[UPDATE] Governor Deal Drafts New Plan

By: Donnitra Gilbert; AP Email
By: Donnitra Gilbert; AP Email

[UPDATE] 3-8 5:33 PM

"Georgia pre-k is vital to the success of our students in the future," Hand-in-Hand Principal Jeanna Mayhall.

Principals and Teachers at Hand-in-Hand preliminary school in Thomasville said they know the importance of having a strong educational foundation.

"When a child comes to us and they don't have any pre-k experience they come into kindergarten and they have a harder time socially,"
said kindergarten teacher Karen Sykes.

Earlier this month, Governor Deal presented a proposal that would slash hours from 6.5 to four, a proposal that didn't sit well with many.

"I really respect him for listening to the people and hearing our concerns and understanding that cutting half days will be difficult on the kids and parents," said Thomasville Parent Brandi Maranda.

The governor was sent back to the drawing board to draft up a new proposal this time changes will include shortening the Pre-k schedule from 180 to 160 days, increasing class sizes from 20 to 22 and cutting salaries by 10 percent.

"As a teacher I would have to consider if I can stay in Pre-k and take that 10 percent cut it would be hard for me and my husband and our baby on the way," said Pre-K Teacher Meredith Powell.

"More students in the classroom which is not the best scenario for children," said Pre-K Teacher Jami Butler.

In a news release issued by the Governor's office, the new proposal will save 54 million dollars.
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[UPDATE] 3-7 10:30am -- ATLANTA (AP) --

Gov. Nathan Deal is revamping plans to cut the state's prekindergarten program back to half-day after an outcry from parents and teachers.

Deal announced Monday that the program will remain a full day
but the school year will be cut from 180 days to 160 days. He also
will expand class sizes by two students each.

The moves will allow the state to cut $54 million while adding
10,000 slots to the pre-k program, which has a waiting list at
least that long.

The cuts are part of Deal's plan to keep lottery-funded programs, pre-k and the HOPE scholarship, from going broke.

Georgia was the first state to offer free full-day pre-k to any
4-year-old, but demand for the program has outgrown revenue from
the lottery.

______________________________

Updated 3-2-11 5:06 PM

Georgia parents say they're standing behind the lottery funded Pre-K program after Governor Nathan Deal said he plans to slash hours in an effort to save millions.

Governor Deal proposed cutting pre-k hours from 6.5 hours a day to four a day; a move he says will save the state more than 50 million dollars.

Reports show the program aids with fewer students being held back, dropping out of school and landing in special education classes.

"He was even doing some addition, reading just learned a massive amount .. I was very impressed at how much he learned and I just feel like my three year old should have the same opportunity as my oldest did," said Thomasville Parent Brandi Miranda.

Reports show that the state's retention rate over the last three years has dropped from 4.1 to 3.7 because of the Pre-K program.
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Next Tuesday Governor Deal will present his proposal to reduce the pre-k program from six and a half hours per day to four hours.

The proposal is expected to reduce or eliminate bonuses the lottery pays to its employees.

Reports show lottery revenue has been fairly flat over the past years and the state has spent millions of its reserve to cover costs. There are currently 236 pre-k students at Thomas County's Hand-in Hand .

"111 of those students qualify for category one status that means based on income they receive some type of assistance ... you cut our Pre-k program to 1/2 day we're looking at losing those students that we need to have in the program," said Hand-in-Hand Principal Jeanna Mayhill.

Reports show there are 84-thousand pre-k slots in public schools and private day care centers across the state.


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