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Gov. Deal proposes $547 mil. more for schools in State of State

8:31 PM, Jan 15, 2014   |    comments
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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (Getty Images)

ATLANTA -- Gov. Nathan Deal proposed a nearly $547 million increase in state education during his State of the State address Wednesday.

READ THE PLAN | Governor Deal's education plan and full text of 2014 State of the State speech

A large increase in education funding was expected amid growing state revenues and concerns that more than half of Georgia's school districts were not meeting a state minimum of 180 school days due to budget cuts.

In a morning speech, Deal also said he would be adding $12 million to the budget to boost "life flights" in southwest Georgia for those seriously injured in road crashes. 

Deal also addressed DFCS funding

The governor said nothing in his address about the Department of Family and Children's Services, but he did talk about his effort to increase the department's funding later in the day.

The budget report not only listed how Deal wants to spend money, but gives a clue as to how the departments are doing. One line that stuck out included an indication that only 55 percent -- or roughly half of the reports of child maltreatment -- are being investigated in 45 days or less.

This marks a shocking number, considering that in the three years prior, even through the economic downtown, at least 95 percent of cases were being investigated within that timeframe. 11Alive News has asked DFCS officials what has happened, but has yet to receive a response.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee calls the number alarming, and says she's also getting an increase in calls from people frustrated they cannot even reach DFCS to report abuse.

"I can tell you if you ask me if I'm satisfied with the way the department mechanisms are working right now and their infrastructure, am I happy with it? The answer is no," Unterman said.

The governor's budget does provide money to hire 16 more people to take in reports of abuse and neglect, hire 175 more caseworkers, and it also transfers $2.3 million to DFCS to use for child abuse prevention programs and caseworker training. It also increases the budget for the Office of the Child Advocate, the watchdog agency for DFCS.

Gov. Deal says he hopes the increase in caseworkers is just the start of a 3-year plan to restore the agency. But supporters note, the proposed budget for Child Welfare Services is still $30 million less than the agency's budget high, before the economic downturn.

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