Pre-k teachers leave in droves. ‘Georgia’s reputation as an early childhood leader is tarnished.’

Cuts to pre-k have caused certified teachers to seek jobs elsewhere in the k-12 system.  (AP Images)

Cuts to pre-k have caused certified teachers to seek jobs elsewhere in the k-12 system. (AP Images)

As we discussed here last week, pre-k took a major hit this year due to the reduction in the length of program by the governor, which  resulted in lower pay for certified teachers.

As a result, many of those teachers sought and accepted jobs in k-8, which did not suffer the same cut.

Here is an AJC story that cites how those reductions to Georgia’s pre-k, once considered a national model, caused teachers to flee.

According to the AJC:

Teachers this year left pre-k programs in droves, moving into elementary school openings to avoid a 10-percent, state-ordered pay cut that’s just kicked in.

In Fulton County, 57 of 77 pre-kindergarten teachers quit between the last school year and the current one.  Some left the system for other careers, while 47 moved into teaching jobs in kindergarten through fifth grade, where salaries aren’t tied to the Georgia Lottery’s success.

“Prior to all the budget cuts, we retained about 70 to 75 percent of our teachers,” said Montreal Gore Bell, Fulton’s coordinator of early childhood and remedial programs. “Now, we’ve pretty much flip-flopped.”

In Decatur City Schools, six of nine pre-k teachers left. In Clayton, it was 31 out of 32 lead teachers.

“Georgia’s reputation as an early childhood leader is tarnished,” said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, which produces an annual report rating the nation’s pre-k programs.

“If the best teachers leave, quality will suffer and the benefits will be eroded,” Barnett said. “Serving more children less effectively is no recipe for success.”

Louisa Melton, pre-k coordinator for the Griffin-Spalding County school system, said morale has “definitely hit bottom.

“We lost three excellent pre-k teachers to K-3 positions,” she said. “Most others requested transfers but were not given them.”

The pay cuts are part of Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to reduce pre-k spending by $54 million this year, to $341.7 million, to help cope with  flat-to-declining lottery funds. Deal  took similar steps to ensure the long-term viability of the HOPE scholarship program, which, like free pre-k, has run off lottery revenue since inception.

For pre-k, that meant lopping a month off the school year, eliminating 190 private and 76 public pre-k classes statewide, and increasing class sizes to make room for an extra 2,000 4-year-olds, or a total of 86,000.

Those cuts were generally deemed a better alternative to Deal’s original proposal to take the program from full- to part-time.

For Sheltering Arms Early Education & Family Centers, the cuts mean $1.3 million fewer state dollars. The company, which offers 46 pre-k classes to 824 4-year-olds in metro Atlanta, was forced to close a center in Rockdale County that had served 90 children a day since 1975, said Paige McKay Kubik, vice president for development and communications.

Some school districts, including DeKalb, came up with local money to keep their pre-k programs at 10 months, and to preserve teacher salaries.

But Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, said he doubts that can continue.

“In most of those cases, that was a one-year stop gap,” he said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

55 comments Add your comment

Economics Teacher

October 11th, 2011
9:12 am

This is pretty sad.

Joy in Teaching

October 11th, 2011
9:26 am

Teaching may be a calling, but teachers still need to be able to feed themselves and their families, live somewhere, possibly drive a car, buy supplies for all their students, and pay off massive student loans.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 11th, 2011
9:37 am

Pre K. Teaching finger painting, singing, nap taking etc…yeah, sounds difficult.

RobertNAtl

October 11th, 2011
9:46 am

I would just LOVE to see “Dr NO / Mr Sunshine” try to teach pre-K for a week, and film him while he is trying. That would be the funniest film EVER, in the history of the world.

TC

October 11th, 2011
10:15 am

I was an assistant in a pre-k class in a private school setting for a couple of years. It really wasn’t that difficult. The kids got all of their “work” done in about 45 minutes each day. And we didn’t do “work” every day. The rest of the time was spent playing and eating. Yes, they had “specials” they went to each day, but that was fun too. No “work” in those “classes” There is no reason for pre-k to be more than 3 to 4 hours long each day. Looks like I love quotes today!

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 11th, 2011
10:40 am

Yeah Rob…what a difficult task. Going to the zoo, library, opening the juice box, finger-painting, singing, watching the kids eat paste, coralling them for an afternoon nap…LOL. What a challenge.

