Emerging Details on Funding Increase Proposed for Schools
State Superintendent Richard Woods and Rusk Roam, chief financial officer for the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), walked members of the House and Senate appropriations committees through the changes Gov. Brian Kemp proposed for the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) 2024 budget as well as his spending plans for Fiscal Year (FY) 2025, which begins July 1, 2024.
Amended Fiscal Year 2024
The most notable addition to education spending proposed by Kemp for the AFY 2024 budget is a $1,000 supplement for full-time benefits-eligible employees with a total price tag of $143 million. School nurses, nutrition staff, and bus drivers are included in the supplements. Funds for the supplement have been distributed to districts, which have been directed to distribute them by Jan. 31. The funds allocated to districts cover state-funded positions. Many districts have positions covered with local or federal money, and thus, they did not receive funding to include these positions in the supplements. Each district will determine how to distribute the supplement, based on its specific financial circumstances.
Kemp also added $102 million in his AFY spending proposal to cover enrollment growth as well as nearly $9 million for the special-needs private school voucher program. He seeks to add $28 million in formula funds for state commission charter schools and $4 million for them to cover training and experience.
Under the AFY 2024 budget proposal, pre-kindergarten teachers and assistant teachers are also slated to receive the $1,000 salary supplement. Kemp added $6 million to expand the Summer Transition Program, which serves students who did not attend pre-kindergarten, need additional support, or are English-language learners.
Fiscal Year 2025
Kemp proposes adding $1.4 billion to K-12 spending in FY 2025 over the original FY 2024 budget, including several multiple big ticket items:
$368 million for a $2,500 pay raise for certified teachers and staff, effective Sept. 1, 2024
$7.9 million for a 4.1 percent increase to the state’s portion of the salary of school nurses, bus drivers, and school nutrition staff
$8.6 million for a $1,000 salary supplement for custodians
$266 million in equalization funding for low-wealth districts
$250 million for enrollment growth and educator training and experience
$242 million for an increase in the employer per-member per-month contribution for health insurance for certified staff to $1,760
$205 million for pupil transportation
$104 million for school safety
$68 million to increase the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) employer contribution rate from 19.98% to 20.78% for employees funded by the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula and other units within GaDOE
$6.3 million for two literacy coaches at each Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) as well as $2,000 stipends for literacy support coordinators and leads in each school district
$5 million for the development of a universal literacy screener for K-3 students
Like the salary supplement included in the AFY 2024 budget, if approved, funding for the $2,500 salary increase covers state-funded positions, not those paid with local or federal funds. Each district will have to determine how to implement the pay raise based on its specific financial circumstances, which often varies significantly.
Pre-kindergarten teachers and assistant teachers are also to receive a $2,500 pay raise under Kemp’s FY 2025 spending plan. In addition, the budget proposal includes nearly $11 million to reduce Pre-K class size to 20 students, down from the current 22 students. If approved, this will restore Pre-K class size to the level before the Great Recession. The class-size reduction, which will occur over four years, will add approximately 400 Pre-K classrooms across Georgia.
Lawmakers sought additional information from Woods about the GaDOE's progress implementing HB 538, the Georgia Early Literacy Act. Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, requested a plan from GaDOE on its specific steps to improve reading. Sen. Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro) questioned whether the funds allocated to literacy coaches were sufficient.
Budget Process Next Steps
The joint appropriations meeting kicks off the legislature’s review of Kemp’s budget proposals. Each chamber’s appropriations committee will hold additional meetings to dig into the details of the proposals and make revisions with House Appropriations going first. PAGE will provide updates throughout the budget-writing process.
Wednesday, Jan. 17
Joint Appropriations Hearings
For a full agenda of the Joint Appropriations Hearings, please click HERE
Thursday, Jan. 18
Joint Appropriations Hearings
Monday, Jan. 22 - Legislative Day 6