Georgia gubernatorial candidates spar over new teacher pay increases

(The Center Square) – Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, wants to increase the pay for teachers in Georgia. But Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign called the plan a “Hail Mary proposal” and said it would only “make inflation worse” and hurt Georgia families.

Her plan calls for raising the base annual salary for teachers from $39,092 to $50,000 and increasing the average annual teacher salary from $62,500 to $73,500. Abrams contends that the state can raise teacher pay without increasing taxes.

“Central to our children’s educational success is supporting the teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff who help us grow resilient children,” Abrams said in an announcement. “…When our educators are highly valued and fairly compensated for their commitment to education, our children benefit.”

According to the Associated Press, the plan is expected to cost at least $1.65 billion over four years.

Kemp campaign officials, however, questioned the proposed cost of the plan. They also pointed to a promise that then-candidate Kemp made on the campaign trail four years ago to raise teacher pay by $5,000.

Earlier this year, Georgia lawmakers included $2,000 bonuses for full-time K-12 employees, including education support professionals, and $1,000 bonuses for part-time employees. The fiscal 2023 budget that Kemp signed into law in May included a $2,000 raise for certified teachers and follows a $3,000 increase for teachers included in the state’s fiscal 2020 spending plan.

“Governor Kemp fulfilled his pledge to raise educator pay by $5,000 in his first term — the largest teacher pay boost in state history,” Tate Mitchell, press secretary for Kemp’s re-election campaign, said in an announcement. “This historic investment was accompanied by fully funding our schools, reducing high-stakes testing, empowering retired educators to return to teach in high-needs areas, boosting funding for school security and mental health services, and keeping partisan politics out of the classroom.”