After fury, Deal alters pre-K plan

Shorter year substituted for half-day class schedule

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Last week, Martha Morris had a field of unknowns facing her prekindergarten classroom.

Pre-K teacher Debora Williams helps Ben Johnson, 4, with a drawing.  Rainier Ehrhardt/FILE
Rainier Ehrhardt/FILE
Pre-K teacher Debora Williams helps Ben Johnson, 4, with a drawing.

Gov. Nathan Deal had proposed cutting Georgia's Pre-K Program to half-days because the program's expenses have outpaced its revenue source, the Georgia Lottery, in recent years.

How could Morris cram a full curriculum of material into four hours each day?

The proposal also called for a 30 percent salary reduction for teachers. Would she have to pick up a second job to get by?

Now, she faces a different set of questions.

As a response to objections from parents and teachers across the state, Deal on Monday proposed that pre-K classes have 20 fewer days each school year instead of converting to half-days.

The plan would save the state program $54 million and cut teachers' salaries by 10 percent.

Class sizes would increase by two pupils for a total of 22 in each classroom, a move that would take 2,000 pupils off the state's waiting list. Pre-K classes are free for all Georgia 4-year-olds, but only about 57 percent, or 81,068, were able to enroll in the 2009-10 school year.

"I think a shorter year is better because with half-days I had no confidence it would be consistent with a pre-K learning environment," said Morris, a teacher at ABC Childcare and Learning Center in Augusta. "Once you cut it down in half, it seemed like the program would fail."

The pre-K school year would be cut from 180 to 160 days, and providers would receive 94 percent of the funding they currently get.

Morris said a shorter year would be easier to work with than shorter days, adding that teachers may remove nonessential activities to accommodate the lost days.

Columbia County school Superintendent Charles Nagle said Deal's new plan gives schools more to work with but still poses financial problems.

School districts will have to decide whether to fund those 20 days independently or enter into a shorter year.

Nagle said the program might have to run off of only what funding the state provides, though he noted that financial decisions will have to be made by the school board.

"We would not be able to put anything or do any local subsidizing at this point because our budget is going to be so tight," Nagle said.

Richmond County School System Acting Superintendent James Whitson said there might be options beyond either cutting 20 days off the school year or asking the district to pay for those days.

"It may not be one or the other," Whitson said.

As the school board begins budget talks, finance department employees and curriculum leaders will examine which grants might be able to supplement the 58 Richmond County pre-K classes or which curriculum changes could make the best of 20 fewer days.

"We have to look not only at our budget, but we have to look at, 'How does that budget serve our population and our community?' " Whitson said. "What would be the educational impact? What's the negative consequences both in the short term, and what's the negative consequences in the long term?"

Angela Ramsey, the director of A Child's World Child Care Center on Stevens Creek Road, said she was glad to hear that the pre-K program would remain full day, even if that meant giving up 20 days.

She said parents have approached her with day care concerns since Deal's initial announcement two weeks ago.

Teachers were also worried about pay cuts and meeting the pressures of cramming material into a half-day schedule.

Now, she said, her four teachers and 40 students will have to work with the changes.

"Even though I wish they wouldn't cut it at all, if they have to, I would be more accepting of them cutting it (by) 20 days," Ramsey said. "We'll get by."

Pre-k proposal

Under the new plan, the pre-K program will remain a full day but the school year will be cut from 180 days to 160 days, and class sizes will increase by two students to 22 each, Gov. Nathan Deal said. The moves will allow Georgia to cut $54 million from the cash-strapped program while adding 2,000 slots, which will put a dent in the 10,000-pupil waiting list.

The new plan would cut teacher salaries by 10 percent rather than the 30 percent proposed under the old plan. Preschools and school districts that have pre-k classes will see their funding cut to 94 percent of what they get now, Deal said.

-- Associated Press

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peaches63
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peaches63 03/08/11 - 04:08 am
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I know this won't be popular

I know this won't be popular with parents of preschoolers, but this program should be cut altogether. There are plenty of very affordable pre-k programs. Churches, etc... College students (yes, even middle class) need the HOPE.

wildman
954
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wildman 03/08/11 - 06:37 am
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P-63, I agree! This is a

P-63, I agree! This is a babysitting program and nothing more. What happened to you raising your kids not the government?

fatboyhog
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fatboyhog 03/08/11 - 07:57 am
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I think that HOPE should be

I think that HOPE should be cut for Pre-K and reduced for college. PELL should be drastically reduced to. We need to get back to teaching our kids (and some adults too) that there is no such thing as a "free lunch". We have become an entitlement society, and that, among many other things, is killing and bankrupting our country. If you really want a college education, you will find a way to pay for it. Assistance is one thing; tossing money into a bottomless pit so that we can all feel good is insane.

seenitB4
73296
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seenitB4 03/08/11 - 08:58 am
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It is hard to take a freebie

