PEACH COUNTY, Ga. — A National Education Association report says last year, Georgia's average teacher salary was just over $56,000. That's the 22nd-highest nationwide. Tuesday, lawmakers passed a 2020 budget that increases certified teachers' salaries by $3,000. Even though it's just shy of Governor Brian Kemp's campaign pledge of $5,000, Peach County educators say it's a step in the right direction.
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Whitney Knight is in her third year teaching kindergarten at Byron Elementary. "Well, you definitely don't become a teacher for the salary. It really is just for the love of the children and being that positive influence in their lives," she said. Knight and her colleague Jesse Fortson have similar struggles when it comes to their salaries. "My income is rough. I have a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, and I still make not that much cause I'm a newer teacher," Fortson said.
Georgia's Senate and House lawmakers support Governor Brian Kemp's push to increase the base salary for certified teachers and employees.
"The state salary is approximately about $34,000 - $35,000," Peach County Human Resource Director Shannon Dotsikas said. "In Peach County, once we add our local supplement, a teacher's looking at around $36,000."
The raise will bump up a teacher's starting salary to about $39,000. "Now that we are seeing an increase in those salaries and a push to promote the teaching profession, I think we're going to see a lot more people staying in the field and, hopefully, a lot more going into the field," Dotsikas said.
"There's so many things that we're going to be able to use that money for and, hopefully, it'll be a little extra motivation for others to continue in the practice and continue to give their best every day," Knight said.
State officials says the budget will cover raises for 115,000 certified teachers in Georgia.
Governor Brian Kemp calls that $3,000 boost a down payment on his campaign promise of a $5,000 raise for all Georgia teachers.