Gov. Nathan Deal just announced a 20 percent pay raise for more than 3,300 state law enforcement officers — amounting to nearly $79 million.
Teachers, meanwhile, were offered a 3 percent “pay raise” earlier this year, even as schools continue to be so underfunded that 20 percent of Ga. school districts are still furloughing teachers.
The $79 million “reform” disappointment from Gov. Deal begs the question: What if we actually invested in building our communities differently?
Austerity cuts to public education were put in place under Gov. Sonny Purdue. Under Gov. Deal, they ballooned to $1 billion a year. The current education budget still has a shortfall of $166 million, and that’s just if the legislature funded public schools as required by law. Fixing this budget shortfall does not include massive (or any) pay raises for teachers, even as school districts struggle to retain quality teachers for more than a few years at a time. It also doesn’t include funding for the wrap-around services low-income students need to thrive, or funding for the types of “innovative” programs in public schools that get cheered on in charter schools.
To put the numbers in perspective, $79 million is about half of what’s needed to end the austerity budget cuts that school districts still face. But no one is swooping in to declare a twenty percent pay raise for teachers, let alone in any other area — like healthcare and housing — where investment from the state would have a significant impact on our communities.
The Macon Telegraph reports that this move would take effect January 1, 2017, before it is actually approved by the state Legislature.
Is that just a transparent attempt to buy votes and goodwill from cops? Or is this greasing another kind of wheel?
It seems unlikely Deal will face any hurdles getting his $79 million “law enforcement reform package” passed as part of the regular budget amendment process, given that both Senate President (and Lt. Governor) Casey Cagle and Speaker of the House David Ralston joined the Governor for the announcement.
Part of what makes this so disappointing is that once again there is a missed opportunity to invest money differently in this state, to put the state’s $20 billion budget to use making smart investments in the transportation, education, healthcare and economic infrastructure that will ensure all Georgians can live healthy, meaningful lives.
Right now, the Black Lives Matter movement has called for divesting in the institutions that disproportionately kill and traumatize black people — like police, courts and jails — in favor of investing in the resources people and communities need to do well.
They specifically call out the need to fully fund education, increase access to mental health services and expand local restorative justice services.
Gov. Deal is willing to toss around millions of dollars, outside the regular budget process, to earn some good press and quick goodwill as we near Election Day when voters will decide whether or not to approve Gov. Deal’s public school takeover. What if we actually invested in building our communities differently, in new systems and new structures that fully and thoughtfully support the ability of everyone to thrive?
Gov. Deal’s “reforms” will do little more than reinforce the status quo — a status quo that does little to make communities better for all Georgians.