Gov. Nathan Deal wants to spend $50 million next year to start reversing changes he engineered to a lottery-funded early-childhood program aimed at keeping HOPE programs from going bankrupt that also led to waves of teachers leaving pre-kindergarten classes and tarnished its national reputation.
The governor said in an interview that the specifics are still in the works but that the funding would reduce class sizes in pre-k programs and increase the salaries for teachers and assistant teachers.
“We all know the statistics indicate a good pre-k program is the best starting point we can have for children in schools,” he said. “Class size and teacher compensation are critical components for being able to have an effective and responsible pre-k program.”
The governor pushed lawmakers in 2011 to restructure pre-k and HOPE scholarship programs to keep them financially afloat as they struggled increasing demand. The pre-k school year was cut by 20 days, and the maximum size of classrooms was raised from 20 to 22 students.
A 180-day calendar has since been restored, but class sizes remain the same. And advocates have long called for smaller classrooms and higher teacher pay to improve the quality of early childhood education.
By Greg Bluestein
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- Gov. Nathan Deal wants to spend $50 million next year to start reversing changes he engineered to a lottery-funded early-childhood program in 2011 to keep it financially afloat.
- The proposal is still in the works, but Deal said the funding would reduce class sizes in pre-k programs and increase the salaries for our teachers and assistant teachers.
- In 2011, when the lottery-funded pre-k and Hope scholarship programs were under financial strain amid increasing demand, the governor pushed lawmakers to cut the pre-k school year by 20 days and increase the maximum size of classrooms from 20 to 22 students. A 180-day calendar has since been restored, but class sizes remain the same.
- The money for Deal’s plan would come from the unrestricted lottery reserve fund, a source that the governor was reluctant to touch in the past.
- Some Democrats want Deal to tap the lottery reserve for a different purpose, to help cover tuition costs for students in the state’s technical colleges.
Facts about pre-k program:
- There are budgets slots for 84,000 students.
- The maximum class size is 22 students.
- The state’s waiting list had 4,468 students on it in May.
- There are 885 providers.
- The state provides about $34,000 a year for lead teachers and $13,611 for assistant teachers.