It is hard to take a freebie back...that is killing our country now.. (along with pc)
I think Deal did an outstanding job in his decision....just hope some of these whiners go out & buy the lotto ticket or they could see it go bye-bye for good.

mrsmcghee
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mrsmcghee 03/08/11 - 09:15 am
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Cutting Pre-K may be a viable

Cutting Pre-K may be a viable option if the outcome is to save money but then putting the saved money into HOPE isn't the answer. College students need to learn that scholarships are earned and in order to keep a scholarship you should be expected to maintain good grades, if you can't you should learn to work your way through college as many others have in the past before HOPE. If money should be cut from Pre-K or HOPE my vote goes to HOPE. High School graduates should have the responsibility of keeping good grades in order to receive a free ride, preschoolers should have the opportunity to be in a safe environment to learn. Sure there are parents out there who use this as childcare but if there wasn't Pre-K can you imagine where those children might be? I'm sure if a parent thought of this as simply a free daycare option they wouldn't be so willing to pay for preschool- which private preschool programs are typically half day and equal to if not more expensive than full day daycare programs. I'd perfer the money be spent on providing our children with a safe place to learn. And just so everyone knows I feel this way yet I'm in college now and lost the HOPE, so now I'm using student loans that I will have to work to pay off one day. But that's my lesson I've learned- you can't be lazy and expect things to be handed to you when you are an adult.

Chillen
16
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Chillen 03/08/11 - 09:24 am
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Every single person in the

Every single person in the private sector would be happy if they'd only suffered a 10% pay decrease over the last couple of years. I'm sure they don't think so but these teachers are fortunate. Way more fortunate that their private industry fellow workers.

seenitB4
73296
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seenitB4 03/08/11 - 09:26 am
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chillen...I bet you are a

chillen...I bet you are a good boss. :O)

bclicious
474
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bclicious 03/08/11 - 09:49 am
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I would have had a lot more

I would have had a lot more respect for Deal if he had stuck with his decision. In general, I believe that Deal is a smart enough man that probably conducted a lot of research before he made the decision to cut pre-k. The fact that he changed his mind only shows that he caved to political pressure. I'm not sure if it was because he felt he made a mistake or because he was thinking long term concerning re-election, but I believe it is the latter of the two.

As a leader it is important to stick with your guns. Good or bad, if you make a decision, stick with it, stand by it, see where it goes, and then adjust fire. Please stop second guessing yourself Deal!

seenitB4
73296
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seenitB4 03/08/11 - 09:56 am
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The only problem with that

The only problem with that logic bc is... we would still be fighting the Civil War & trying to break away from the union......hmmmm...wait a minute..
that might work! :)

corgimom
19819
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corgimom 03/08/11 - 11:01 am
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"Every single person in the

"Every single person in the private sector would be happy if they'd only suffered a 10% pay decrease over the last couple of years."

Not everyone in the private sector has suffered a 10% pay decrease. In fact, most people have not. Even with 10% unemployment, 90% of the labor force is still working. Some workers have been hit very hard; but for most people, they still are working.

Chillen
16
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Chillen 03/08/11 - 12:06 pm
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corgimom, you have targeted

corgimom, you have targeted my comments full time lately -- seems intentional (I would never do that to you). By the way, don't you live in Charlotte? They have a newpaper there I'm sure.

Do you work in the private market? Are you on commission? Do you own your own business? Have you ever run a successful, profitable business for any length of time?

For you to say what you said, clearly you do not have your finger on the true pulse of American business. MOST people in the private industry have suffered pay cuts, lay-offs, hour reductions, etc. If you or someone you know has not, count yourself very, very fortunate and also consider yourself a rarity. And you or your aquaintance should be prepared for the inevitable. If things continue, pay will be affected eventually.

Yes, 90% of American's are employed (at least that's what the liar in chief's admin tells us, many private experts say unemployment is more like 15-20% but thats another story for another time). Many of the 90% of the workforce who is employed has been unemployed and hired back at substantially lower wages. Or their boss has come to them and said, I'm sorry, I don't have the money to pay you $75,000 per year but I can keep you on at $65,000. Many of my clients have take huge (like 40-50%) pay cuts because commissions/bonuses are lower.

Under-employment is a very, very, very serious problem in this country right now. Why do you think so many people are having trouble paying their mortgage and meeting their bills?

The number is not reported because it would be impossible to track but I can guarantee you the IRS will figure it out come April 15th. Look for huge reductions in taxes for 2010. Add that to obama's gross mismanagement our economy & the progressive's intentional destruction of our economy and you will have the perfect storm.

Chillen
16
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Chillen 03/08/11 - 12:10 pm
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Oh, you won't get a reponse

Oh, you won't get a reponse from me in the future. I've invoked the "ignore user" feature. I suggest you do the same.

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