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March 7--  After hearing concerns on plans to cut lottery-funded pre-kindergarten classes from 6.5 hours to four hours per day in Georgia's public schools, Governor Nathan Deal reversed his position Monday.

The Governor's press office issued the following statement.

"Following bipartisan negotiations, Gov. Nathan Deal today announced his updated plan to preserve Georgia’s full-day prekindergarten program while still implementing the reforms necessary to prevent insolvency.

“From day one we have worked tirelessly to make sure Georgia’s youngest scholars continue to benefit from the Pre-K program,” said Deal. “It is so important that we keep Georgia Pre-K a priority in order to ensure that students are school ready and on pace to read on grade level by third grade. I appreciate the cooperative, can-do spirit of the Georgia Pre-K community. They have provided invaluable feedback over the last few weeks to help us improve our original proposal.

“Teachers, providers and parents understand the importance of reforms to maintain our excellent prekindergarten program for the next generation, but they emphasized a desire to keep the program full day. These discussions have yielded an improved product. Most important, this plan will serve our 4-year-olds well.”

The following programmatic adjustments will be made: 

  • The school year will be shortened from 180 to 160 days.
  • Class size will be increased to 22 students from 20. Since all Georgia Pre-K classes have a paraprofessional in the room, the student to teacher ratio will max out at 11 to 1.
  • An additional 2,000 Pre-K slots will be added, bringing Georgia Pre-K enrollment to 86,000. 
  • Providers will receive 94 percent of the operating funds they currently receive.
  • Pre-K teachers will receive 90 percent of their current salaries. (The original half-day proposal included a 30 percent reduction.)

Georgia remains a leader in early childhood education and is one of only four states in the nation to provide a high-quality, universal Pre-K program. The governor’s new proposal saves the necessary $54 million and was developed after listening to the concerns of the Pre-K providers, Pre-K teachers, parents, early childhood advocacy organizations and local school systems across the state.