Kemp’s investment in education doesn’t go far enough, critics say

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Georgia Democrats propose $10,000 teacher pay raises

Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said the pay raises he has been giving teachers since he took office four years ago are historic in scope and scale, but Democrats contend it’s not enough, accusing him of hoarding a massive surplus rather than investing it in education.

Kemp wants to give schools everything they’re supposed to get per a longstanding formula for distributing state funding to them. It’ll cost an extra $1.9 billion through summer 2024, he noted. The $2,000 pay raise he has requested for teachers, atop $5,000 over the past four years, is part of that increase.

“No other General Assembly or governor will have raised teacher pay by so much so quickly in state history,” he told lawmakers at his State of the State address Wednesday.

ExploreSchool funding formula back on the minds of Georgia lawmakers

Democrats still called him a miser, “squirreling away” money in a state treasury that is swelling in part due to pandemic-related aid from President Joe Biden and what was a Democratic-led Congress.

They’re countering with a call for $10,000 teacher pay raises, saying it would help retain a workforce that is burned out from multitasking as “caregivers, social workers, mental health counselors and child care providers all rolled into one,” as Sen. Harold Jones II, D-Augusta, the Senate minority whip, put it. “Teachers alone cannot and should not shoulder all of this burden on their own. Simply put, the status quo is unsustainable and it’s harmful.”

Jones and others in Democratic leadership want that funding formula expanded even more, so school districts can hire more support staff.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

They also called for an expansion of state spending on preschool. Currently, Georgia subsidizes a limited number of pre-kindergarten seats. Kids usually start pre-K at age 4, but Rep. Sam Park, D-Lawrenceville, the House minority whip, said state support should be extended to children as young as 3.

“Not only will investment in early childhood development and education better prepare the next generation for the future, it will help us end the school-to-prison pipeline at its root and build safer communities for generations to come,” Park said.

ExploreGeorgia lawmakers likely to focus on education funding, school safety

Democrats are in the minority of both chambers of the Georgia Legislature, making it less likely many of their proposals will be successful.

Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said she is grateful Kemp is offering teachers raises, but said she was disappointed that he didn’t include the non-teaching staff they rely on. Bus drivers, cafeteria workers and many other school employees aren’t included in Kemp’s proposed raise.

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