@RobertinAtlanta

October 11th, 2011
10:46 am

I too would love to watch Dr. NO walk the walk in a classroom, preferably an inner city one, but cannot in good faith subject a group of students to the sight of Dr. NO, balled up in a fetal position under the teacher’s desk, in a puddle of his own urine, sobbing uncontrollably, “Oh my God it really ISN’T the teachers; it really IS the discipline!”

Struggling Teacher

October 11th, 2011
10:51 am

Pre-K is extremely important to a child’s assimilation into the process of education. Giving them the extra tools to “learn how to learn” is not a mistake nor ill-spent money. It’s an investment in the future of all. Let’s not forget what the basic purpose of this. If the powers-that-be do not spend the money properly according to the district’s needs, then get rid of them, not the money!

Me

October 11th, 2011
10:53 am

Dr No – I usually find you somewhat amusing but you are dead wrong on this one – you should see the pages of things (literally) Pre-K teachers are accountable for – it is educational bureaucracy at its worst!
I wouldn’t do that job for superintendent pay. I don’t blame them one bit for heading for greener pastures.

Really?

October 11th, 2011
11:00 am

‘Georgia’s reputation as an early childhood leader is tarnished.’ You gotta be kidding me.

Van Jones

October 11th, 2011
11:11 am

Possibly the parents could make up the difference from what HOPE covers? It would still be significantly less expensive than a private pre-K.

newMESparent

October 11th, 2011
11:27 am

I taught Pre-K….And you usually CAN’T get to the singing, fingerpainting, rainbows and lolly pops because most of your day is spent FEEDING these babies, getting them basic health and dental care, washing their clothes (yes, we had to do a few loads every day, we had other clothes for the children to wear while theirs were being washed) getting them to a counselor, trying to teach them what letters and numbers and books were, they had never seen them, and in several cases, I had kids who didn’t even know their own name. No lie. They had been called a pet name or even nothing at all for their entire lives. And the zoo? HA HA!!! Dr. No….you are an idiot.

Ryan Shakur

October 11th, 2011
11:37 am

There you have it ladies and gentleman: Dr NO / Mr Sunshine has just proven why Pre-k is needed. Now, somebody quickly change him into a clean bib and fill his sippy cup with more Motts.

There there little buddy, you’ll be OK. Someone will be your friend soon enough :)

K-12 Parent and Tax Payer

October 11th, 2011
11:40 am

I fully understand the merits of PreK. However, should the local school systems supplement funding from their general fund? Tax payers are required to pay for mandatory K-12 education only. Many local school systems are supplementing the recent cuts by the state. There is also an overhead cost in funding PreK to provide health and other benefits to the full time PreK teachers. The Georgia Lottery does not cover the real costs of providing PreK. Is some schools these PreK classes take up valuable class room space at schools where other K-5 students could attend using a transfer. PreK may be a social responsibility, but is it fair to the local tax payers. At least they should be able to vote on it. With additional cuts in school funding, does this need to be considered. Many middle and upper class families can afford to pay for preschool and not get a free ride.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 11th, 2011
12:16 pm

Nice examples here. Seems Pre-K is nothing more than govt subsidized baby sitting and some hiney washing. The parents responsible for this child neglect should be behind bars.

Pompano

October 11th, 2011
12:55 pm

Pre-K is nothing more than subsidized Day care. Pre-K teachers should be entry-level and then move up (or out)from there – doesn’t require a College degree to be a baby-sitter.

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sloboffthestreet

October 11th, 2011
1:06 pm

I find it interesting there are more PRIVATE pre-k’s in the state than classes that are taught in the PUBLIC SCHOOLS. The Public Schools require these classes are taught by someone with a Teaching Certificate while the private pre-K classes do not have the same requirement. The pre-K teacher at our sons school transitioned into a classroom this year. They had no problem finding a Highly Qualified Educator to replace her at a lower salary! Now the preschool down the street, {PRIVATE PRE-K} still lottery funded, and they have 3 pre-k classrooms, do not have certified educators teaching those classes and guess what?? Not one teacher quit. Now ain’t that sumthin??? So much for the rhetoric of dedicated teacher. You just can’t have it both ways. Pick an argument and stick with it!

Really?

October 11th, 2011
1:10 pm

Reputation??

Janet

October 11th, 2011
1:23 pm

@ newMESparent — What you described is downright scary!!

