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Georgia

Our key ally in Georgia, GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, is a statewide advocacy organization that rallies support for the healthy development and high-quality early learning of Georgia’s youngest children. At the local, state, and federal levels, GEEARS brings together families, businesses, and civic leaders with public and private partners. Together, they advance policies and build systems that poise all of Georgia’s children for success.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 43% (495,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% FPL (2021). This number represents a decrease from 50% (591,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% FPL than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

On May 5, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the state’s fiscal 2024 budget after making line-item vetoes, with total appropriations from all funds of $61.4 billion. Total state funds are $32.4 billion, an increase of 7.4 percent compared to the original fiscal 2023 budget (and a decrease of 0.2 percent from the amended fiscal 2023 budget). State general fund appropriations total $27.8 billion, an increase of 7.5 percent from the original fiscal 2023 budget (and a decrease of 1.01 percent from the amended budget). The fiscal 2024 budget is set by a revenue estimate of $32.4 billion for state treasury receipts, an increase of $2.2 billion, or 7.4 percent, over the original fiscal 2023 budget.3

Key Revenue Sources:

    • Personal Income Tax (1.0% – 6.0%)
    • State Sales Tax (4.0%)

Political Alignment: Aligned Republican

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Republican controlled. The state’s Governor was also a Republican.4

Types of Ballot Measure Available:5 One

    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.

Key state policy advocacy organizations include:

Early childhood policy advocacy multi-state initiatives present in the state include:6

2023 Policy Progress:

Georgia’s Pre-K teachers and assistant teachers received much-needed pay raises, amounting to $4,000 over the last two years. This bump was especially crucial for assistant teachers, whose annual salary was just over $16,000 prior to the increases.

Other highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:7

Speaker Jon Burns announced a House Working Group on Early Childhood Education, demonstrating the further emphasis from Georgia leaders on the importance of the early years. As Speaker Burns said in the press release, there is “a need to better prepare children for success in the classroom from an early age.” GEEARS looks forward to supporting this working group and promoting increased access to high-quality early childhood education.

The FY24 budget included:

    • Big wins for Georgia’s pre-k Program, including an additional $2,000 for pre-k lead and assistant teachers’ salaries (total: $20.65 million) and an additional $14 million to increase Pre-K operations budgets to help mitigate the effects of inflation and support quality.
    • $1.7 million to support a home visiting pilot in Northeast and Southeast rural Georgia. This pilot integrates medical care into home visits, using community health workers.
    • Maternal-child health  gains, including increased reimbursement rates for Georgia’s Early Intervention program; funding to eliminate the 5-year waiting period to receive Medicaid for eligible children and pregnant women who are legal permanent residents; an additional $870,000 to increase access to family therapy; and $18 million to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care and OB/GYN codes.

SB 61 removes the end date on the Family Care Act, which allows employees to use five days of earned sick leave for the care of immediate family members. Originally passed in 2017 with a three-year sunset provision, the bill was extended again by the Georgia legislature in 2020. SB 61, which overwhelmingly passed both the House and Senate, will permanently remove the sunset provision.

HB 129 extends Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits to pregnant women who do not already have another child and gives incremental increases to women who give birth while on TANF. GEEARS applauds this important step and hopes it represents the beginning of much-needed enhancements to the TANF program.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantee in Georgia, GEEARS, is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework:

Early Care and Education

Preschool and Pre-K

Child Care

Child Care Workforce

Child and
Maternal Health

Early Intervention (0-3)

Infant & Child Health 

Maternal Health

Family
Supports

Home Visiting

Family Economic Security

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Early Childhood Infrastructure

Click here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.

RECENT ADVOCACY SNAPSHOT:

Georgia Allies Leverage Alabama Early Childhood Mental Health Progress for Big Wins in Their Own State

Georgia allies at GEEARS are celebrating the creation of a new task force for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health. Allies leveraged a cross-state partnership with Alabama’s IECMH coordinator to support progress. GEEARS organized efforts for a legislative study committee that led to the creation of recommendations, which will be carried out by the task force.

Read More »

NOTES:

1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

5 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

6 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

7 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:

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More State Demographic Data:

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