Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North praised Gov. Brian Kemp’s “efforts to prioritize education” last week with federal stimulus funds and restoration of some money that was cut last year as a result of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
Overall, Georgia’s public schools will receive more than $1.7 billion in federal stimulus funds under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (referred to as CARES 2) passed last month by Congress, according to the state Department of Education.
In his annual “State of the State” address on Jan. 14, Kemp announced the state will give teachers and other school employees a one-time $1,000 pay supplement as they continue struggling with impacts from the virus.
North said he is recommending the Douglas County Board of Education provide the $1,000 bonuses to all full time employees of the Douglas County School System.
The $1,000 bonuses have to be first approved by the State Board of Education on Feb. 18, and then the county school board is expected to give its OK, North said. He said the bonuses will be given as separate checks and will be “distributed as quickly as possible.”
“This supplement will serve as a thank you and a reward for their hard work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” North said.
He added that the CARES 2 funding Douglas County receives will also allow the school system to “offer a robust summer school and tutorial program for the students who have not mastered School Based Digital Learning. It also allows us to remediate a large number of students who need instructional support to catch up.”
And he said it will allow the school system to “continue projects and initiatives” DCSS had already “embarked upon prior to March 13.”
From a fiscal standpoint, the money will allow DCSS to reimburse itself for COVID-19 expenses already incurred as well as current and future expenses, North said.
Kemp also announced in his “State of the State” address that he is calling on the General Assembly to adopt a budget this year that restores about 60% of state funds cut from the K-12 education budget last year due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Over two budget years, that would amount to $1.2 billion.
North said that while he supports the restoration of funds cut last year, the money is not likely to have the positive impact in Douglas that it will have in other districts.
That’s because the state funds local districts based on the Quality Basic Education formula, which uses student enrollment as a factor in determining the amount each district receives.
North said enrollment in Douglas County is down 600 to 700 students, which “has the potential to eradicate the 60% restoration.”
“We are appreciative for what he has done with putting it back in the budget,” North said. “But because of our decline in enrollment numbers, it has the potential to impact us negatively.
North added: “We are very appreciative of the recommendations that Governor Kemp has made to the General Assembly. I hope they will support them and keep them in the budget. When the governor’s proposals make it through the legislative process, schools in Georgia, from a fiscal perspective, will be ahead of other school systems across the nation.”