State Board Reports

03/26 - March State Board Report

March State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 3/26/2021

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The State Board met earlier this week for their monthly Board meetings. While interest in the State Board is always high, this month took on extra importance as the Board approved the $1000 teacher bonus and the latest distribution of federal stimulus money.

Budget Committee

Following the General Assembly's approval of the Amended FY2021 budget earlier this month, the State Board had a lengthy agenda partially responding to changes in that budget. Also contributing to the agenda were several items relating to federal stimulus funds that have been sent to the state. While not the item with the biggest amount of funds tied to it (that honor goes to the new federal allocation from the American Rescue Plan), the headliner of the committee was the approval of the $1000 retention bonus for teachers. 

Of the 31 items on the agenda, one was removed, four were held for a separate vote, and the remaining items were added to the consent agenda. 

Rules Committee

A year and a half after the start of the process, the Department of Education introduced the new draft standards for mathematics. The time line had to be shifted dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the effort was ramped up in recent months and the new standards have been unveiled. This item was added to the consent agenda, along with the approval to post the new standards for Artificial Intelligence Career Pathways courses, and a group of new computer science elective courses.

The committee also took up the revisions to the Health standards, and three State Board rules (Testing Programs-Student Assessment, Dual Enrollment, and Student Support Team). Those four items were pulled for separate votes.

Charter Schools Committee

The Charter Schools Committee has been brought back, this time with a new chairman. Dr. Stan DeJarnett is now leading the committee following his appointment to the Board earlier this year.

Three local charter schools had their charters renewed. Those schools are:

  • Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (APS)
  • Fulton Academy of Science and Technology (Fulton)
  • Skyview High School (Fulton) 

Full Board Meeting 

Following a brief public comment period for the proposed State Board rules, the Board jumped right in to business. A lot of the discussion centered around the use of federal stimulus money and the guidance being given to local districts on the spending of that money. While it was recognized that the Board cannot earmark those funds, some believe that by giving local districts some ideas on how to spend money, it would make it easier for districts.

There was no report from either the Chair or Superintendent. 

01/15 - January State Board Report

January State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 1/15/2021

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The State Board met for their January meeting earlier this week. As per the norm, the first board meeting of the year coincides with the start of the new session of the General Assembly and the Governor's State of the State address. There were a couple new faces on the Board, as Governor Kemp's two new appointees Dr. Stan DeJarnett and Matt Donaldson joined for their first meeting as Board members. 

Budget Committee

The Budget Committee kicked the meeting off and had a heavy focus on CARES and CARES2 (federal COVID-19 related legislation) funding distributions. The most noteworthy being the $1.7 billion of supplemental funds that was included in the most recent COVID relief bill passed in Congress (CARES2). The Board had to formally accept the money, but the exact distribution to local districts is still being discussed. Some members of the Board had questions regarding some of the specifics and Department of Education staff was still ironing out the details of the distributions at the time of the meeting.

The committee also approved supplemental CARES funding to go to districts who had to set aside additional CARES funds for equitable services. The full list of districts and the amounts there were distributed can be found here.

On the whole, there were 11 items on the Budget Committee agenda, all moved to the consent agenda. 

Rules Committee

Following Budget, Rules met and took up eight items on their agenda. The committee heard presentations from several charter schools who had their contracts up for renewal or an amendment, and two districts had hardship waivers approved. All Rules Committee items were placed on the consent agenda.

Concluding the business of the Rules Committee was a presentation for Department of Education Chief of Staff Matt Jones who gave an update on the mathematics standards revision that started before the pandemic. After a pause, the process recently started back up and proposed standards look to be unveiled sometime in the first half of 2021.

Full Board

It was a quick morning and a light agenda for the full Board, as they quickly finished their work ahead of the Governor's State of the State. Only one item, an individual legal case, was held out for a separate vote. 

The team at Pioneer RESA played a video showing all their work to adapt in this COVID-19 climate, and Director Justin Old was on the phone to answer any questions on the great work they are doing in these challenging times.

