Georgia’s superintendent plans to revise the funding approach in 2024

Public schools make up the largest portion of Georgia’s state budget. So when lawmakers travel to Atlanta every January to fund the government and pass new laws, education always plays a prominent role.

This January, efforts to make students living in poverty a priority in the state’s funding formula could be implemented, new raises and literacy training for teachers could be implemented, the state could cover some of the skyrocketing costs of student transportation and more spots could be created in the state’s preschool programs. K program, according to a list of Georgia Department of Education priorities for the upcoming regular session.

“The best way to invest in Georgia’s future is to invest in our students, families and educators,” Superintendent Richard Woods said in a statement. “Our legislative priorities are guided by this core belief. I look forward to working with the Governor’s office and members of the General Assembly to strengthen teaching and student opportunities, fully fund public education, elevate the teaching profession, support Georgia families, and keep our students safe. “

(READ MORE: Georgia students still struggling with reading skills three years after pandemic learning loss)

The DOE is working on a bill backed by Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones that would require social media companies to verify users’ ages and remove features that could be addictive to children, as well as require parental consent and notification School Health Services.

The department is working with potential sponsors on details, including costs, spokeswoman Meghan Frick said.


Woods is proposing a $3,000 pay raise for teachers, which, if approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, would equal a total $10,000 raise since Kemp took office in 2019. Kemp’s office has not commented publicly on the proposals.

“In the long term, we also support expanding step increases on the teacher pay scale,” Woods wrote in an editorial with Christy Todd, the 2024 Georgia Teacher of the Year. “As it currently stands, after 21 years in the classroom, teachers no longer receive raises based on experience – meaning they receive no recognition for their continued longevity and expertise for nearly a third of their careers.”

Woods and Todd are also calling for the creation of a study committee on pay rates for other education workers, including school nurses, bus drivers and nutrition workers.


Woods’ proposals also include spending to support teachers and students, such as adding a paraprofessional in every K-2 classroom – currently the state only pays for paraprofessors in kindergarten classrooms.

The plan also includes new dollars to support literacy efforts statewide, including by expanding opportunities for retired teachers with reading or dyslexia endorsements to return to the classroom and by providing funding for “the science of reading-based coaching and of professional learning”.

(READ MORE: Kemp signs Georgia budget with raises, scholarship increases)

Reading science is a field of research that examines how children learn to read. Beth Haynes, legislative chair of the advocacy group Decoding Dyslexia Georgia, said the science of reading and an approach called structured literacy can help students with or without dyslexia develop reading skills more easily, and she’s pleased the state is making them a priority admits.

This year, Kemp signed House Bill 538, which requires teachers of kindergarten through third grade students to be taught the science of reading and structured literacy skills.

“Literacy coaches were part of one of the original drafts of HB 538, the Georgia Early Literacy Act, but they took it out,” Haynes said. “Since then, there has been a lot of discussion about how important reading and writing coaches are for the successful implementation of the science of reading and structured reading and writing skills. This has been the case in state after state that has already done so. They all report somehow the same thing.” . So yes, the funding is huge. And the fact that they are talking about coaching, especially when it comes to literacy coaches, is great to see.”

Changes to the funding formula

Since 1985, Georgia has funded public schools using a formula called Quality Basic Education, which determines how much of the state budget should go to each student, depending on factors such as the student’s grade level and whether they receive special education services.

Lawmakers have been working to update the formula in recent years, and modernizing the way the state pays to get students to and from class could be a big opportunity, Georgia Education Director Stephen Owens said Budget and Policy Institute.

In the 1990s, the state covered more than half of all transportation costs for counties, Owens said, but today it is closer to 20% or less.

“The dollar amount has remained the same since roughly fiscal year 2000, while we have gained hundreds of thousands of students while prices for diesel, buses and labor have increased,” he said. “And the end result is hundreds of millions of dollars to push individual districts to cover the cost of something that is required by law that you have to provide for your traditional school district, you have to provide transportation.”

Woods is calling on lawmakers to allocate more state money to transportation costs, which could give counties the opportunity to hire more staff or make other investments.

Another change could help level the playing field for Georgia children living in poverty.

Georgia is one of only six states that does not provide additional state funding for the education of children below the poverty line. Woods is calling on lawmakers to “recognize poverty as part of a larger effort to modernize the K-12 funding formula.”

Schools in rural and urban Georgia that educate students from low-income families could use additional state funding, Owens said.

“As I traveled around the state asking how people would spend this money, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs came up clearly,” he said. “We had children at Mountain Education Charter District School who needed their clothes washed and who needed transportation to and from school. When we went to a metropolitan district, they wanted to use it for transportation so the kids could use it for dual enrollment. Manufacturing. “Other districts could spend that money to pay for school meals for children who fall in the gap between free meals and reduced-price meals.”

Owens said lawmakers need to balance districts’ flexibility to spend the money with reporting requirements to ensure it reaches the students who need it.

If done right, it could lead to educational improvements Georgia hasn’t seen in decades, he said.

“That would be a legacy of sorts in recognizing the need to fund the biggest challenge we have in our state’s schools, which is poverty,” he said. “They have one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. We know this impacts student outcomes and we see this having an impact. If implemented sensibly, this would be an opportunity to align our funding with the needs of the state in a way we haven’t seen since the ’90s.”