ATLANTA -As yellow school buses fill this month with 4 year olds to deliver them to pre-kindergarten, they’ll be making the trip for 180 days of education again, an increase from recent years when budget cuts shrank the term.
Pre-K, which is funded by Georgia Lottery ticket sales, was only 160 days in 2011 and 170 in 2012.
Gov. Nathan Deal asked for legislative approval to add 10 days back each year in order to return to the original 180 days by 2013.
In 2011, he decided to cut the school days in order to preserve pre-K and the HOPE Scholarship because the state was experiencing large amounts of spending in the programs.
“If spending continued at the pace that it was going, then it would have stripped revenue from the lottery. The governor decided we needed to cut back on pre-K and cut $54 million from a $350 million budget,” said Bobby Cagle, commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning.
Then by 2013, lottery revenue improved, so there have not been any more spending cuts for pre-K and the HOPE Scholarship.
“There are a great deal of benefits from the 180 days for families, pre-K teachers and even kindergarten teachers who say that children are better prepared because of pre-K,” said Cagle.
The first school day will vary based on school system and child care provider. It starts as early as July 22 or as late as Sept.2.
During the 2012 school year, there was a statewide pre-K enrollment of 83,000.
The lottery-funded pre-K program has been recognized as one of the top state programs in the nation, based on quality standards, teacher qualifications and enrollment. The program celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.
“Preparing children for kindergarten is exciting, and we look forward to a full school year,” said Susan Adams, assistant commissioner for Georgia’s pre-K program.