During budget-cut hearings, Georgia lawmakers told state prison system had six-figure GED staffers

Some House budget-writers seemed taken aback when Department of Corrections Commissioner Timothy Ward told them his agency had education personnel earning six-figure salaries to help prepare inmates to get a GED.

That’s about twice the average pay of Georgia public school teachers.

Legislators have been spending the past few weeks going through Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget recommendations, which cut about $200 million this year and $300 million next year.

Kemp ordered the cuts because of slow tax collections over the past year and to have enough money to pay for his priorities, including a $2,000 pay raise for public school teachers.

Among the cuts Kemp and Ward recommended were reductions in pay for some prison system education employees who, among other things, prepare inmates to get GEDs, or high school equivalency certificates.

Ward, who took over the prisons agency less than a year ago,  told a House budget subcommittee Wednesday that some DOC instruction personnel were being paid $110,000 or more. Records show the agency has had education supervisors in that range.

“We had several employees that were retirees (from public school systems) working in instruction that were making well over six figures,” he said. “We’re giving out GEDs and vocational instruction, we are not giving out Ph.Ds.”

Ward added, “If I was a regular taxpayer, I couldn’t justify that.”

Some left when the agency said it would cut their salaries substantially to meet Kemp’s budget-cut request.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in October that the department planned to cut the pay of several instruction employees around $25,000 a year, with the highest paid losing $37,000 a year if they chose to stay with the DOC.

Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, a member of the House Appropriations Committee who listened to Ward’s testimony, was not happy.

“Six-figure jobs for folks doing five-figure work,” Williams said. “They’re getting paid like they’re teaching Ph.Ds when they’re teaching folk how to make a living.

“It’s a terrible, terrible stain on how we run this state and how we come in and cut to the bone and we had all this fat.”

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