Atlanta schools’ budget includes raises, more mental health services

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

The Atlanta school board approved a nearly $1.4 billion budget that includes raises for teachers and more mental health services for students.

The $904.6 million general fund makes up the bulk of the spending plan, which board members unanimously approved Monday. It covers the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The budget includes $23.8 million in additional compensation for employees.

Lisa Bracken, Atlanta Public Schools’ chief financial officer, said one aim is to focus “on attracting, retaining and motivating” highly qualified and competent employees.

Eligible teachers will receive step increases based on years of experience, and those in the middle of their careers, with five to 15 years of experience, will receive an extra pay boost.

The board also approved stipends for teachers in hard-to-fill areas. More than 400 special education teachers will receive a $3,000 stipend.

Teachers at 32 schools with the district’s highest percentage of low-income students will receive payments of $1,000 to $2,000.

As part of the district’s response to the pandemic and challenges students have faced, the budget also includes $2.8 million to hire 25 additional school social workers.

Another $1.1 million is earmarked for hiring 10 new psychologists, plus additional funds for student support specialists and trauma-related training for employees. APS also budgeted $3 million to continue its COVID-19 surveillance testing program next school year.

The district plans to use more than $11 million from its rainy day fund to balance the budget, leaving an estimated fund balance of $115 million by June 2022.