Ga. pre-k teachers leave to avoid pay cuts -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

GA. pre-k teachers leave to avoid pay cuts

A lot of good pre-kindergarten teachers are leaving pre-k classrooms.

The state cut pre-k spending by $54-million because of a shortfall in lottery revenue.

In most counties, that means fewer hours and lower pay for pre-k teachers, many of whom went looking for other jobs.

Kelly McConnell is a pre kindergarten teacher in Lee County.

She says pre k is more important than some people might think.

"Pre-k is the foundation for everything, for the whole educational process," says Kelly McConnell, Lee County Pre-Kindergarten Teacher.

"They are opening milk cartons, they are eating their own lunch, they are standing in line, they are using manners, they are sharing, they have come so far just with social interaction," says Rachael Sandal, Lee County Assistant Pre-K Teacher.

But that educational foundation is being hurt by lower lottery sales.

Some teachers left for other careers, while others moved into teaching jobs in higher grade levels, where salaries aren't tied to the Georgia Lottery's success.

"It is almost as if they are not encouraging people to come into pre-k who have higher degrees, or who have more experience," says McConnell.

That's because supplemental pay, awarded for certain degrees or experience levels, is frozen.

To save money, school days were also eliminated, and class sizes increased.

"Increasing class size is just not something you want to do, the two more actually seem like about 6 more, it really does," says McConnell.

Some school districts, including Lee County, came up with local money to keep their pre-k programs in tact.

"With the changes that the governor made, pre k is only being funded 160 student days, well Lee County, decided locally to fund the remainder of the days, so the teachers here at pre k were paid just as the teachers who teach k-12," says McConnell.

And she says children who attend pre-k are better prepared for school and more likely to graduate from high school, attend college and get higher-paying jobs.

Governor Deal  took similar steps to ensure the long-term viability of the HOPE scholarship program, which, like free pre-k, has run off lottery revenue since it started.

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