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Georgia committee recommends increased Pre-K funding, smaller class sizes

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(The Center Square) — The Georgia House Working Group on Early Childhood Education has issued several recommendations specific to the state’s Pre-K system, including reducing the maximum class size and increasing funding for several initiatives.

According to the committee’s report, the number of students in state-funded Pre-K has dropped from 82,868 in fiscal 2012 to 73,462 in fiscal 2023.

The committee wants the state to fund the capital costs for new or renovated Pre-K classrooms in public schools. The committee also recommended allowing local school systems to count Pre-K classes in their state budget capital construction requests.

Additionally, committee members proposed that the state fund a lease equivalent for private providers for Pre-K classes instead of direct capital construction costs. Lease payments of $14,473 for metro providers and $10,879 for non-metro providers would cost the state roughly $22.9 million annually.

The state does not reimburse private or public providers for Pre-K classroom construction costs.

Additionally, the committee wants to lower the maximum class size to 20. According to the report, class sizes increased from 20 to 22 in fiscal 2012 because of reduced state lottery revenues stemming from the Great Recession.

“The maximum 22-student class size is out of step with national standards and is larger than the average kindergarten class,” the committee said in its report. “Students, and particularly very young students, perform better when they receive more individualized attention in the classroom.

“The larger class size also places a further burden on Pre-K teachers to manage their classrooms,” the committee added. “Restoring Pre-K class size to 20 students, a reduction of two students per class, would benefit both students and teachers.”

The committee suggested increasing new classroom start-up grants from $8,000 to $30,000 and boosting transportation funding. The panel also wants to increase lead and assistant teachers’ salaries and align their salaries with the state-funded share for K-12 teachers and paraprofessionals.

“Education really is the foundation for our state’s success, and over the past few years, we’ve made tremendous strides to improve on and invest in education in our state,” House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, said in a statement. “But, one area that has not received enough attention is our Pre-K system.”

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