I think preschool/pre-k as with anything else, you get what you want out of it. If education is important to you, then you will make sure your child is being educated, even at preschool. I think that too many parents use pre-k as a “babysitting service”, but that doesn’t mean the kid is not getting some benefit from it. My 3 year old goes to 1/2 day private preschool program at our church a couple of days per week. Our experience is SO MUCH more than just “babysitting”. He is learning colors, numbers, and even to write. Yes, he needs help going to the bathroom, but he is also learning about Van Gogh in art class. Could he learn this stuff at home with me, of course, but I find that there is value in learning in a school enviornment. I realize that most preschool are not like mine and as much as it seems like a waste for the state to pay for these “unparented” kids preschool/ year of babysitting, it does set the tone of some sort of expectation so they have an idea of what to expect for kindergarten. Like it or not, they are going to be in the public schools where they will need to learn to read and write and do addition and subtraction in kindergaren. A year of pre-k to teach them to sit still and focus so learning can take place is probably helpful and appreciated those kindergarten teachers.

Janet

October 11th, 2011
1:30 pm

Also, if I’m being honest, I want them to be educated well in their neighborhoods, because if they are not, they will all get vouchers to move into my neighborhood.

Ole Guy

October 11th, 2011
2:19 pm

In my estimation, pre-k is nothing but a feel-good notion that “messaging the seed” will result in good fruit. To be sure, it certainly can’t hurt, however, the ROI/return on investment is too vague; certainly not based on quantifiable results. Perhaps someone at doe, in their “spare time”, can initiate a study the effectiveness of this program. Judging from the quality of public education, one would surmise that their is plenty of spare time at doe. Perhaps folks might consider EARNING their pay and come up with PROVEN programs that actually work…not feel-good programs like this pre-k, which is nothing more than supervised goo goo.

OH we Oh

October 11th, 2011
2:28 pm

I would like to know if Ole Guy, Dr NO / Mr Sunshine or any of the other critics of the Pre-K program (that have posted here) have ever spoken to a 3 or 4 year old that it is a pre-k program. Their ability to communicate and interact with adults are far greater than those of a child that has not gone to a Pre-K program. Yes, I agree that this can be initiated/taught at home. However, by taking the parent child dynamic out, and getting your child familiar with the student/teacher relationship; you are setting your child up for a greater chance of success.

OH we Oh

October 11th, 2011
2:43 pm

Ole guy. Instead of “estimating” how about going and experiencing it instead of sitting on your duff and writing comments on stories that you know nothing about.

Tyra

October 11th, 2011
3:50 pm

That’s sad to hear. They should change the system to keep them on the job.

EC Mom

October 11th, 2011
3:52 pm

I don’t think preschool is absolutely necessary for children being raised in a caring and enriching environment, however I thought it was a wonderful experience for my children. They did not attend GA pre-K, they attended a private church preschool. The program was 3 hours a day and the number of days varied with the age of the child. Effective preschool does not need to be a full school day. That is part of the reason I never considered free GA-preK – I wanted to enjoy my kids at home for half the day. Also, my children had some amazing teachers who were not certified teachers.

Teacher Reader

October 11th, 2011
5:05 pm

The free pre-K has become free babysitting, nothing more. Pre-K teachers should not be washing kids clothes. They should be focusing on helping children learn the skills necessary for success in kindergarten. Also public school taxes should not be used to pay for pre-K. That money would be better spent in our k-12 classrooms or kept in tax payer’s pockets.

Crystal Clear!

October 11th, 2011
7:00 pm

Virtually all studies conducted on the effects of early childhood education indicate that a quality preschool experience is unsurpassed as a predictor of later academic success. The vast majority of youngsters who are denied such exposure will forever be in a state of remediation.

My 2 cents

October 11th, 2011
9:09 pm

Well, it is interesting to hear about all these ’studies’ on early childhood education, but what are the actual, current facts? The last couple of high school graduating classes were the first to participate in the pre-K program. Who has the metrics? Who can show how much this affected these recent graduates? This can be tracked and quantified at some level. Is this something to take up with the state BOE or the county? I think we deserve to get an evaluation of this program and now is a good time.

