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Wide-ranging recommendations from committees
Hill Jack
Sen. Jack Hill

The commission appointed by Governor Deal back during the 2015 General Assembly has met numerous times over the months since. On Nov. 19, the full commission adopted most of the recommendations of the five subcommittees and sent the report to the governor.

Since it proposes $467 million in new spending, the first step will be for the governor to consider these proposals when he develops his 2016 amended and 2017 general budgets. Some proposals will require legislation so the recommendations will get further review. While the press and a number of groups have opined on the recommendations, it appears to me that as a member of the commission and of the funding subcommittee, I should probably make a report. The subcommittee report is 103 pages and broken down by the five subcommittees.

Early Learning – pre-K

Pre-kindergarten - Prioritized Recommendations

No. 1 — Develop and implement a pay structure for pre-kindergarten lead teachers based on experience and teacher credentials, while developing other compensation models based on teacher effectiveness that would be feasible and reliable across multiple program types.
The rationale for this recommendation was based on the importance of teacher quality in the classroom and the fact that pre-l teachers are not presently paid based on any criteria.

Estimated cost: $13.1 million to $19.1 million.

No. 2 — Increase the pay for Georgia’s Pre-K assistant teachers. The rationale for this one has to do with retention problems because of low pay and new requirements for assistants to attain a child development credential.

Estimated cost: $5 million to $6.9 million.

No. 3 — Reduce the pre-kindergarten class size from 22 students to 20 students. Rationale is based on best early childhood practices recommended by National Institute for Early Education.

Estimated cost: $31.9 million to $33.4 million.

No. 4 — Increase the start-up funds for new Pre-K classes from $8000 to $12,000 and increase operating cost compensation by 5 percent.
The rationale for this recommendation is the continued importance and increasing cost of materials, equipment and effective administration for which payment has not changed over the years.

Estimated Cost: $6 million to $9.4 million.

No. 5 — Provide funding to support the implementation of Positive Behavior Interventions in Support (PBIS) in early learning programs. Rationale for this recommendation has to do with “addressing social emotional skills in the first five years of a child’s life” and research showing that some 10-30 percent of children are not socially or behaviorally ready for school.

Estimated Cost: $500,000

No. 6 — Provide funding for demonstration grants to select Georgia’s pre-kindergarten programs to support effective instruction for dual language learners. The rationale for this recommendation has to do with the fact that dual language learners begin the school year significantly behind and are still behind national norms at the end of the year despite making significant progress. Surveys by the department (DECAL) showed this to be a major problem.

Estimated cost: $920,000

Early Childhood recommendations

No. 1 – (1) Consider enacting legislation to create a consumer tax incentive (credit or deduction) for families whose children are enrolled in a Quality Rated child care program. (2) Consider a credit or deduction for teachers employed in a Quality Rated child care program. (3) Consider creating a business investment tax incentive for child care providers who are Quality Rated and based on star level. Rationale for these recommendations would help build on Georgia’s quality care improvements. Based on Louisiana’s tax credits program.

Estimated cost: determined by the size and scope of tax incentives passed and by participation.

No. 2 — Develop a timeline in which child care programs must be Quality Rated to receive child care subsidy funds by December 2016.

Rationale is that DECAL will consider this when developing the state plan to respond to the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Fund, the source of Georgia’s child care subsidy program.

There is no cost to this recommendation.

No. 3 — Appropriate funding to adjust the subsidy rates for Quality Rated providers to more closely align with the true cost of tuition.

Rationale: Currently Quality Rated child care programs are eligible for a small percentage increase based on their Quality Star Rating. An increase would support the state’s Early Learning Challenge goals.

Estimated Cost: Subsidy rate would increase but would be subject to appropriation.

No. 4 - Appropriate funding to at least match private dollars raised to support a comprehensive marketing and public relations campaign to promote awareness of Quality Rated and the importance of high quality early learning.

Rationale: Increasing consumer demand in increasing access to high quality care.

Estimated Cost: $1 million

The data showing the importance of early learning continues to accumulate. The subcommittee believes that investment in preparing children to be ready to learn and to have basic skills in place is vital to future educational success.

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