Friday, October 31st, 2014
Half-True
Deal
"During my administration, funding for education has increased by over $930 million."

Nathan Deal on Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 in a speech

Deal's speech jumps the gun on education spending increase

Nearly 300 students from throughout Georgia attend the 69th annual Youth Assembly at the State Capitol in November 2013. Gov. Nathan Deal touted an increase in education spending during his tenure in his State of the State address. Photo: Kent Johnson/AJC

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal spent a portion of his State of the State address discussing what’s often a major issue in any election year.

Education.

Deal touted his accomplishments on the issue in his speech. One statistic he cited piqued our interest and that of one PolitiFact Georgia reader who asked us to do a fact check.

"Since spending on education has always been the largest part of our state budget, representing over half of all spending, it was to be expected that it would be reduced during these hard times," the governor said. "However, during my administration, funding for education has increased by over $930 million."

Has funding for education increased by $930 million since Deal took office?

Not exactly.

Before Deal took office in January 2011, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue and the state Legislature approved a fiscal year budget that included about $7 billion for its public school students. Deal amended that year’s budget, increasing education spending to about $7.1 billion. Last spring, Deal signed a fiscal year budget for a 12-month period that ends June 30 that included about $7.4 billion for education.

That’s about a $400 million difference since Deal took office. Not exactly $930 million, is it?

We had a theory about how the governor came up with that number. Deal has proposed increasing education spending by $547 million. That’s the greatest single budgetary year increase in seven years, Deal said. Add those numbers and the total does equal more than $930 million. That’s how they came up with the number, Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said.

Deal offered some specifics about his plans for the extra money.

About $200 million of that would merely fund growth in student enrollment. An additional $315 million would go to shore up local budgets, and school districts can choose raises, smaller classes, more school days or other ways to spend the money.

The governor wrote in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wants to spend an additional $10 million to redevelop the state’s standardized tests for grades three to 12. He wrote that he wants to add nearly $50 million in state general and bond funding to support high-speed broadband access for all public schools.

We still wondered whether it was accurate for the governor to say education spending had risen by $930 million if this budget hasn’t been adopted. Robinson said the sentence should had been phrased differently.

"There is still a legislative process," Robinson said. "The sentence could use ‘once the budget is adopted.’ "

Deal has received little resistance from the Legislature over his past budget proposals. Deal is a Republican, and both chambers of the Legislature are led by the GOP. It’s likely the budget will be adopted, but it is still a proposal at this point.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Senate president, praised Deal's proposal to pump more money into education, "rightfully our state's top priority," the AJC reported.

The governor’s statement contains some elements of truth, but there is a good deal of context that must be considered here. We rate this statement as Half True.