Eddie G

October 11th, 2011
10:42 pm

Anyone over the age of 45 may or may not have even attended KINDERGARTEN before starting 1st grade, much less a Pre-K program. I would be one of those people. I have a masters in education. How can it be that I, along with the thousands, perhaps millions of others that went to school without having had the luxury of a Pre-K program, actually got an education? How did we learn to read? And write? And learn shapes and colors and numbers? Oh yeah……….our parents got involved early in our lives. What a novel freaking concept. My son will be a junior next year at UGA. He attended a Pre-K program, but guess who paid for it? My wife and I. Not the state. Not the taxpayer. And here’s another “wow” moment……..he was prepared for Pre-K when he got there because we took the time at home to read to him, and to teach him the basics in advance. I sure hope no one calls DFACS because we made our son do some work at home.

EC Mom

October 11th, 2011
11:53 pm

I never went to preschool. My Kindergarten was half day. Students weren’t taught to read until 1st grade. I managed to earn a BS and Masters in Engineering. Still, I never considered not sending my children to preschool. As I posted above, a half day is plenty, but today a lot more is expected on the first day of K – socially, emotionally and academically – than was 30-40 years ago. So many kids are starved of any enrichment as infants and toddlers. The sooner they spend some time in a better environment, the better, in my opinion.

Putmeincoach

October 12th, 2011
3:38 am

I agree with my fellow commentors above, however after all of our comments and at the end of the day. Our students still need to be taught, teachers need to be allowed to effectively teach, administration should support teachers more because of the amount of time spent with the students on a daily basis along with their share of unrecognized and misunderstood reasons of behaviors. At this rate, “NO CHILD WILL BE LEFT BEHIND”, it just seems like most of them will.

36 years in education

October 12th, 2011
6:16 am

2011 Kindergarten isn’t the kindergarten of 45 years ago. Kindergarten is more like first grade and Pre-K has replaced kindergarten. Read the kindergarten standards for Georgia and you’ll be amazed at what 5 year old children have to be able to do.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 12th, 2011
6:46 am

I just received my “Special Designation Pre-K Certificate” from the printer.

OK…Im ready to teach a Pre-K class!!

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Phineas

October 12th, 2011
9:49 am

To all of you negatoids complaining about using the “taxpayers money” for pre-K — I thought that the pre-K program in Georgia was funded by lottery money — which is all voluntary and which all you anti-tax folks don’t have a problem with — the state is not “stealing your money” for pre-K. So what’s the problem? Just want to stamp out one of the only somewhat progressive programs in Georgia?

Eddie G

October 12th, 2011
10:05 am

I don’t have time to look it up, but my understanding is that when the lottery was first started, the selling point to get it started was the HOPE scholarships for students wanting to attend universities and colleges. There was no mention in the beginning about funding Pre-K programs. Only later was the original system bastardized to include siphoning off money from the original purpose to fund the Pre-K programs……which is one of the reasons that aid awarded to college bound students has been reduced.

If I have this information wrong, someone please correct me.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 12th, 2011
10:12 am

“Progressive” “Homophobic” and other such liberal terms are designed put those in disagreement at a defensive vantage point and therefore such terms are deemed meaningless.

GA Citizen

October 12th, 2011
10:15 am

Lots of negative posts here regarding Pre-K education, but little apparent data to back them up. This NY Times story, backed by serious study, indicates we shortchange Pre-K education at our own state’s peril:

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/07/from-kindergarten-to-college-completion/

Phineas

October 12th, 2011
10:34 am

I declare that Dr. NO is deemed meaningless.

Phineas

October 12th, 2011
10:52 am

Eddie G, my point is that because the lottery funds pre-K, you, Eddie G, are not paying for other people’s pre-K with your tax dollars. In your 10:42 post you whine that the taxpayers are paying for pre-K, which you apparently knew was incorrect when you posted it. I also see from your posts that you have no problem with the lottery paying for your kid to go to UGA, but it is a “bastardization” of the lottery if some of the money goes to pay for someone else’s pre-K.

Phineas

October 12th, 2011
10:59 am

Eddie G, because pre-k is funded by the lottery, my point is that you, Eddie G, are not paying for pre-k with your tax dollars. In your 10:42 post you whine that taxpayers are paying for other people’s pre-K, which you apparently knew was incorrect when you posted it. I also note that you have no problem with the lottery paying for your kid to go to UGA, but feel that the lottery is “bastardized” if it pays for someone else’s pre-k.

Eddie G

October 12th, 2011
11:04 am

Who said that the lottery is paying for my son to go to UGA? Don’t assume you know all the facts. My son is attending on an academic scholarship, but thanks for the concern.

And quite frankly, you and I both know that Pre-K is not totally funded by the lottery. Local funds are also contributed.

