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Educators to protest state funding cuts

Members of Georgia Association of Educators chapters from across the state, and their supporters, are expected to converge on the state Capitol building this afternoon, to tell lawmakers that enough is enough with funding cuts to education.

The statewide educators group will hold a rally at 1 p.m., today (Saturday), on the Capitol steps facing Washington Street in Atlanta, to protest further cuts to education. Public education, at the kindergarten-through-12th-grade and post-secondary levels, is in the same situation most state agencies are in. As the economy struggles and state revenues dwindle, the state has had to cut back on spending.

On Jan. 15, Gov. Sonny Perdue's office announced the governor is recommending a $1.2 billion reduction in the state's amended fiscal year 2010 budget.

Today's rally comes during a school year in which furloughs have made their way to Georgia classrooms because of budget reductions, and legislators are having to look for ways to further reduce spending in the state's upcoming fiscal year 2011 budget.

"Our legislators are in the process of making very critical decisions regarding the status of Georgia's education budget," Georgia Association of Educators President Jeff Hubbard said in a written statement. "Our members want to ensure that legislators have all the facts about how our children and classrooms are currently being affected and how they would further be affected by additional paring of the budget ...

"This coming together is about the impact on our classrooms and school operations, and the subsequent impact on our children."

Officials from local Georgia Association of Educators branch organizations say it is important for not just educators, but parents and community members who support public education, to attend the rally as well.

"It's not just an educators rally," said Sid Chapman, president of the 2,800-member Clayton County Education Association. "Public education is for everyone ... It's an investment in the future."

Chapman said teachers are already being asked to "do more with less," such as making sure an increasing number of students meet or exceed state standards as evaluated by tests like the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and the Georgia High School Graduation Test.

"We don't need deep cuts in public education funding," he said.

Henry County Association of Educators President Theodosia Strange, whose group has a membership of 615 Henry Counter educators, said it is important for education supporters to attend the rally because "it's important for them to know the future of education."

She said furloughs have not helped teacher morale. Teachers, like other state employees, had to take three unpaid furlough days during the fall semester as Perdue reduced the budget. The governor's amended fiscal year 2010 budget reportedly calls for another three furlough days this spring.

"Of course it's not just about money, but the furloughs did not make educators feel appreciated," Strange said. "In order for teachers to be highly effective, they have to first feel appreciated."