What are Brian Kemp’s education priorities if he wins a second term?

Reversing learning loss stemming from the pandemic, boosting the education workforce and stepping up school safety measures will be Gov. Brian Kemp’s top education priorities if he wins a second term in November, Kemp said Monday.

At an elementary school in Oconee County, the governor announced he will ask the General Assembly for a $25 million grant program in the mid-year state budget to help schools pay for additional tutoring and other steps to supplement existing learning loss services.

Just 63% of third graders are reading at or above grade level this year, down from 73% in 2019, the year before the outbreak of COVID-19 prompted schools to close their doors and switch to online instruction, Kemp said.

“I am committed to making sure every child in our state has the opportunity to reach their full potential and succeed in the classroom,” the governor said Monday. “By working with our local school systems and providing targeted funding to bring these kids back up to grade level, I am confident we can lend a helping hand to the students who need it most.”

The $25 million in state-funded grants would be in addition to $37.4 million in federal pandemic relief aid Kemp announced last month would go toward addressing learning loss. Much of that money will go to nonprofits including  the Georgia Alliance of YMCAs and the Georgia Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs.

Kemp also unveiled a plan to address a shortage of teachers in Georgia through a $15 million program providing $3,000 grants to help paraprofessionals interested in becoming teachers with certification costs and an additional $25 million to help school systems hire more counselors.

Most of the school safety initiatives Kemp announced Monday would involve providing more training for school resource officers and teachers interested in developing school safety and gang prevention skills.

Also, the school safety plans schools currently must submit to local emergency management and law enforcement agencies would go instead to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

Stacey Abrams, the Democrat challenging Kemp’s reelection bid, has pledged to raise minimum teacher salaries in Georgia from $39,092 a year to $50,000 and the average salary from $62,500 to $73,500.

Abrams also has proposed offering free college tuition at a state university to students willing to commit to teaching at least four years in a rural part of the state.

Kemp gave teachers a $3,000 raise during his first year in office back in 2019 and another $2,000 increase this year, fulfilling a campaign promise he made during the 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation

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