020321_MNS_APS_delay_001 Lisa Herring with students

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring, right, speaks to students at a Cascade Elementary School class as their teachers look on.

Atlanta Public Schools’ $1.4 billion budget for the 2021-22 academic year will include pay raises for employees and extra funds to help students recover from the learning loss they have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We remain committed to putting our students and schools first and our (fiscal year) 2022 budget reflects that focus,” Superintendent Lisa Herring said in a news release. “An essential element of that philosophy is making sure we have highly qualified, dedicated professionals in our classrooms, schools and administrative offices, who are passionate about our efforts to prepare all of our students for success.

“It is also important that the district’s FY 2022 budget include strategies focused on student and staff wellness and well-being, given the trauma we’ve all experienced over this past year due to the pandemic. I want to thank the board of education, our budget commission members and our chief financial officer, Lisa Bracken, and her team for their hard work. We believe this budget is fair, balanced and equitable and it will enable us to continue the work of ensuring every student graduates ready for college, career and life.”

At its June 7 meeting, which was held virtually due to the pandemic, the Atlanta Board of Education voted 9-0 to approve the district’s budget. The general fund budget is $904.6 million, nearly $62 million more than the $843 million one passed for 2020-21.

The overall 2021-22 budget will allocate $23.8 million for pay upgrades for all employees, including step raises (1% to 1.7%) for all eligible workers, a jump to $15 per hour for all minimum-wage employees, a daily rate hike for substitute teachers, more market increases for the teacher pay scale based on experience (2% to 9%), a jump in the number of instructional support pay scale steps from 24 to 28 and the doctorate degree stipend from $2,000 to $4,000, $3,000 retention stipends for special education teachers, retention stipends for all staff in high-poverty schools ($500 to $2,000, with more than 65% direct certification), transferring some hourly special education paraprofessionals to full-time employees with benefits and market changes for specific worker groups, including the police department, graduation coaches, HVAC technicians and coaches of new sports.

In a separate but related measure, the board voted 8-1 to approve a pay raise to essentially double the salaries for the district’s nine board members, with District 4 member Nancy Meister dissenting. Their compensation will increase from $16,588 for chair, $15,879 for vice chair and $15,170 for all other board members to $31,000 for chair, $30,500 for vice chair and $30,000 for all other board members. Those raises take effect Jan. 1.

A voicemail message left with Meister's cell phone seeking comment on her vote was not returned.

The budget will also have $31.7 million for academic recovery efforts, including $665,000 for an academic universal screener, $8.2 million for adding 30 minutes to each day’s schedule for all elementary schools, $7.2 million for summer learning and summer enrichment programs (Academic Recovery Academy), $1.5 million for compensatory services for students with disabilities and more than $14 million in CARES Act funds doled out to schools to support academic intervention.

It will also have $9.1 million for physical and mental health and wellness programs, $7.9 million for other instructional and operational enhancements and $377,000 for equity initiatives.

Fiscal 2022 begins July 1, and the budget had to be approved prior to that date.

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