Governor Nathan Deal dedicated a significant portion of his State of the State address this week to education reform and improving Georgia's talent pipeline. In his remarks, he outlined new initiatives as well as specific line items in his proposed 2017 Fiscal Year budget that pertain directly to strengthening the state's workforce.
Some points of note from the Governor's speech:
- Georgia's unemployment rate is almost half of its recession high, led in part by a rebound in construction.
- The Governor is proposing an additional $17.1 million in the budget to expand the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grants through the Technical College System including the addition of an industrial maintenance career focus.
- The proposed 2017 budget includes an increase for Move On When Ready education programs, including dual enrollment which allows high school students to enroll early in secondary institutions.
- High school students now have access to 9 computer science courses that may count as science or language credits towards graduation.
- As a result of Georgia's criminal justice reform, workers are reentering the workforce with marketable skills.
- The Governor's budget includes $416 million for K-12 education.
- Georgia's graduation rate has risen 2.83% per year over the last 5 years, but the dropout rate remains high with 96,660 student dropping out between 2011 and 2015.
- Georgia will see a Pre-K budget increase to boost teacher and teacher-assistant salaries including a 3% merit pay increase.
- Education Reform Commission legislation will be delayed to allow time for teacher input and further research.
- Through the implementation of the proposed student-based budgeting formula, part of the Education Reform Commission proposals, local school districts would see more flexibility and control over funds than with the older Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula.
- The Governor stated that parenting is essential to our children's success at school.
- An additional $300 million will be included in the 2017 budget, including a 3% pay raise for teachers.
- The Governor called on the state Department of Education and local school districts to review and trim testing requirements that do not enhance student achievement or duplicate other tests.
- Thousands of former students have reentered the workforce with a diploma thanks to the elimination of the old Graduation Test in 2015.
- Currently, there are more than 74,000 student in chronically failing schools, the equivalent of the combined student populations at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and the University of North Georgia.
- The Governor urged voters to pass the Opportunity School District constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November.