Georgia public schools don't make the grade when it comes to overall quality, new study finds

A recent listing of states with the best and worst school systems has Georgia ranking in the bottom half.  According to the analysis conducted by WalletHub, Georgia public schools are 36th in the nation. 

To determine the top-performing school systems in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 32 key metrics, which fall into two overall categories: Quality and Safety. The study also accounted for performance, funding, safety, class size and instructor credentials.

Georgia parents say they're they surprised about where the Peach State falls.

"We've been really happy," said Rachel Dahm, whose children attend elementary school in Sandy Springs. "Here in Sandy Springs, we have a great elementary school. If I were rating them here, it would be top five. I guess it surprises me."

Shari Greaves has a son in the second grade at Lake Forest.

Neither mom could believe where the Peach State ranked on WalletHub's list for quality of its schools. The personal finance site says Georgia doesn't spend enough on its students, ranking the state 31st in funding for grades K-12.

Source: WalletHub

Fred Jones with the Southern Education Foundation says the ranking "sounds about right." 

"Money matters. Funding matters. Investments matter in schools," Jones said. "Georgia spends roughly $13,000 per student."

Jones says Georgia lags behind the national average of $16,000 per student.

"Yes, Georgia needs to spend more," he said.

WalletHub also cites a teacher shortage, high levels of violence, and availability of illegal drugs in high schools as contributing factors to Georgia's rank.

Stephen Owens is with Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Atlanta that analyzes tax policies and proposed budgets in the state. He says Georgia falls short in spending on safety nets like healthcare, and food programs. He says schools often pick up the shortfall.

"They're absolutely large problems," Owens said. "We leave these families out to dry, that means we have to spend more money in our public education system."

Experts say low income students' education suffers the most.

Owens says school spending should match Georgia's inflation rate.

Jones estimates schools should spend about $36,000 per student in low-income areas.