The next Board meeting will take place over two days, February 17 and 18 in Atlanta. 

12/10 - December State Board Report

December State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 12/10/2020

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The December meeting of the State Board of Education followed a once familiar pattern with committee meetings on Wednesday and the full Board meeting on Thursday.

Budget Committee

It was a rather lengthy agenda for the Budget Committee this month, as they reviewed 30 agenda items. Most of the items were non-controversial, but one required a more extensive examination and was held out for a separate vote. The board item would give the State Superintendent the authority to enter into a contract with a to be named vendor to administer the Voluntary Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water Grant Program. 

Rules Committee

In a stark contrast, the Rules Committee took up only 3 items, and moved them all to the consent agenda. Included in those items were a new state charter school, a new appointment to the State Charter Schools Commission, and the release of the 2021 State Board Meeting calendar. The calendar for the year can be found here.

Other Committees

The State Schools Committee and the Operations Committee met following the Rules Committee meeting, but no action items were considered.

Board Meeting

The full board got together Thursday morning to wrap up this meeting. It was a relatively quick affair following a short executive session. All items added to the agenda, including the Budget Committee item held from the day before, were approved.

There were two presentations, starting with Deputy Superintendent Tiffany Taylor who gave the board an update on the state of charter schools in Georgia. She provided the board with graphs outlining the charter approval process, as well as test scores across all charter schools in the state.

The final presentation of the day came from the Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA). GOSA staff updated the Board on the Governor's Honors program and the challenges they faced during 2020, as well as the future of the program.

The video recording of the meeting can be found here

The next meeting will take place December 11 at 3:00pm where the Board will consider a statement with regards to former Chief Turnaround Officer Dr. Eric Thomas.

The final meeting of 2020 will be held December 21. It is expected the board will elect officers for 2021, as well as revisit the End of Course final grade weight issue that dominated the previous two board meetings.

11/20 - November State Board Report

November State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 11/20/2020

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Following the passionate discussion at last month's meeting, the State Board met over two days this week to continue to debate the grade weight for the Milestones End of Course (EOC) exams for the 2020/2021 school year. If you recall, at the last meeting State Superintendent Richard Woods issued a recommendation for a proposed State Board Rule that would lower the grade weight of the EOC from its usual 20% to 0.01% just for this school year. After a discussion, the Board moved forward with posting for public comment a similar proposal that would lower the grade weight from 20% down to 10%.

To give more time to the discussion, the Board held their meeting over the span of two days, with the public portion of day one focused on EOC discussion and a meeting of the State Schools Committee, and day two handling official business and presentations from the Department of Education.

Kicking off the discussion, Board Chair Scott Sweeney announced the results of the survey and comment period that took place between the October and November meetings. According to the Department of Education  "A total of 93,079 responded, with 86.31% saying the weight should be .01%, 11.35% saying it should be 10%, and 2.34% saying it should be 20%".

Much of the concern expressed by board members centered around accountability for teachers, students, and districts. There is some concern among members that by placing little weight on the test the students would not take it seriously. Ultimately, all involved seem to be concerned that no one is punished for either placing too much weight on the test or not placing enough weight.

The video of Day One's discussion on the EOC weight can be found here

Day Two was kicked off with public hearing on the proposed rule. Representatives from Cobb County Schools, Lanier County Schools, and PAGE all spoke in favor of the Superintendent's original proposal of the 0.01% weight. 

During the Superintendent's Report, Dr. Caitlin Dooley provided an update on student performance over the past five years to take a look at how Georgia's students are doing in comparison to their counterparts around the country. Tiffany Taylor followed with a detailed look at the ins and outs of what it means to be a Strategic Waiver School System or a Charter System. Closing the report was the Superintendent himself presenting "The Roadmap to Reimagining K-12 Education in Georgia", which can be found here.

