Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program is one of the best in the nation, according to a national report on early childhood learning. But the state is likely to lose that spot as the impact of budget cuts sets in.
Only five states met the 10 benchmarks for a top-notch pre-kindergarten program set by the National Institute for Early Education Research. But researchers warns Georgia will likely lose that elite status because last year’s state budget trimmed 20 days from the calendar and cut 10 percent from teachers’ salaries. It also increased class sizes to 22 students.
Governor Nathan Deal’s press secretary, Stephanie Mayfield, said Deal is committed to reversing those reductions.
“The choice was between enduring [cuts] or going bankrupt,” Mayfield said. “The governor’s been very clear throughout the process the importance that he places on early learning and ensuring that there are high-quality teachers in Georgia’s pre-K classrooms. And the governor’s budget this year definitely backs that up.”
Lawmakers approved a budget for next year that adds 10 days back to the pre-K year and boosts teacher pay more than 4 percent. It maintains enrollment at 84,000 slots, though thousands of children remain on waiting lists.
Georgia's program opened in 1993 and became the nation's first universal preschool program for 4-year-olds in 1995.