Gov. Nathan Deal’s fiscal year 2015 budget provided something that hasn’t been seen in years — more money for education. That came as welcome news for the Commerce and Jackson County school superintendents after more than a decade of seeing state education funds slashed every year.
Both Commerce superintendent Joy Tolbert and Jackson County superintendent April Howard welcomed the change, but they’re anxious to see the details once the General Assembly approves a final budget.
“He’s proposing it,” noted Tolbert. “That’s the key word.”
“We’re being reserved until we find out how it impacts our district,” Howard said.
Both systems have operated in a deficit; both continue to try to slash spending, but Deal’s proposal to reinstate $547 million statewide offers hope of some respite.
But it does not solve all of the problems created by 10 years of declining state payments to schools.
Last year, Tolbert pointed out, the Commerce School System’s “austerity cut” amounted to $1.1 million. Preliminary figures estimated by a Georgia School Board Association expert suggest that Commerce stands to see that cut reduced by around $300,000.
Deal made the point in his budget address that the “additional” revenue will be enough for school systems to eliminate furlough days and return to a calendar of 180 instructional days.
“I hope he realizes that because of the austerity cuts, many school systems reached the point where they’re in deficit spending, similar to us,” Tolbert said. “They may have to use those funds in such a way that gets the school system out of a deficit.”
The Commerce calendar for this school year calls for 174 days — six fewer than the 180 that was once the norm for Georgia public schools. A proposed 2014-15 calendar yet to be voted on by the Commerce Board of Education also calls for 174 days.
At Jackson County, Howard said the announcement made last Wednesday caused “somewhat of a sign of relief.”
“The governor made the right decision to recognize that the austerity cuts have crippled the public school system,” she said. But she said the system won’t know the full impact until the state sends the personnel allocations out in late May.
For the full story, see the Jan. 22 issue of The Commerce News.
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