Education Appropriations Committee Examines Gov. Kemp’s Proposed FY 2021 Budget

The House Education Appropriations Subcommittee took a close look at Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget for  Fiscal Year 2021  (FY 2021), which contains valuable funding increases as well as cuts in multiple programs within the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE). As  PAGE reported previously , the FY 2021 budget includes a $2,000 pay raise for certified educators, including school counselors, and a five percent raise for bus drivers and school nutrition staff. The proposed spending plan would fully fund the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula for the third consecutive year. State commission charter schools would see an increase of $50 million, and the Special Needs Scholarship, a private school voucher for special education students, would receive an additional $10 million.  

The budget would also cut other GaDOE programs if approved by the General Assembly. Proposed cuts include:
  • Curriculum Development
  • Georgia Virtual School
  • Grants for Career, Technical & Agricultural Education and Technology
  • Information Technology
  • Regional Education Service Agencies
  • Testing

The school improvement program, which supports struggling schools, would incorporate the Chief Turnaround Office (CTO). Though funds for the CTO would be transferred to School Improvement, the funds combined from both programs would be lower than in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget (FY 2020). 

The cuts are spurred by a decline in state revenues, which is driven in large part by a  tax cut  the General Assembly passed in 2018. In response to the revenue loss, Kemp directed state agencies to cut four percent from their amended 2020 budgets and an additional 6 percent from their 2021 spending plans. Because the QBE formula as well as several other programs within the education department are exempt from the cuts, the department’s operating budget is cut by 6.5 percent. 

Committee members expressed concern about the impact of the cuts with a particular focus on school improvement, curriculum and state schools, noting they do not want to undermine essential services and positions. 

Legislators will consider a second tax cut this session, which, if passed, will reduce state revenue by approximately $550 million. Kemp’s proposed FY 2021 budget does not include the tax cut. 

On behalf of PAGE's members, Margaret Ciccarelli, director of legislative services, and Claire Suggs, senior education policy analyst, expressed appreciation to the committee and the General Assembly for the $3,000 pay raise approved in the 2019 session as well as fully funding the QBE formula. They also encouraged legislators to approve the proposed $2,000 pay raise, noting its importance as a critical strategy to attract and keep more great teachers in the classroom.

-Claire Suggs