If Georgia teachers are skeptical of governor’s 2 percent raise, here’s why

The governor is scheduled to sign 10 education bills Thursday, but campus carry is not on the list. (AJC Photo.)

Teacher skepticism of the governor’s announcement yesterday of a 2 percent raise reflects their recent experience. Gov. Nathan Deal promised a 3 percent raise last year — really a one-time bonus — but many teachers saw their paychecks unchanged or diminished due to higher insurance costs.

That was because only 40 percent of Georgia school systems passed the money along to teachers as bonuses. Still reeling from austerity cuts, some rural systems used their share of the $300 million from the state to eliminate unpaid teacher furlough days or plug budget holes.

Since 2003, local school system budgets have been decimated by state austerity cuts cumulatively totaling more than $9 billion, including back-to-back annual cuts of more than a billion-plus from 2010 to 2014. The consequence of those budget slashes — furloughs, larger class sizes, stagnate salaries — likely played a role in the 36 percent decline in enrollment in Georgia’s teacher education programs between 2010 and 2015.

“The pay raise is real,” says senior policy analyst Claire Suggs of the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. “Yes, the increase in employee premiums will reduce it but the salary increase is still larger than the premium increase. The salary increase is important progress as the state salary schedule hasn’t been adjusted since fiscal year 2009. Districts will still face financial challenges, though. Among other things, their cost for health insurance for non-certified workers is going up about $30 million in fiscal year 2018.”

In citing the surge in health costs at a recent Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education media forum, Suggs reveals a little-understood truth about school funding: What the state gives with one hand, it takes back with another.

Health insurance for non-certified employees such as bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers is one example. In 2012, the state stopped paying its portion of those costs. So, districts went from monthly payments of $246 per employee in 2012 to $846 in 2017. Districts have spent more than $400 million since 2012.

Consider the yellow school buses that go up and down the street every day. The state shares financial responsibility for those buses, but its contribution has been shrinking. In 2000, Georgia districts forked over $385 million for transportation, of which the state contributed $152 million or 39 percent. In fiscal year 2016, districts allotted a whopping $823 million, of which the state supplied $127 million or 16 percent.

While the education budget grew by $1.5 billion from FY 2015 to FY 2017, districts enjoyed scant leeway with those new funds; 90 percent went to partial restoration of austerity cuts, student enrollment increases, routine teacher pay increases and rising retirement costs.

In its newly released Quality Counts 2017 report, Education Week gave Georgia an “F” on student spending. The state ranks 38th in how much it spends per each student. In 2014, Georgia spent $9,202 per pupil, nearly $2,000 below the national average of $11,009.

Despite yet another blue-ribbon panel on school funding — the seventh in 22 or so years — Georgia’s unlikely to see any climb in student spending. Impaneled by Deal in 2015 to rewrite the school funding formula, the Education Reform Commission avoided the thorny question of how much was necessary to educate Georgia students to college and career readiness. The commission shifted existing dollars rather than build a case for new ones.

To its credit, the commission recognized that economically disadvantaged children — who count for 62 percent of Georgia’s public school enrollment based on free and reduced lunch data — present more educational challenges and ought to earn additional funding.

Somehow, the commission priced those educational challenges at $232 a year, which means districts would earn an extra $1.29 a day for each of their low-income students. On the other hand, the commission recommended giving districts a $773 supplement per student identified as gifted.

“I don’t know what it will take to have an honest conversation about how much it will require to educate every student in Georgia to standards,” says Suggs. “But we cannot leave two-third of our kids behind.”

Reader Comments 0

23 comments
Robert Reems
Robert Reems

You and the teacher fail and want a raise crime is up kids get killed everyday sad sad sad sad

Allison Massey
Allison Massey

Higher insurance cost eat up our raises every year too.

Harlequin
Harlequin

What ever happened to the "good ole daze," when at the close of a school year, the superintendent simply drew up a new salary schedule and presented it as a gift from the benevolent father and the teacher (hat in hand) said "thank you?" Some people simply just don't know their place!

Jackson
Jackson

The problem is the 2 percent does not even cover the increase cost in healthcare.....

Astropig
Astropig

@Jackson


It probably doesn't even cover the real rate of inflation,which is "officially" 1.7%,according to the federal government.That "official" rate,however,is a fiction,cooked up to make the government look better than it ordinarily would.Real people in the real world know that prices are rising much more than 1.7% per year.


Shadowstats.com keeps track of such statistics without the political biases, and the numbers there are very telling.(Like the government,they are not perfect or written in stone or anything like that,but are useful)


http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/inflation-charts

Astropig
Astropig

"Teacher skepticism of the governor’s announcement yesterday of a 2 percent raise reflects their recent experience."


I don't know why the teachers are skeptical toward the governor.It was the school districts that intercepted last years money and used it in ways that he didn't intend.



Falcaints
Falcaints

@Astropig He never intended it to be raise of he would have included it in the pay scale.  The Governor knew full well that many districts would not pass the money along, just as they did not end furlough days in earlier years when money was given for that purpose.

BRV
BRV

Exactly. It was and remains calculated political grandstanding. Deal is hardly alone in doing so and it's a low risk tactic for Deal or any other politician. Most of the public knows nothing about education financing. They just hear, "teachers get raise" which is all that counts for public consumption purposes.

Lisa Giles
Lisa Giles

Teachers are mistreated at the local level and no one seems to be brave enough to publicly share. This article mentions "enlarged class sizes." I remember a colleague being reprimanded by the Principal for mentioning her large class size to the State Superintendent. It seems it embarrassed him and the local Superintendent. Therein lies the problem---they take measures to protect "only themselves" and not the teacher-the one who is in the trenches every school day!

Jac Alexander
Jac Alexander

We wonder why there aren't more quality educators that are in it for the long run. Well, when I say "we", I don't include myself. I don't know how I will make it for 25 more years of this. \U0001f611

Falcaints
Falcaints

As a gifted certified teacher, I don't really see where this "extra" money for the gifted students goes.  Before the austerity cuts, gifted class sizes were capped at 21. Now they just put them on a separate roster but include them in a class of 32 or more.  Where does that extra funding go?

HotDawg
HotDawg

Glad you're so "gifted".

Lol

Falcaints
Falcaints

@HotDawg Thank you, but I said "gifted certified" which means that for every gifted student I teach our system receives that extra funding.  I personally was not labeled as gifted.

Jennifer Kraften
Jennifer Kraften

I so agree! $1.27 a day to bring all the supports in to level that playing field? This "Blue Ribbon Panel" is very out of touch.

Jack Bagley
Jack Bagley

We should indeed be ashamed. But things will not change. No politician is going to commit career suicide by advocating that the state really fund education at its actual cost, and no taxpayer is willing to pay that actual cost. Outrage sounds great in a 30-second sound bite, but outrage doesn't pay the bills.

CSpinks
CSpinks

The GaDOE has begun to issue to each local school district financial data indicating the state spending per student for each school in the district. (Each district may elect to release its individual school-based, per-student spending data this year but such data will be issued directly to The Public next year by the GaDOE.)


This year's issuance by GaDOE to local districts of data indicating how much money our state is spending per student in each school in each of our public school districts is a welcome first step on the road to  FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY  in GaPubEd.

Paul Bamford
Paul Bamford

2% ? Just throw it at our health care please.