ATLANTA — Georgia schools would see a modest financial boost under a budget that Republican Gov. Nathan Deal proposed last week, though they would not recoup more than $1 billion in state funding lost over the past few years.
Deal made education funding a key part of his annual State of the State address to lawmakers, calling schools the “front line in our effort to create prosperity.” He promised $258 million to help cover growth in enrollment in the state’s K-12 and higher education systems. His plan also contained nearly $56 million to fund regularly scheduled pay raises for teachers.
“It is here that we make our most strategic investment in the future,” Deal told a joint session of lawmakers on Jan. 10.
Education officials, many of whom are still examining Deal’s proposals in detail, said they were relieved to see the end of the deep funding cuts common during the Great Recession, when lawmakers hacked away at state spending.
To cope with past cuts, school systems have resorted to saving money by having larger classes, employing fewer teachers, cutting teacher pay and even reducing the number of school days.
“The best news is that it didn’t get any worse,” said Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association about Deal’s budget.
“The bottom line is, because of the recession the state is still only sending local systems about 80 percent of what the formula calls for,” said Garrett, referring to a gap that school leaders call Georgia’s “austerity cuts.”