The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported on proposed across-the-board state budget reductions, including a $61 million spending reduction for the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL). Mindy Binderman, Executive Director of GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students issued the following statement in response:
“The state should rethink proposed cuts to Georgia’s nationally-recognized Pre-K program that would directly affect children, teachers, and providers across the state.
“A cut of $61 million would force DECAL to reduce of Pre-K instructional days from 180 to 167, and eliminate approximately 180 classrooms, representing 4,000 slots, from the program. The long-term impact of these cuts would be felt for years, as Georgia’s children would miss out on learning the critical skills that prepare them for success in Kindergarten and beyond.
“The reductions are also unnecessary. While the economic downturn has caused General Fund revenues to decline, the Georgia Lottery, which constitutionally funds only Georgia’s Pre-K and HOPE Scholarship programs, reports revenue has remained steady during the crisis. In fact, April 2020 represented a record April for the Lottery in terms of sales.
“Even if Lottery revenue were to drop significantly, the state could tap into the available $706 million in unrestricted lottery reserves to protect Georgia’s Pre-K from cuts.
“In other words, we have the rainy-day funds, set aside for just this sort of situation, to help Georgia’s Pre-K program weather the budgetary storm.
“We hope legislators will do the right thing for our children by maintaining this critically important funding.”