glynn County Board of Education Chairman Jerry Mancil said he hopes the ideas are more than hollow talk. "It is good to have someone in our corner," Mancil said.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the recommendations, he said.

"We will see if it ever goes from paper to practice," Mancil said.

Chris Clark, Georgia Chamber president and chief executive officer, said money can be spent smarter.

"We look forward to working with the governor, the state superintendent, members of the General Assembly and other key education leaders to determine how these important findings can be implemented," Clark said.

He may have an ally in Gov. Nathan Deal.

"The report and its recommendations deserve serious consideration," Deal said.

The Smarter Funding, Better Outcomes report was compiled by Public Impact, an education policy and management consulting firm based in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and overseen by the chamber.

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