Democrat Stacey Abrams vowed to fully fund Georgia’s k-12 education formula and end “backdoor vouchers” if she’s elected governor.
Abrams, who faces Republican Brian Kemp in November, outlined her education agenda Wednesday at a “back to school” event at her campaign headquarters.
She said she would adopt a “more comprehensive” version of the Quality Basic Education Act’s formula, a decades-old funding calculus that’s never been significantly updated.
Her tweaks to the formula would include increased investments in student transportation, technology and schools in low-income neighborhoods, she said.
That won’t be easy: Gov. Nathan Deal made a similar promise to overhaul the formula during his 2014 re-election campaign before abandoning it amid entrenched opposition. She said what was missing during his second-term was the “political will” to make those changes.
“We know it’s more expensive to educate a child who is poor, it’s more expensive to educate a child who speaks English as a second language, or has special needs” or live in rural areas, said Abrams. “You have to be willing to be honest with Georgians about why this has to happen.”
Pressed on how she would finance the increases without raising taxes, Abrams said the state’s improving economy already allows room for more financial flexibility. She pointed to Deal’s decision this summer to spend $100 million on a Ga. 400 transit line as an example.
Another potential pot of funding would come from her plan to eliminate student scholarship organizations, a $100 million tax credit program for private school scholarships that Kemp wants to double.
Abrams said that $100 million sum, which was raised by lawmakers from $58 million earlier this year, could be used to help pay for teacher salary hikes or technological upgrades.
“We have the resources,” she said. “We just have to be willing to have that conversation.”
Kemp has largely echoed Deal’s approach to k-12 education.
He supports expanding the state’s charter school system and providing more “school choice” options, along with new virtual learning opportunities geared toward rural students. He also said he would fully fund the state’s K-12 education formula.