By JEFF AMY Associated Press
MCDONOUGH, Ga. (AP) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is using federal COVID-19 relief money to give teachers another $125 to buy school supplies, months after issuing a similar stipend.
Kemp, a Republican running for reelection, made the announcement Friday at Ola High School in Henry County before teachers preparing for school to start next week. He said he learned firsthand how much teachers can spend buying supplies, learning aids and decorations for their classroom when his daughter started teaching first grade last year in Oconee County.
“We also know how challenging in cost it can be to set up a classroom before the start of a new academic year, because we helped Jarrett set up hers for the first time around this time last year,” Kemp said.
While January’s $125 supplement went only to teachers and paraprofessional teacher aides, state education officials said the new supplement will include others who provide instructional support on a daily basis including counselors, librarians, school nurses and speech language pathologists.
The last supplement cost about $15.9 million, said Kemp spokesperson Katie Byrd. She said the total cost for this round of spending has yet to be finalized. Teachers and others will get allocations in an online platform that they can use to order supplies.
The money comes from federal COVID-19 aid that Kemp can give to schools. Georgia got two rounds of funding for public schools totaling $173 million that has already been spent, plus $79 million in money for emergency aid to private schools.
Because of federal requirements, Kemp spokesperson Katie Byrd said that because of federal requirements for spending the money, Georgia has $59.7 million left over in the nonpublic school account. She said federal education officials are letting states spend that money on public schools at Kemp’s discretion. The school supply grants are the first spending announced from those funds.
While some states allocate money directly to teachers for supplies, Georgia does not. Some districts have given out supply grants in the past, though. Henry County schools spokesperson J.D. Hardin said the 43,000-student district gave each teacher $200 to help set up a home office while teaching from home during the pandemic.
Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams and others have repeatedly complained that Kemp is getting credit for handing out federal COVID-19 relief when he and other Republicans opposed some of the spending. Kemp on Thursday also mentioned the $5,000 pay raise that he successfully sought for teachers in two installments. Abrams has proposed a $1.65 billion bump in teacher pay over five years that would guarantee every teacher a $50,000 starting salary and increase average teacher pay to $75,000 from $60,553 this past school year.