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Governor: cut Pre-K days, not hours

Instead of drastically cutting the length of day for Pre-K classes, Gov. Nathan Deal is proposing to shorten the Pre-K school year instead.

The school year will be shortened from 180 to 160 days, and class sizes will be increased from 20 to 22 students, which each classroom served by a teacher and a paraprofessional, under the governor’s new proposal.

The proposal, which has won support from the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives, will also mean a 10 percent salary cut for Pre-K teachers, as opposed to the 30 percent reduction that was initially proposed, according to the governor’s office.

The latest proposal was developed with input from Pre-K providers, Pre-K teachers, parents, early childhood advocacy organizations and local school systems across the state.

Deal’s initial proposal for Pre-K cuts reduced the school day from six and a half hours to four. It also called for creating 5,000 more student positions for the program, but that was reduced to 2,000 under the latest proposal.

With participation in the lottery-funded Pre-K program and also the HOPE Scholarship outpacing revenues, lawmakers are setting out to create savings to insure the programs will survive for years to come.

The latest changes to the cuts for Pre-K will yield $54 million in savings.

For the HOPE Scholarship, proposed changes will decouple payments from being linked to tuition, and the funding level will be set at 90 percent of the current year’s tuition.

That proposal has met with some challengers who prefer to implement a needs-based formula that would take into account the parent’s annual income.

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