On Tuesday, Jason Carter, a Democratic state senator from Atlanta and an announced candidate for governor, called for Georgia to do more to support its teacher workforce, including:
restoring its commitment to a 10 percent bonus for National Board-certified teachers;
bringing back incentives for highly qualified and experienced pre-k teachers;
and resuming HOPE scholarship programs designed to train and recruit teachers.
Carter said there’s ample evidence that Georgia’s public schools -- and thus teachers -- have been dealt some tough blows.
"Since 2009, Georgia's public schools have lost nearly 9,000 classroom teachers while the number of students has gone up," he said in a statement.
Carter, a grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, is expected to hammer hard in the governor’s race against the policies of the GOP majority and years of state budget cuts to education. Those cuts, combined with falling local property tax collections, have forced school districts to reduce staff, increase class sizes, furlough employees and shorten their school years.
Chances ramped up for education to be a hot topic in the Republican primary as well, with State School Superintendent John Barge in the mix of announced GOP challengers to incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal.
We started our truth test of Carter’s statement by asking for the source of his information. A spokeswoman referred us to a November report published by the left-leaning Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.
The report was based on an online survey taken over the summer. Of the state’s 180 school districts, 140 -- representing 92.8 percent of all public schools -- participated, according to the GBPI.
Among the findings: The surveyed districts now have 8,982 fewer teachers in their classrooms than they did in 2009.
We checked in with the state’s two major teacher groups -- the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Georgia Association of Educators. The data developed by the GBPI and cited by Carter seems "credible to me," PAGE spokesman Tim Callahan said.
Added GAE President Calvine Rollins: "What we do know is that class sizes have increased tremendously."
We compared the GBPI information against data that districts are required to submit annually to the state.The results were very similar.
In fiscal 2009, which covers the 2008-2009 school year, Georgia had 120,660 teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade -- 115,277 full-time and 5,383 part-time -- according to the annual state report card on education.
That compares with 111,401 public school teachers -- 107,729 full-time and 3,672 part-time -- working in fiscal 2013, or the 2012-2013 school year. And the difference is 9,259 fewer teachers statewide.
As to the claim by Carter, that school enrollment rose in this period, state data show he’s correct.
Student enrollment wasn’t growing rapidly but it did increase. There were 1,615,066 students in Georgia public schools in fiscal 2009 and 1,657,506 in attendance in fiscal 2013, according to state data.
On Oct. 1, the 180 districts collectively counted and reported to the state Department of Education that they had 1,723,439 students on their rolls.
Carter’s statement was based on solid numbers. Georgia has lost about 7.6 percent of its teachers since 2009. Enrollment wasn’t booming, but it did grow by about 2.6 percent.
We rate his statement as True.