Gov. Brian Kemp’s plans to provide more K-12 education funding in the current and next fiscal years would be both a positive and a negative for the Fulton County Schools district amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his annual State of the State Address Jan. 14, Kemp said he proposes, in his mid-year budget, to restore about $647 million slashed from the state’s K-12 education budget in fiscal 2021, which ends June 30. He also plans to allocate another $573 million to the fiscal 2022 budget and, in the coming months, give Georgia’s teachers and other school workers a one-time $1,000 supplement to help schools reopen safely amid the pandemic.
“Our biggest (budget) hit will be due to declining enrollment and local fair share,” Marvin Dereef, the district’s chief financial officer, said, referring to areas where Fulton may not get all the state funds it could. “Once again, this is a process, so these numbers are subject to change and the information is only good for the moment. In fact, today … I just got word that they’re looking at a way to fund pre-K as part of this one-time supplement.”
Dereef spoke at the Fulton Board of Education’s Jan. 21 meeting at the South Learning Center in Union City. He said the $1,000 supplement will be funded by $60 million from Kemp’s office and $180 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
In his presentation, Dereef didn’t provide a net amount of how Kemp’s plan would impact the district’s funding but gave highlights. According to a meeting document posted to the district’s website as part of his presentation, the Georgia Department of Education’s proposed fiscal 2022 budget includes positive budget adjustments to the teacher retirement system ($57.3 million for the state amounting to $3.3 million for the Fulton district), training and experience ($96.6 million statewide and $1.2 million in the district) and the charter system grant ($36.2 million statewide and $4.2 million in Fulton).
But there would also be negative budget adjustments to the Quality Basic Education (enrollment) numbers ($166 million statewide and $20.1 million in Fulton) and the local fair share ($111.8 million statewide and $19.9 million in the district).
Two board members said they were pleased pre-K staff could be added to the list of Fulton district employees getting funds. District 4 member Franchesca Warren asked, “When will they get it?”
In response, Dereef said, “They (the state Legislature) vote on Feb. 18, so typically we bring it to the board for your approval for the grant itself. So, if they don’t vote on it until Feb. 18, I won’t come to you until March.”
In other pandemic-related news, about 500 of the Fulton district’s 1,110 employees 65 and older received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 16 at the Super Saturday event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where both Fulton and Atlanta Public Schools workers who qualified to get it could do so.
Under the federal and state governments’ vaccine rollout plan, since Jan. 11, any Georgian 65 and older could get the vaccine as part of Phase 1A, a group of residents that is mostly confined to healthcare workers and first responders.
The Fulton district is planning another Super Saturday event for Feb. 6, when the employees who got their first dose can receive their second and final one. Fulton district Chief Talent Officer Ron Wade and the board members who spoke on the topic, some of whom were at the first one, all said it was a resounding success.
But District 2 board member Katie Reeves had a warning about the Feb. 6 event.
“I really, really hope everyone can show up for that so all 500 second doses can be given out then,” Reeves said, adding she wanted no doses wasted.
Said District 1 board member Katha Stuart, “Having been there and witnessing how it went, it was really encouraging. Everybody who came, because this was my job, (was informed of) the date when they would get their next shot. It was very clear on when they’ll get it.”
Wade added, “A lot of people who hesitated on (getting) the first dose have heard about the (event’s) success and are asking when they can get the first dose.”
The district has a total of about 14,000 workers, and there’s no date set yet on when educators and other staff members under 65 can get the vaccine.