As many of you know, the budget outlook for Georgia is grim. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis have led to a drastic loss in revenue, and in response, legislators recently passed a FY2021 budget that included $2.2 billion in cuts. This includes $950 million in cuts to public education.
But as the state braves the health and economic storms, we can also find some silver lining in the clouds.
We’re happy to report the harmful and unnecessary cuts to Georgia’s nationally recognized Pre-K program were not included in the final FY2021 budget.
Thank you to the nearly 10,000—yes, 10,000—early education advocates who urged legislators to oppose these Pre-K funding cuts. Your collective voice made all the difference.
We were also pleasantly surprised to see an increase in Pre-K teacher supplements and funding for behavioral and classroom support specialists as part of the final spending document.
The final budget also contained unexpected wins for child and maternal health in Georgia.
The budget included funding for an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) coordinator position at the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), a recommendation from the Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health Study Committee. This is particularly gratifying because as recently as last week, we did not anticipate the position would make it into the budget.
Funding for 6 months of Postpartum Medicaid was also included, which is a great first step toward our goal of improving maternal and infant health outcomes in Georgia. Earlier versions of the budget did not include the full 6 months of Postpartum Medicaid funding. This funding is accompanied by HB 1114, which will allow the state to seek a waiver from the federal government to provide Medicaid to this population. Other states are in the process of seeking similar waivers that have not yet been granted. Stay tuned for updates as this waiver progresses.
The inclusion of these priorities speaks to the power of the Study Committee and the effect it had on key members of the General Assembly, who advocated for these additions to the final budget despite a bleak economic outlook. GEEARS sends our gratitude to Georgia’s policymakers and their staff for continuing to recognize the needs of Georgia’s young children, even in this very difficult budget year. In particular, we would like to recognize Chairwoman Katie Dempsey, Chairman Robert Dickey, and Chairwoman Sharon Cooper for their championship of young children and their families this session as well as Chairman Blake Tillery, Chairman Terry England, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan for prioritizing these needs while producing a balanced budget during such an extraordinary year.
While we should take a moment to celebrate these victories for our kids, the work isn’t over.
The budget includes major cuts to education and children’s mental health services overall, so while we acknowledge these wins, we know there is still a lot to do. GEEARS and our partners will continue to advocate for restoring critically important funding in the months and years ahead.
In the meantime, here’s how you can be involved:
Stay Informed: Please continue to follow us for all the latest news about early education and young children’s health in Georgia, whether it’s through our newsletter, website, or social media channels.
Share Your Early Education Story: We believe your stories will help maintain vital funding for child care programs, Georgia’s Pre-K, and Head Start. We will share your experiences with change makers and stakeholders to strengthen our advocacy efforts as we work to improve outcomes for young children and families in our state. Click here to view suggested topics and submit your story.
GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students