Outside of a couple legal cases, the only action item on the agenda for this meeting was the EOC rule. When the time came, more discussion followed and several potential outcomes were floated, as it increasingly seemed as if the 10% proposal that was on the table would not be the final outcome. At the end of it all, it was decided that the rule would be amended with two key distinctions. First, the weight would be dropped back down to 0.01%. Secondly, the word "minimum" would be added in order to allow local districts to decide how much weight the tests would carry for their district. There was concern that by making these changes and forcing the rule to be reposted for another 30 days, students would be taking the exam not knowing how much of their grade it would be or place schools and districts in a tough spot by giving the exams with no specific weight. However, it was noted that schools could go back and retroactively re-weigh the exam and modify a student's grade.

When it came up for a vote, the proposed rule was amended and passed with the above changes. Because the rule was changed, it will be posed for 30 more days for public comment, and a called Board meeting will be required in December to pass the final rule. The changes to the rule passed by a vote of 10-3. 

The next board meeting will take place December 10, with the called meeting currently scheduled for December 21.  

10/01 - October State Board Report

October State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 10/1/2020

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It has been a long time since a State Board meeting was so contentious that it was painful to watch, but we had one yesterday.  State Board member Martha Zoller tried several times to change the tone and get the meeting back on track.  We appreciated her efforts. While disagreements between the State Superintendent/Department of Education and a few members of the State Board are often bubbling beneath the surface, this month those disagreements were obvious and heated. While the main fight centered around testing, it is clear that there are issues beyond testing that need to be worked out between the Board and Department. 

Budget Committee

After a much longer than expected executive session, the first item on the Budget Committee agenda started the wrangling. In what seemed to be a relatively benign item, the committee was asked to approve an additional $10 million in funding to administer the Georgia Milestones for the fall semester. According to the Department, the increase in funding is required because the budget anticipated approval of the waiver from the US Department of Education which would have allowed the state to forego the assessments this year. Since we do have to give them, money has to be allocated. 

Right off the bat it became a fight over funding for the new formative assessment, DRC BEACON. The sticking point was the $1.5 million set aside for BEACON vs the amount of funding and resources that are being provided to the innovative assessment pilots currently under development. Several members of the Board pointed out that more was being spent on BEACON than was spent on the pilots, while the Department noted that because the DOE and Board will eventually have to choose between the pilots, they are staying out of it to prevent a conflict of interest.

As is often the case in a budget, there are competing interests here.  The innovative assessment pilots are federally approved but received no federal funding.  These pilots are ultimately to lead to a replacement for Milestones.  In an unusual move, the federal Department approved multiple pilots for Georgia but the state has to choose one eventually to move foreward.  At the same time, the state -- through legislation and otherwise -- has increased the emphasis on formative assessments.  Formative assessments are given periodically and designed to see where students are as opposed to summative assessments, given at the end of the year or course and designed around finding out how students did.  The accountability system is built around summative assessments. BEACON is part of that shift toward including more formative assessments.

Ultimately, this item was pulled for a separate vote, while the other 15 items of the committee's agenda were added to the consent agenda.

Rules Committee

Following the fireworks of the Budget Committee, the Rules Committee provided a brief reprieve but also foreshadowed the discussion to come. Of note, the approval of the much discussed Health Education Standards were pulled from the agenda. Little explanation was given.

The Rules Committee did move forward the Workforce Ready Career Pathway, as well as the Language Assistance Program for English Language Learners, both of which were held out for a separate vote. 

Also pulled for a separate vote was State Superintendent Richard Woods' proposal to have the Milestones End of Course tests count only as .01% of a student's grade for the 2020-2021 school year, as opposed to the current 20%. Board Member Mike Royal objected to the item being placed on the consent agenda, but agreed to hold further discussion until the full Board meeting.

Full Board Meeting - VIDEO LINK

At times Thursday afternoon, it was hard to tell where they were in the agenda because of the constant discussion around testing. It really came to a head during the Superintendent's report given by Dr. Allison Timberlake and Chief of Staff Matt Jones. Dr. Timberlake provided an update of the assessment program for the 2020-2021 school year, and the innovative assessment pilot. When the Chief of Staff began his update on Governor Kemp's assessment task force, tempers in the room began to flair. Several board members questioned why they were just hearing about this task force, while Superintendent Woods pushed back noting that the task force was the Governor's. 

