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Gov. Deal’s plan would cut Pre-K to half day

Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis is just beginning to digest the impact of Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed legislation to stabilize and maintain the popular HOPE scholarship and pre-k education programs funded by the Georgia Lottery.
Facing bankruptcy of the lottery program in 2013, the governor and legislative leaders gathered Tuesday to announce details of Deal’s bipartisan legislation to preserve both HOPE and pre-k funding.
In the governor’s proposal, 5,000 new slots for pre-k will be added, but to accomplish that, Deal is proposing reducing the instructional day from 6 1/2 hours to four.
“This is the first I am seeing this, but it’s hard to argue with adding 5,000 slots. As far as the half day of instruction I’m not so sure that is a bad thing,” Dr. Pharis said.
However, the superintendent says the Grady County school system currently employs 11 pre-k teachers who could see their salaries cut.
“The salaries would be an issue. If the state reduces the salary to cover a half day, we would either have to cut those salaries or see if there are other jobs within the system the pre-k teachers could do,” Dr. Pharis said.
Otherwise, the superintendent said it would take local tax money to cover the difference and Pharis notes that local funds are already stretched thin.
The Grady County school system earns funding for 11 pre-k teachers and each class has 20 students enrolled for a total of 220 kids served by the lottery-funded program.
While Dr. Pharis says there is a waiting list for pre-k services, he does not believe there are very many children who qualify for pre-k services who are not receiving service.
The superintendent believes the additional slots Grady County will earn in the 5,000 being added would go toward serving students in Grady County whose parents wish to enroll them in pre-k.
Pre-k funding does not just go to public schools, but other private daycares and preschools can also qualify for lottery funding from the state, Dr. Pharis noted.
The legislation must pass both the state House and Senate before it will go to Gov. Deal to sign into law. Likely, the changes would take place effective with the next school term.

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