Thursday, November 14, 2013

School Funding Versus Major League Baseball: The Braves Get a New Stadium While Students Get Fewer Teachers

Cobb County schools in Georgia are being asked to tighten their belts to the tune of $86 million at the exact same time as the County is committing to cough up $450 million to build the Atlanta Braves a new baseball stadium.  Of course, leaders claim the new stadium is good for taxpayers, while the superintendent of schools is warning of the risk at which schools are being place.  The newly approved school budget includes five furlough days for all school district employees, the loss of 182 teachers through attrition and a smaller central administration staff.  Just to keep the pain this mild, the district had to pull $41 million from its rainy day emergency funding reserves. In doing so, its reserves dwindle to a level that only amounts to one month's basic operating budget.

The stadium funds will not, of course, come directly out of the schools' budget.  Georgia's schools are funded by a combination of state appropriations and local real estate taxes reserved solely for schools. Supportors of the stadium claim that it will be funded solely by a special tax on the businesses around the stadium, but skeptics point out that there are not many business in the area and certainly not enough to raise $450 million.  In other words, regular taxpayers will likely foot much of the bill.  Slice it and spin it any way you want.  In the end, Cobb County's elected leaders can find money for a baseball stadium, but they cannot find money for its students.  Seems odd given that an adequate education is mandated under the state constitution and baseball is but a past time.

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