GEORGIA: AT THE INTERSECTION OF EDUCATION AND AGING
Research Report by ExcelinEd Highlights How Demographic Changes Will
Challenge Georgia’s Public Education System
Today, at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, Dr. Matthew Ladner of the Foundation for Excellence in Education released original research on the demographic challenges facing Georgia’s education budget, entitled At the Intersection of Education and Aging: Baby Boomer Retirement, Student Enrollment Growth and the Future of Georgia Education.
The analysis contains both research on the demographic challenges facing Georgia and strategies for substantially improving the academic quality of the state’s K-12 schools at a price taxpayers can afford.
“In the coming decades, Georgians will have to accept the challenges of a changing age demography,” said Dr. Ladner. “To prepare for these challenges, the state needs to improve student learning and needs to do so in a cost-effective manner. This does not necessarily mean spending less money, but it does mean that the state faces a growing need to increase the return on investment for spending—the bang for the education buck must increase.”
Many leaders have recognized how the impending retirement of millions of baby boomers is poised to deplete national and state public services budgets, particularly in health care. But what has not been actively discussed is how a growing elderly population, combined with a growing youth population and a shrinking American workforce, stands to eliminate any possibility of states maintaining current funding levels for K-12 public education.
“Governor Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission showed the state is looking for bold and innovative ways to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges. This research could be the beginning of the strategic change that will protect and preserve Georgia from the coming storm of demography changes,” said Patricia Levesque, CEO of ExcelinEd.
The aging of the population between now and 2030 will profoundly impact all aspects of the financing and operation of Georgia’s taxpayer-funded services. The tension between health and education spending has already been playing out in Georgia’s annual budget battles, and health spending has been squeezing out a great deal of other spending in advance of Hurricane Gray. Medicaid is currently the second largest spending program in state budgets, only three percent less than K-12 education.
- In 2010, for every 100 working-age people, Georgia had 57 people under 18 and over 65. In 2030, the Census Bureau projects that it will be 73 young and old for every 100 working-age people. Georgia’s working-age population is only projected to grow by about half that many residents (approx. 850,000) – an overall increase in that group of just 14 percent.
- In 2000, Georgia spent 24.7 percent of the state budget on K-12 education and 14.3 percent on Medicaid when examining state funds alone. In 2014, the state spent 21.6 percent of the budget on Medicaid and 24.3 percent on K-12 education.
“We’ve been saturated with media coverage about the impact of retiring Baby Boomers on federal entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security,” said Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. “But until now, no one has turned public discussion to the impact at the state level. In this study, Dr. Ladner highlights demographic data making a compelling case for why Georgians and our policymakers should have a sense of urgency around education reform.”
The report suggests Georgia’s policy leaders should consider:
- High Performing Charter Schools: Pursue policies to help high-quality charter school operators expand the number of seats they can offer to families.
- Opportunity School District: Turn around persistently underperforming public schools to encourage higher performance and larger academic gains for students.
- Education Savings Accounts: Allow Georgia parents to create a customized education tailored to the unique needs of their children through Education Savings Accounts.
- College & Career Readiness Incentives: Consider awarding bonuses to schools whose students earn college credit by exam and/or high-demand professional certifications.
For more information on this report and the original Turn and Face the Strain report visit ExcelinEd.org/FaceTheStrain/.