Proposed raises for Georgia teachers just a raw deal

For the first time since taking office, Gov. Nathan Deal will include a raise for Georgia’s public school teachers in his budget. But educators shouldn’t rejoice just yet.

After years of stagnant wages despite the ever-rising cost of living, Deal is proposing a 2 to 3 percent raise for Georgia’s teachers. The small amount of the raise isn’t even the worst part: he’s ultimately going to leave the decision of whether to give raises up to local school systems. Some teachers will receive raises and many others will not.

Georgia’s teachers have waited four years for a raise and this is what Gov. Deal’s offering?

Our school systems will be underfunded by $1 billion (PDF) in 2014, a slight improvement over the $1.1 billion budget hole in 2013. With no guarantee that school funding will increase, Gov. Deal is now asking these same systems to give their teachers a 2 to 3 percent raise.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, just 40 of Georgia’s 180 public school systems have full 180-day school years, and five school systems have school years less than 160 days.  Compare that to 2009, when 123 school systems had 180-day school years (PDF) and no school system in the state had a school year less than 170 days.

Teachers have fared even worse during Deal’s administration, as class sizes have increased in 95 percent of school districts since 2009 and nearly 80 percent of districts are still furloughing teachers.

If school systems have to make such drastic cuts to their budgets, how can we expect them to give teachers a raise?

Despite Gov. Deal’s election year grandstanding, he knows that passing the buck to local school systems isn’t the same as giving teachers a raise. And it’s certainly not going to endear him to teachers on Election Day.

Public school teachers have been through the ringer in recent years and it’s time we give ALL of them a raise, not just the select few who work in districts that can squeeze the raises into their budgets.

How about we use the surplus in the state budget to give much-needed raises to our teachers AND restore funding to our public school systems?

Is that so much to ask?

Learn more about the condition of Georgia education with these reports: