I have been chatting with educators about the budget presented Wednesday by Gov. Nathan Deal, a budget that Deal says puts an end teacher furloughs and ensures a full school year for kids.
Here is the best summation: The budget is not as bad as many educators thought it would be, but it is not as good as the governor said. While Deal certainly left the impression that there would be no further need for furloughs or reduced school years, that will not be the case unless districts have pots of money hidden in the rafters.
And here is why: The $1.1 billion austerity cut enacted by Gov. Perdue was not restored, so systems can expect only about 80 percent of the state funding that they should be earning under the funding formula.
On top of that, Deal’s budget slashes transportation and cuts school nurses by 10 percent. It also eliminates funding for education technology centers, under the idea that those centers should be funding themselves now through fee- for-service arrangements. Funding is also cut to the Regional Education Service Agencies.
However, as one school leader said, “Even with the austerity cut still there, the budget could have been worse.”
The budget doesn’t openly acknowledge the $1.1 billion austerity cut. It apparently won’t be fully visible until the budget gets to the House and Senate from DOE, and lawmakers have a side-by-side comparison on allotment sheets of what school funding should look like and what it actually is.
The general view of the Deal budget: School districts won’t be able to do anything significantly different next year than what they are doing now.
But expect a lot of rhetoric to the contrary.
One source mentioned that Perdue forbid his staff to use the word “furlough” in any budget discussions or documents. Instead, the districts were given the uncomfortable task of using the f-word with their staffs. Other euphemisms will probably cloak the austerity cut in Deal’s budget. It will probably be disguised — as much as you can hide a billion dollar hole — as some sort of adjustment.
“Those who have spent all their stimulus money already will have a tough time getting to the end of the year. Next year will be tough on all. We appreciate the governor’s expression of support and that of the speaker as well. We hope the reality matches,” said Tim Callahan, of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.
–By Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog