Superintendent Cochran pleased with historic budget for Georgia education

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Decatur County Superintendent Tim Cochran was excited to hear Gov. Nathan Deal signed a historic $26.2 billion budget that will fully fund the formula used to pay for public schools in Georgia.

The FY 2019 budget will put $9.9 billion into K-12 schools across the state, including the current eight public schools in Decatur County.

“We were anticipating a shortfall this year due to decreased enrollment, so it will be huge for us to alleviate that shortfall,” Cochran said.

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A booming Georgia economy fueled by economic development projects, growing populations and the movie industry opting to film in the state opened up the potential for Deal to pour more money into education.

The massive budget for education comes shortly after other states, including Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona, saw teachers go on strike to demand higher pay and a bigger education budget. Cochran believes Georgia has been in a better position than those states, and it will get better thanks to the new budget.

“I would like to think we are in a better place than other states,” Cochran said. “Statewide salaries are much more competitive than other states, and we have been able to eliminate furlough days.”

In Decatur County, the new budget could also help with a few projects Cochran is working on, including consolidating Elkan-King Elementary School with the other four elementary schools in Bainbridge.

“It might actually speed some of them up, but there’s still personnel and staffing, and we have to make sure we will have all those pieces of the puzzle in place,” Cochran said.

A high number of empty desks and classrooms in Decatur County schools makes the school system less likely to receive additional funding from the state, when in reality a steadily decreasing enrollment and excess space is the problem. The consolidation effort is intended to move students around and use the space the school system has as efficiently as possible.

K-12 public schools in Georgia are projected to see $166.7 million more than expected in the coming year.