ATLANTA – “Significant,” expensive changes to the state’s Pre-Kindergarten program are likely, Gov. Nathan Deal said Friday.

Speaking to a group of science educators, he dropped hints but few specifics.

He was cataloging his education initiatives, as he typically does when speaking to teacher groups, when he recounted his efforts to revamp the lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship. Then he offered the only bit of news as he alluded to the lottery-funded program for preschoolers.

“This year you will see a focus being put on the early part of that; that is our Pre-K program,” he said. “You will see some significant, recommended changes taking place there.”

August is when governors usually begin assembling their legislative package for the General Assembly that convenes the following January. Agency heads offer their proposals and requests for additional money, giving the governor’s staff all fall to put the pieces together into a balanced budget recommendation.

While it’s on the mind of governors, they don’t usually reveal much of their thinking in late August.

In talking with a reporter following his speech, Deal let more slip, but few details.

“It will all be lottery money if we expand and enhance salaries and lower the class size for our Pre-K program,” he said. “That’s going to cost significant money.”

The enhancements are likely to be among the recommendations of a commission he appointed to suggest ways to reform education. It was to have completed its work by now, but it requested a deadline extension because another part of its task – updating the K-12 funding formula – is so complicated.

Although he did appoint the members of the commission, including his education-policy aide, he hadn’t said which of its proposals he would likely endorse.

Friday, Deal was present to accept the STEM Champion of the Year from the Technology Association of Georgia during a conference about how to interest more students in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM.

The association has lobbied for more focus on STEM instruction, offering scholarships, paid internships, contests and classroom demonstrations.

“Honestly, it’s a pretty selfish proposition,” said association Executive Director Michael Robertson. “Our member companies have over 4,000 jobs today that they cannot fill. We need educators to focus on the hands-on, relevant instruction that will prepare students for those jobs.”

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