Sarah Kallis, GPB News
State House leadership presented their policy recommendations following a study into Georgia’s preschool program Tuesday.
Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones says that a revamp of funding for Georgia’s public preschools is long overdue, and funding for furnishing classrooms and teacher salaries are too low.
“The most glaring example, is that the amount of money that we provide to either a private provider — generally a day care operator — or a public school system to furnish a new classroom has been $8,000 for 30 years,” she said. “It has not changed in 30 years.”
Jones and the committee that conducted the study say teacher salaries need to align with those for educators who work with older children. Assistant teacher salaries would jump from about $20,000 to $25,700, not including a proposed 4% cost of living increase for state employees. The committee is also recommending class sizes be capped at 20 students instead of 22.
“We’ve got to up our game, to continue to offer one of the first universal pre-K system programs in the country and one that is certainly very successful,“ she said.
Jones says the recommendations will cost the state $100 million, but the funds are available in the lottery reserves, which hold over $1 billion.
Speaker of the House Jon Burns said that education improvement needs to be a priority for lawmakers.
“Education really is the reason that this our state has been the best place in this country in which to do business for the last 10 years,” he said. “And if we want to continue that distinction, we … cannot just maintain what we’re doing from an educational opportunities [standpoint]. We must improve.”
This story comes to the Augusta-Richmond Herald through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.