Exclusive: Gov. Deal Will Propose Half-Billion Dollar Boost in Education Spending
In his annual State of the State message on Wednesday, Jan. 15, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal will announce what he has promised will be a significant jump in state spending for elementary and high school education.
Now, WABE’s Denis O’Hayer has learned exactly how big that proposed boost will be.
In an interview, Governor Deal said increased state revenues now allow him to start restoring at least some of the estimated $6 billion in austerity cuts made over the last decade to the state’s funding channel to local school districts.
The Governor told WABE, “You will see the largest single increase in K-12 funding since about 2007 or ‘08. It will be an additional half billion dollars that we are putting into K-12 education.”
That half billion would represent a 6.7% increase from the $7.4 billion in state general funds in the current budget. The Governor would like to see some of that go to 2-3% pay raises for teachers and other school employees.
In an interview before the exact increase was known, Tim Callahan of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) said his organization did not have a target dollar figure in mind, but Callahan said educators want both pay hikes, and the restoration of past cuts.
“I don’t think we can do it all in one year, because we didn’t get into the hole in one year," Callahan told WABE. "It took us several. But I think we need to make a start. And I think educators—whether they are administrators, teachers, school board members, or whatever—are looking to the Governor to make that down payment.”
House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) said the amount of any increase would matter less than how the state helps local districts repair their budget holes.
“We’ve fundamentally altered how children can learn in this state, by removing textbooks from the classroom, forcing lights to go out," said Abrams. "And I think that any number that we look at has to be fully reflective of the need of those children.”
After his State of the State message late Wednesday morning, the Governor speaks to House and Senate budget writers in the afternoon.