This discussion quickly became a discussion about the Superintendent's end of course grade weight proposal from the Rules Committee. Board Member Helen Rice voiced her concern that they did not have enough notice on the proposal, while the Superintendent noted they had over a week to look over his suggestion.

To save everyone reading time, I won't go into each and every argument made by each side. Ultimately it boiled down to the Superintendent and a handful of Board Members (notably, all appointed for the first time by Governor Kemp) making the point that the Board supported an assessment waiver for the 2020-2021 school year, and when that was denied the work around was the make the tests count for so little that they would be inconsequential. The other side was a group of Board members who argued that the test should still count for this year, and by removing its importance, the students would not take it seriously and that there should still be a level of accountability.

For those unfamiliar with the assessment system, here is a little background on the issue.  The end of course tests were created in the A+ Education Reform Act of 2000.  They were intended to replace the graduation tests over time.  Since assessment results were often used to claim educators were not doing a good job, there was concern that students would not take them seriously.  They weren't used to determine graduation or anything else.  The first year, the score was put on the transcript then became a weighted part of the student's final grade.  It was set at 20%.  Over 15 years later, here we are. The State Superintendent recommended amending the State Board rule so that this year the End of Course tests would count for .01% instead of 20% of the student's grade.  Their grade would solely be based on their class work. Since these are high school courses, there is an impact on the GPA which impacts class rank and scholarships. No other Milestones assessment impacts the student's grade. 

At the end of it all, those in opposition to the Superintendent's proposal offered a solution of their own. Instead of the tests counting .01% or 20%, the test would count for 10% of a student's grade for this school year. 

A vote was held on both proposals, with the .01% proposal failing, and the 10% proposal passing. Almost everyone who voted "yes" on one proposal voted "no" on the other and vice versa. 

The discussion over this issue lasted for hours. There were pointed comments, snapping at one another, crying, and overall a general disagreement with the process. It was not all confined to the meeting, as the Superintendent was quick to release a statement condemning the actions of the board using language that mirrored his response to Secretary Betsy DeVos when the waiver was initially denied. 

It is important to note that the vote on this issue was to POST the potential change in the rule, and that there will be a lot more discussion on this issue before it is all said and done.  State rulemaking requires a 30 day public comment period before the rule is adopted, so the public has a chance to weigh in on this issue.  Check here for the instructions.  The deadline is November 12th.

As for the rest of the meeting, all the items on the agenda were passed by the board, including the testing budget item pulled for a separate vote. 

The next meeting of the State Board will be November 19th. 

08/28 - August State Board Report

August State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 8/28/2020

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For the first time since February, the State Board of Education met in person for thier monthly meetings. While in person meetings are usually held over the course of two days, the Board condensed the meeting into one long session on Thursday.

Budget Committee

The Budget Committee started the in-person portion of the meeting, and quickly got off to an interesting start. The renewal of a contract with MetaMetrics Inc for the licensing of lexile measures, and a contract with the University of Wisconsin for administration of ACCESS for English Language Learners. While on its face, both are innocuous contract renewals that in a normal year might be passed along without a second glance, but in the COVID world, there were some concerns on how both of these would be administered if students are taking Milestones or are in person. The DOE responded to those concerns by assuring the Board that they are taking all of the COVID related challenges into mind as they enter these contracts and are looking for ways to be flexible during the 2020-2021 school year.

This theme would follow the entire Budget Committee portion of the meeting, as both Board Members and DOE Staff were fully aware of the challenges facing our schools and districts this year. One major item was the approval of additional CARES Act funds to offset decreases in revenue and increases of the cost of Special Education expenses related to COVID-19. 

Ultimately 18 items from the Budget Committee agenda were added to the consent agenda. 

