Poll: Georgians Are Against Unequal School Funding

Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jim Wooten deplores a recent lawsuit brought by 51 local school systems alleging inadequate funding for education by the state of Georgia. "We are well past the day," he huffs, "where unsatisfactory outcomes can be blamed on too little spending." Throughout the column, he lambastes the "more-money crowd," arguing that problems with public schools can be solved through vouchers or else legislative meddling in details of school administration such as grading systems, textbooks, and standards.

He never bothers to mention that the 51 school systems are poor, mostly rural schools, nor that they contend the state's funding system unfairly favors affluent urban and suburban districts.

To bolster his case he cites a recent University of Georgia poll that asked: "Which of the following do you believe is the primary reason that some schools are better than others?" The top answers:

1) quality of teachers or principals (21 percent)
2) home life of students (21 percent)
3) differences in school funding (20 percent)
4) some communities care about education more than others (19 percent)

Even though Wooten (incorrectly) glosses the poll question as asking "what you, with magical powers and limitless money, could change to improve public education," he goes on to contend that "more money" couldn't possibly solve such "complex" problems.

Actually, the poll asks why there are disparities between schools, a question Wooten completely ducks. He also manages to duck the fact that the responses to the poll's other questions demonstrate Georgians don't agree with him in the least:

87 percent of Georgians believe the state should address the concerns expressed in the rural schools' lawsuit.

81 percent "believe that Georgia's schools should have an equal amount of resources regardless of the local community's relative wealth."

62 percent answer "yes" to the question: "Should property taxes from wealthier areas be used to support other schools in less affluent areas?"

73 percent believe that the state should bear the primary costs of education, rather than local communities or parents.

Wooten also approvingly quotes a conservative state legislator decrying activist, "left-wing" judges who interfere in education issues. He does not mention that the Georgia schools' lawsuit was delayed for several months because the original judge, Rowland Barnes, was murdered in his courtroom in March -- a slaying that inspired John Cornyn to implicitly threaten judges he doesn't agree with.