Monday, May 5, 2008

education overview lunsford

Under the Gold Dome

State Representative John Lunsford's Weekly Capitol Update

Education Overview of Session

May 5, 2008


Since qualifying time is past, and I was fortunate enough not to get an opponent I wanted to start in a series of press releases about what occurred this year in the general assembly by subject matter. Over the next few weeks or months I will update each department of the state as to changes made or improvements. Much of the information will be gleaned from others who either chair the respective committees such as Jan Jones education appropriations, or state agency’s themselves. Many have called this year the session without substance but I think after reading you may view differently. I wanted to let people know we are their staunch advocate and partner in creating a brighter future for their children.  I wanted to let them know what I know – The House of Representatives was relentless throughout the budgeting process in assuring our schools and our children are taken into account.



We succeeded in creating a budget that meets the educational needs of Georgia’s public school students. Together, we crafted a strong and sound state education budget that will directly benefit our states future. 


Even more, we accomplished it in spite of a softening economy; revised revenue projections ($245 million less); and competing needs.  


K-12 Education


·         Held firm on a 2.5% pay raise for teachers ($160 million).  This pay raise is in addition to 3% salary increases awarded to more than half of teachers through normal progression on the teacher salary schedule. Georgia consistently ranks #1 in highest average teacher salary in the Southeast – and this pay raise will ensure that Georgia maintains this ranking. Also note that according to the John Locke Foundation, Georgia ranks #2 nationally in average teacher salary when adjusted for cost of living, pension contribution and teacher experience.


·         Added $50 million for austerity restoration. This funding equates to an additional $31 per student. The General Assembly was able to reduce the remaining austerity reduction from $143 million to $93 million. The remaining austerity represents 1% of the total QBE budget.  Total spending on education exceeded the inflation rate.


·         Fully funded the per student funding formula for 1.23% growth of public school students ($200 million).  Note: The per student funding formula (QBE) for new student growth has been and continues to be fully funded (with no austerity reductions).


·         Added 2,500 slots in the Georgia Virtual School ($1.8 million).  Students will have 6,500 class slots offered through this state program so they can take 75 Advanced Placement and other courses online that are not offered or not convenient at their local school.  Public and non-public school students are eligible.


·         Fully funded growth in Equalization grants.  This grant program serves 134 school systems each year to level out funding for less wealthy systems.  The $110 million was split between the FY09 and Amended FY08 budgets.


·         Continued to fund $100 classroom cards for teachers to purchase classroom supplies the week of the sales tax holiday.  Added classroom cards for new teachers and new media centers.  The total cost comes to $11 million.


·         Fully funded bonds to pay for school construction and renovation ($300 million).  It was split between the Amended FY08 and FY09 budgets.


·         Funded a new Mentor Teacher program to provide $500 stipends for those who mentor new teachers ($200,000).


·         Created 11 new math mentor positions to work with schools struggling with math. Schools will be selected to receive services based on low math test scores and achievement ($1.3 million).




·         Funded a 1% increase for operations for public and private Pre-K providers ($700,000).  This is only the third operational funding increase since Pre-K was created 15 years ago.  Last year’s 2.35% operations increase was the second.  


·         Added 1,000 Pre-K slots ($6.4 million). Currently, 56% of all four year olds attend Pre-K, which is funded through the lottery.  Total children attending lottery – 79,000.


Lunchroom workers, Bus Drivers and Custodians Retirement


·         Increased retirement benefits.  Means a $0.50 higher rate raising it from $14.25 to                                                $14.75 per month per year of service ($2.7 million).


NOTE: The attached spreadsheet lists school systems alphabetically.  The figures show the actual funds your school system(s) will receive because of initiatives we placed into the budget.  I encourage you to share this information with your neighbors.


















































.  I am honored to be your Representative. I will keep you informed through weekly updates. Your opinions and concerns are important to me and I consider it an honor to serve you at the state capitol and in our district. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-7573 or write me at: State Rep. John Lunsford, 401, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail me at