Most but not all metro Atlanta teachers will receive a pay raise amounting to the $3,000 promised by Gov. Brian Kemp, or more. Those in DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, Fulton and Gwinnett counties will see that size increase. Atlanta Public Schools teachers will get a raise, but not that much.
Money in Kemp’s first state budget intended for teacher pay raises doesn’t cover the costs of locally funded positions, nor all the ancillary costs, so local districts often must reinforce these raises with their own dollars. Districts across the region grappled with who Kemp’s raises will and should cover, and increased benefits costs not funded by the state, as well as increasing compensation for all employees.
The DeKalb County School District's tentative budget for the 2019-2020 school year includes $3,000 raises for every employee on the teacher salary schedule. That is in addition to more than $30 million the district is using to adjust salaries for employees across the board, part of salary adjustments the district began rolling out at the start of 2019.
Michael Bell, DeKalb’s chief financial officer, said the district expects to receive $22 million from the state to implement Kemp’s pay raise, though it will cost the district about $28 million to give the raise and cover associated benefits. Bell said money allocated to DeKalb by the state “doesn’t fully cover the governor’s raise.”
Some DeKalb employees have voiced displeasure online that the raises will not be given to speech and language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists and others in the district who work directly with children but are not on the teacher salary schedule.
Cobb County Schools officials said every full-time employee will receive raises between 8% and 12%, which would be more for each teacher than Kemp's pledge. Starting pay for a beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree is $43,465, so an 8% increase for that person would be $3,477.
Clayton County Public Schools employees on the teacher pay scale will receive $3,000 and a salary-step increase. Other employees also will see raises as well.
In Atlanta Public Schools, teachers will see a raise — but the average pay increase will be $2,000.
District officials said APS needs about $4 million more than it will receive from the state to fully fund a $3,000-per-teacher raise. That’s because APS employs more teachers and other staff than are covered by the state and because the state money the district receives is reduced by the “local fair-share” funding formula, which distributes money to poorer districts.
The APS decision troubled teachers groups, who said the district should find a way to pay for the full $3,000 raises.
Atlanta school leaders pledged to provide more generous raises to teachers retroactively if the district ends up receiving more revenue. One potential funding source could be the City of Atlanta. The city and school district signed an agreement in January to resolve a dispute over the use of future school property taxes as development incentives. In return, the city agreed to pay the district millions of dollars over the coming years.
But APS officials said they need assurances the city will make those payments before building those dollars into the district's budget.
“As we receive confirmation that the city has honored the (agreement), it is our plan to fully fund the teacher raises,” Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said in a written statement.
Fulton County teachers will receive the $3,000 salary increase plus a mid-year step increase, which will go into effect in January.
The district estimates that all employee salary increases will cost about $38 million, of which the teachers’ portion is about $29.5 million.
“We watched with interest as Gov. Kemp recommended, along with concurrence by the Georgia General Assembly, a $3,000 salary increase for teachers,” Fulton County Board of Education president Linda Bryant said in a written statement. “We are delighted to share that increase, as well as an additional mid-year increase next January for those employees who meet the approved criteria.”
In Gwinnett, salary improvements for employees for the upcoming school year will include a $3,000 cost-of-living increase for all employees paid on the teacher salary schedule; a 2% cost-of-living increase for all employees not paid on the teacher salary schedule; and a salary-step increase for all eligible employees.
Nearly all (95%) current teachers are expected to get a salary-step increase in addition to the $3,000.
“These salary improvements will begin with our employees’ first paycheck for the coming school year,” said spokeswoman Sloan Roach.