More than $500 million is in the new state budget for grades kindergarten through 12th grade, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal told a Tuesday joint meeting of Thomasville Rotary and Kiwanis clubs at The Plaza Restaurant.
The funding will allow furlough days to be eliminated, and in some communities, raises will be possible, Deal said.
The Republican governor urged those present to take an opportunity to read to young school children — something his wife, Sandra, has done in all 159 Georgia counties.
Businesses statewide cannot find qualified workers, Deal said, and companies considering Georgia as a place of operation are concerned about finding qualified employees.
Welders, diesel mechanics and those trained in medical and general information technology are needed. Georgia is a hub for electronic financial transactions, the governor explained.
Deal, who grew up in Sandersville, said Georgia has been designated the No. 1 state in which to do business.
“We’re going to work hard to maintain that,” he told the group.
Georgia — “with the right changes” — has an opportunity to be a leader in manufacturing, Deal explained.
Pointing out that Georgia has eliminated some manufacturing-related sales taxes, Deal said a pharmaceutical company locating in the state is investing $1 billion in the venture, with the potential for 1,800 jobs.
Georgia manufacturing jobs suffered in the economic downturn that began six to seven years ago.
Said Deal, “When the recession hit, it hit states like us exceptionally hard.”
Georgia’s carpet industry was hurt when houses were not being built or remodeled, but the industry is coming back strong.
However, Georgia now has the lowest unemployment rate in five years, Deal pointed out.
At one time, Georgia was the 10th largest populated state with the fourth largest prison population.
Deal said one in three paroled Georgia prisoners are back in prison within three years of being released.
A new concept, accountability courts, is designed for offenders who want a second chance. Deal said offenders are held accountable for their behavior. On many cases, he said, drugs or alcohol play a role.
Most of the 60,000 inmates in Georgia prisons will be paroled and return to communities in which they committed crimes.
Deal said 70 percent of the state prison population do not have a high school diploma or GED. Coupled with having been convicted of a crime, the individuals cannot find work.
The state is elevating education and skill levels of prisoners so they will be able to find jobs upon their release from prison, the governor said.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.