During the recent legislative session, the General Assembly passed a $19.3 billion dollar budget, including a significant boost to statewide education funding.
Since education makes up one of the largest components of our yearly state budget, the General Assembly worked hard to ensure that Georgia's students and teachers were a top priority, particularly in light of our current economic situation.
Currently, K-12 education is 37.3 percent of Georgia's overall budget.
If you include Pre-K, Regents, Technical Schools and other lottery funded programs such as the HOPE Scholarship Program, the total allocations are approximately 53.7 percent of the state's overall budget. In FY2013, the state is projected to spend $10.3 billion on all of these items combined.
The passage of the FY2013 budget is a tremendous victory for Georgia students and educators. Investing in the education of Georgia's students is vital to ensuring the long-term prosperity of our state.
FY 2013 BUDGET EDUCATION HIGHLIGHTS
Department of Early Care and Learning:
• Reduced the number of Pre-K slots by 2,000 and increased the number of instructional days by 10.
• Added $893,485 to fund operations for the additional Pre-K days.
• Reduced funds for start-up costs and administration due to the Pre-K slot reduction.
Department of Education:
• Restored the cut to Agricultural Education and Technology and Career Education to 1 percent and made these cuts non-program specific to allow greater flexibility in the reduction.
• Cut $150,000 from Central Office operations.
• Added $40,000 for the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs to fund sporting events for students with disabilities.
• Redirected the $40,000 remaining in charter schools planning grants to fund two consultants to assist charter schools.
• Restored $18,662 to Communities in Schools.
• Directed the Department of Education to use existing funds to align the Georgia Performance Standards with curriculum currently in use by the Office of College and Career Transitions and College and Career Academies.
• Added $250,000 to Curriculum Development for the Global Initiatives program.
• Restored funds for the Georgia Youth Science and Technology center.
• Restored $10,000 of the Governor's cut to the Governor's Honors Program.
• Restored funds ($66,436) to Information Technology Services for bandwidth for schools, based on high system usage and need.
• Restored funds for Residential Treatment Centers ($76,628) due to the vulnerability of this student population.
• Transferred remaining funding for Georgia Special Needs Scholarships to QBE, and trued up funding for those scholarships by adding funds within the QBE program.
• Reduced funds for Nutrition by the same amount as FY2012 Amended ($775,965), making this reduction greater than the House's cut but smaller than the Governor's cut.
• Directed that funding in Equalization be reallocated to correct errors in the Troup, Clinch, and Charlton county allotments. This further adjustment will be negligible in comparison to the HB 824 reallocation, causing less than 1 percent change to any county's allocations as stated on a previous draft.
• Added $55.8 million for teacher salary step increases.
• Adjusted funding for math and science teacher salary supplements based on updated teacher counts.
• Retained funding for Nutrition in its own program, rather than moving those funds to QBE as proposed in the Governor's recommendation.
• Transferred funds for Pupil Transportation and School Nurses to the QBE program.
• Reflected base funding already in QBE for charter system grants and added $2,779,606 for new systems and growth in existing systems. Instructed that DOE forward the equivalent base funding to other systems to keep base QBE funding at the same level.
• Directed that DOE forward fund virtual charter schools at an average level of $3,200 per FTE, since these schools receive no local funds and were not included in the grant for other State Special Charter Schools.
• Restored funding to RESA core services.
• Directed DOE to utilize $200,000 in existing funds for Teach for America grants.
• Agreed with the House to add more than $3.5 million for School Nurses and move $120,000 of this funding to the Central Office to fund a statewide nursing coordinator, based on the recommendation of the State Education Finance Study Commission.
• Reduced $2,162,755 from the Severely Emotionally Disturbed program to true up funding based on declining enrollment and a retirement rate increase.
• Added $190,757 for salary step increases for teachers in State Schools.
• Added $177,175 to fund one free AP exam for free and reduced lunch students.
I would like to thank the Office of the Governor, as well as my fellow colleagues in the General Assembly, for putting Georgia's children first. Although the Senate has adjourned until next January, our work as elected officials will not stop.
Throughout the rest of the year, I will continue to research issues of importance and listen to the issues that matter most to you - the constituents of the 51st Senate District.
Sen. Steve Gooch represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.