Evidence of the state’s focus on education issues will be reflected in numerous ways come August when thousands of students return to the classroom. Most notable will be the first real increase in the state salary for teachers since Zell Miller was governor nearly three decades ago.

The $27.5 billion state budget for fiscal year 2020 includes $10.6 billion for Georgia’s public schools – nearly $660 million more than FY19. The bulk of new funding goes directly into the pockets of education employees.

Fulfilling a campaign promise he made to voters, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp pushed through a $3,000 increase to the state salary schedule for teachers. That guarantees the money will go directly into teacher paychecks, as opposed to other district-directed initiatives.

In the past, lawmakers approved pay increases intended for teachers, but allowed districts flexibility in how they spent the money. Local school districts are only required to pay teachers at the state salary schedule, however most add local dollars to increase pay and attract teachers.

Also receiving a $3,000 raise from the state are school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, media specialists, special education specialists and technology specialists. The raises go into effect July 1.

The price tag to cover all the salary bumps will tack $483 million onto the K-12 education budget for Georgia, covering nearly 160,000 certified staff. The education budget also continues fully funding the state’s allocation formula — Quality Based Education — for the second year in a row, providing local districts their full allotment of state funding.

The remaining $2,000 left on Kemp’s pledge for a $5,000 teacher raise will be forthcoming, noted state officials, as long as the economy points north. During a statewide “listening tour,” Joy Hawkins, director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, noted the commitment to teacher pay remains a focus.

“Gov. Kemp would have loved to give the full $5,000 pay raise this year [but] the short answer to when teachers can except the remaining $2,000 is soon…given the economy stays strong,” Hawkins said.

The Fulton County School System recently passed a general fund budget of nearly $1.6 billion for Fiscal Year 2020, which included the $3,000 state raise to all teachers. Additionally, all teacher support positions received a 3 percent raise; with a 2 percent raise for all other district employees.

The cost of all raises adds $38 million to Fulton Schools’ FY20 budget, much of which will be recouped from the state. Salaries and benefits comprise nearly 84 percent of the general fund budget, with supplies, utilities, materials and other non-instruction related expenses comprising the remaining 16 percent.

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