Rules Committee 

The big news out of the Rules Committee meeting was the approval of a resolution that named which End of Course Tests (EOCT) would be administered in the 2020-2021 school year. If you recall, during the most recent legislative session SB 367 reduced the number of EOCT that would be administered, with the State Board having final say over which tests would remain for grades 9-12. Ultimately, the board decided that the EOCTs for Algebra I or Coordinate Algebra, American Literature and Composition, Biology, and US History would remain.

The committee also approved the standards for the new courses, History and Literature of the Old Testament and History and Literature of the New Testament. This was originally on the schedule for earlier in the year, but was held after several Board members had concerns about the process.

A lengthy, sometimes heated, discussion broke out over the approval of contract amendments for a number of Strategic Waiver School Systems. The oversight role of the board was a the center of the discussion, with some Board members concerned that the Board is not taking an active enough role. Eventually, the contract amendments were added to the consent agenda.

Among other items, the Health standards  and standards for the Workforce Ready Career Pathway were approved for posting for public comment, while the Board gave the Department of Education approval to initiate the rulemaking process for four items. Ultimately, 14 of the 15 Rules committee items were added to the consent agenda, with the EOCT resolution being held for a separate vote. 

Full Committee

There was no Chair Report at this month's meeting.

For the Superintendent's Report, Dr. Stephanie Johnson gave an update on the status of the School Improvement department, specifically surrounding the challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Board voted on the consent agenda, the EOCT Resolution, and one legal case. All passed unanimously.

The next Board meeting is scheduled to take place on September 30 and October 1, but the format of that meeting remains to be seen.

07/23 - July State Board Report

July State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 7/23/2020

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It was a highly anticipated State Board meeting, as rumors and news reports swirled on potential actions the board would take during their monthly meeting. The day before the meeting, reports from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated that the Board would be attempting to set a universal start date for the 2020-2021 school year. Ultimately, this resolution was pulled from the agenda and not mentioned. As an FYI for readers, the idea that public comments could be made was also part of the rumblings.  There is no regularly scheduled public comment period at a State Board meeting except for public hearings related to rule adoption.  If someone wishes to address the Board, they must ask the Chair in writing seven days in advance.  The State Board's bylaws 8-1 covers this.

However, there was discussion on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will have on schools and students. Of main concern was students starting the school year virtually, as well as how districts would Receive an accurate student count if classes are being held virtually. Unfortunately the sound was breaking up during much of this so the majority of it was lost on the audience.

The meeting agenda and links to all board items can be found HERE

Budget Committee

The majority of the budget committee items were in response to the FY2021 budget that passed out of the General Assembly last month.  Specifically, grants aimed at CTAE and GNETS programs were targeted for expanded funding. During the Budget Committee portion of the meeting, Dr. Allison Timberlake provided an update on the alternative assessment pilots that are under development. Due to the pandemic, work on those has slowed causing a need for the Board to approve an extension in the contract. The first evaluation of the pilot is due October 1st.  Dr. Timberlake also noted that this Department will be looking for an extension from the Federal government on the alternative waiver process.

More CARES money was also approved for distribution including funding to make up for the additional funding required for private schools under the equitable services provisions. Ultimately, 27 Budget Committee items were added to the consent agenda.

In the face of some districts electing to start the school year virtually, the board approved entering into a contract with the Georgia Technology Authority. Under this agreement, the Department of Education will have greater access to resources which can help districts and students in need of access to high speed internet.

Rules Committee

In a short section of the meeting, the Rules Committee added 2 items to the consent agenda, the approval of additional private schools participating in the Special Needs Scholarship program, and contract amendments for 21 Strategic Waiver School Systems (combined into one agenda item). 

All agenda items were approved by the Board.

The next State Board meetings are scheduled for August 26-27.   

05/15 - May State Board Report and Legislative Update

May State Board Report and Legislative Update
by Angela Palm on 5/15/2020

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The State Board of Education held its monthly meeting yesterday (Thursday) by teleconference. The Committee of the Whole discussed the agenda items and set the agenda for the Board meeting. One legal case had a separate vote; everything else was moved to the consent agenda. A few of the items are highlighted below.

