ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp wants teachers to get the remaining $2,000 of his proposed $5,000 raise as soon as possible, with plans to ask lawmakers to give teachers a one-time $2,000 bonus before the current budget year ends, according to information obtained by The Associated Press.
The information indicated Kemp would seek to make the increase a permanent part of their salary when the next budget year begins July 1.
"Students from all walks of life are confronted with mental health struggles, teachers are asked to do more and more every year, and the need for a world-class K-12 education to prepare our children for an ever-changing workforce has never been greater," Kemp plans to say in his annual State of the State speech Thursday, according to draft remarks obtained by the AP.
The person who provided Kemp's remarks spoke on condition of anonymity and was not allowed to release them publicly before the speech.
Kemp also plans to seek a one-time $2,000 payment to other full-time K-12 employees and administrators who aren't teachers, while asking them to pay a $1,000 one-time bonus to part-time employees, school nurses, bus drivers and cafeteria workers.
The incumbent Republican governor also plans to ask lawmakers to budget for the full amount demanded under Georgia's K-12 school funding formula, ending two years of austerity cuts that began at the beginning of the pandemic, when budget writers feared state revenue would plummet. Kemp will say school employees need "the resources necessary to fulfill their mission and prepare the next generation of leaders for successful lives and careers."
Figures prepared for the Kemp administration by the state Department of Education project that a $2,000 pay raise plus full funding for Georgia's Quality Basic Education funding formula would add $844 million to the state budget in the 2023 budget year.
That's on top of Kemp's already announced plan to give $5,000 pay raises to state agency employees, as well as Republican lawmakers' desires to cut taxes. Revenue is strong, on pace to run more than $1 billion ahead of the $27.3 billion that lawmakers budgeted in the current year, but it's unclear if there will be enough money to meet all spending and tax cut plans.
Lawmakers already agreed after Kemp was elected to put $3,000 toward his promise of $5,000 raises for teachers. According to data from the Southern Regional Education Board, a Georgia teacher with a bachelor's degree starts teaching at an average salary of $38,509, and all teachers make an average of $60,578. Georgia's starting salary is below the Southern average, but its average salary is almost 10% above the regional average. Teachers at the top of Georgia's wage scale make more than anywhere else in the South and more than the national average, according to the board's figures.
The state Board of Education, at Kemp's urging, agreed to $1,000 bonuses to 225,000 school employees last year using $240 million in federal coronavirus aid. Teachers and other employees in some of Georgia's 180 school districts have also gotten raises or bonuses from locally controlled funds.
Kemp plans to say that increasing teacher pay is part of his effort to build "a safer, stronger Georgia" and to fulfill the promises he made when running for election in 2018.
"I believe, by working together, this legislative session will be a historic one for education in our state," the draft remarks state. "Because building a safer, stronger Georgia starts with putting students and parents first."
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