Eddie G

October 12th, 2011
12:57 pm

And as for the bastardization of the funds, I also stated very clearly that I very well could be mistaken in my statement, and asked for clarification if that was the case.

I’m just not sure that Pre-K is all that some claim it to be, nor is as lame as others would claim.

Melissa

October 12th, 2011
1:39 pm

I teach kindergarten and I can tell you that I can tell which of my students had Prek and which did not. The students that had GA funded lottery Prek are more advanced and ready to learn when they reach kindergarten. Yes, students play in prek, but they are learning while they play. It is NOT just daycare. It is sad that qualified, certified teachers are locked into pay cuts without the opportunity to transer. My friend that teaches Prek in an elementary school was not granted a transer and took a 300-400 dollar A MONTH paycut. She works harder, for less pay, with more students. Believe me, it is not an easy job. They have standards, do assessments, keep portfolios, etc..

Good Mother

October 12th, 2011
2:27 pm

My children went to a lottery funded GA pre-K and the curriculum was rigorous.

The teachers began each day with the children seated before a calendar and every day the children stated the month, counted the days in the month, the days of the week and so on. The first 30 minutes or so of every morning waas used to teach months, years, dates, days of the week, the seasons and so on — in English and some Spanish.

Numbers, letters, colors, shapes, social studies.

Honestly, pre-K for my children was very similar to what I experienced as kindergarten in my day.

What needs to happen is those who are most needing Pre-K need to get Pre-K because in the long run, it is cheaper for all of us and better for all of us as a society.

I’m convinced that the earliest learning years are the most important learning years. I’m willing to pay for some other families pre-k with my tax money, even if it means my own kids don’t qualify.

I’d rather pay for pre-k today than for prison and welfare tomorrow.

To Eddie G from Good Mother

October 12th, 2011
2:36 pm

Eddie G, you and I are the same age and have very similar experiences. I’m formally educated and I had a half day kindergarten and I always performed well in school.

You say ” Oh yeah……….our parents got involved early in our lives. What a novel freaking concept.”

The other thing that you haven’t recognized though is that back then our moms stayed at home and taught us.

That’s just not feasible for most of us. I work because I have to. I am not home all day to teach my children. My children need pre-k because kindergarten is now the same as first grade — they are required to learn to read in kindergarten at my local elementary school.

The other difference is not everyone has an educated parent or parents. Even when a parent cares about their child, they often are likely ignorant. They are not able to teach.

Education is the best way to prevent poverty and crime; poverty and crime cost all of we tax-payers. I’d rather pay for an education now than for prisons and welfare later. Pre-K is a relatively cheap preventative measure against poverty and crime.

I agree with your points, Eddie, as my experience is similar but you and I have to recognize that the nation has changed since you and I grew up and different measures are needed.

For a strong America, for a democracy, we need educated citizens.

Eddie G

October 12th, 2011
2:52 pm

My mom didn’t stay at home with my sister and I………even then, my folks couldn’t afford that luxury. But it certainly didn’t stop she and my Dad from taking a few minutes each night to read to us, or for us to have conversations about shapes and colors and numbers.

I don’t disagree at all that America needs to have an educated society. But not all Americans need to have college degrees and have white collar jobs. Some folks still need to weld, and run large equipment, lay bricks and pour concrete among other things. There is no shame in those jobs – and quite often they make a better living than those of us that chose to do something more “noble”…..whatever in the hell that is.

Current Pre-K Teacher

October 12th, 2011
4:21 pm

As a current Pre-K Lead Teacher, I found a lot of these comments to be quite disrespectful! I’m a certified teacher Pre-K thru 5th grade and specialized in Pre-K thru 2nd grade. I taught 2nd grade for two years and am now in Pre-K. I have never had to work so hard in my life to ensure that my students are in a safe environment and learning. It is such a long day for these kids and there is no doubt that I’m equally as tired as they are at the end of each day. For you non-believers, having the classroom exposure and learning how to function in a school environment is essential and the skills learned throughout this year shouldn’t be dismissed as “play” or “baby-sitting” it is hard work that’s truly rewarding! Teacher is not for most people, but I do love my job and just wish people could appreciate the sacrifices teachers make to ensure each they’re making a positive impact on a child’s life!

Jezel

October 12th, 2011
7:37 pm

Ga. is not serious about education. It is all a front. When will you folks wake up to that fact?