Georgia has Lost Thousands of Preschool, Daycare Teachers. Can the Lottery Help?

Illustration by Brittney Phan (State Affairs)

Nov 10, 2021
Key Points
  • Georgia’s preschools workforce dropped by roughly 20% from 2017 to 2020.
  • Preschool directors and advocates say many teachers have left for higher-paying jobs at Target and Walmart.
  • The state has more than $1 billion in Lottery reserves that could be used to boost funding for local preschools but hasn’t been touched.

The road ahead looks rough for Georgia’s preschools and daycares.

Across the state, thousands of child-care workers have quit for jobs at Walmart and Target where they can earn better money and don’t have to worry about the stress of watching young kids.

With the COVID-19 pandemic making matters worse, many teachers and advocates have eyed Georgia’s hefty reserve of lottery dollars that can legally go toward raising child-care salaries – but haven’t been touched.

In this five-part story, State Affairs breaks down the numbers behind Georgia’s falling preschool and daycare employment and spoke with teachers, advocates and lawmakers to find out what – if anything – the state can do to reverse its downward child-care trends.

Our Story

Part I: From Teacher to Cashier

Georgia's child-care workforce numbers have fallen by 20% over the past few years, largely due to low pay that hasn’t kept pace with other industries’ wage hikes.

Part II: Preschool Teacher Nosedive

Georgia had a shaky track record of hiring and retaining child-care workers before the pandemic forced preschools and daycares to close in March 2020.

Part III: Low Wages Hurt Hiring

Many advocates and teachers trace the teacher shortage to low salaries that made jobs at Walmart and Target more enticing during the pandemic.

Part IV: Georgia Lottery Reserves Soar

Amid money challenges, many teachers and advocates have eyed the Georgia lottery as a potential source to increase wages.

Part V: Hesitancy in the Legislature

State budget writers say tapping lottery reserves could put preschools and scholarships at risk if another pandemic-level economic crisis hits Georgia.