A grant was approved to reimburse 53 districts for some of the high cost of educating special needs students.  When the direct instructional and related services costs exceed $27,000 for an individual student, the state can reimburse the district from 10% of the IDEA funds set aside for state uses.  The grant is just under $4 million to address the $15.6 million requested for 309 students. All help is appreciated to meet the needs of students.

The Board authorized the State Superintendent to receive a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assist school districts in voluntarily testing for lead in the drinking water.  The plan for use of the grant is here.

The Board approved just over $13,600 for travel expenses, dating from August 2018, for the Chief Turnaround Office.  Staff said this is the final round of invoices.  In March, the Board approved $53,894 to pay outstanding invoices for contracted work and $84,680 for travel expenses in 2018-2019.  The Chief Turnaround Officer is currently on a leave of absence.  There was a called State Board meeting scheduled this afternoon for a "discussion and possible action on resolution on Thomas v Department of Education"  which is the lawsuit filed by Eric Thomas, the Chief Turnaround Officer.  It has now been cancelled.

Standards for the financial technology pathway were approved for posting.  Comments received over the last 30 days were positive, 26% were from business and industry.

The Board adopted a resolution approving a few more waivers for the 2019-20 school year. 

Staff presented to the Board a picture of what the ordered 14% cuts look like.  Division managers will now recommend how to take those cuts in their department.  The proposed cuts have to be reported to the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget and the Appropriations Chairmen of both chambers by May 20th. The powerpoint also includes other recommendations and actions taken to downsize. It does not include QBE and categorical grants but those are also subject to the 14% cut.  

Legislative Update 

As you know, this legislative session has been suspended since March 13th.  We are beginning to get some clarity on when it might restart.  Speaker of the House David Ralston has been advocating for a June 11th restart for a while now.  Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan wanted to shoot for a mid-May date which obviously did not happen and now recommends June 15th. Both chambers are working on protocols for working through the rest of the session.  The state budget must be done by June 30th.  In the meantime, there have been two Joint Appropriations Committee meetings and another one is planned Monday.  

As referenced above, agencies have been asked to submit amended budgets with a 14% cut for FY '21.  The House Budget Office prepared some information that helps understand the situation.  Agencies had already had to submit cuts of 6% but QBE and a few other items were shielded from that.  Some of you have noted Governor Kemp's comments on the importance of continuing a focus on education during this and hoped it meant that you wouldn't see the cut.  I hate to kill anybody's hope, so let's just say "hope for the best and prepare for the worst."  He does value the work of educators and knows how important an educated workforce is -- as do the Appropriations Chairmen, Speaker, and Lt. Governor.  If they can minimize the pain, they will, but they have to juggle a number of priorities.

This month's revenue report was ugly and the next one may be worse.  The amended FY '20 budget included $100 million from the reserves, but State Economist Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman said Wednesday that the current projection is that $1 billion to $1.5 billion more will be needed from the reserve fund to close out this fiscal year.  Thankfully we have $2.7 billion in the fund, but that also means the state must move forward carefully.  The bright points in the revenue are online retail sales (up 18%), lottery sales for HOPE and Pre-K, and the "sin taxes" on alcohol and tobacco.

The unemployment numbers look horrendous and are, but Dr. Dorfman reported that 75% of the valid claims were for partial unemployment.  So many people were still working but for fewer hours.  As businesses open up or add hours to their operation, we should see this begin to change.  When the tide will turn is the mega billion dollar question.  Kelly Farr, Director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, said we might not see the full impact on sales taxes until after Memorial Day.  That's not far away but we will likely be in FY '21 before we know the full fiscal impact of these last months.

Looking forward, Dr. Dorfman expects the third quarter (calendar year) to be bad, probably 10% below his January projections.  The 4th quarter will begin to feel normal but this will take time.  The Governor will need to change the revenue estimate for FY '21 before the Legislature knows how much to allocate.  That will probably happen after the next revenue report, just before the session resumes.

The House Higher Education Committee also held a virtual meeting to hear from the Lottery, the Georgia Student Finance Commission, and higher ed.  HB 444, the dual enrollment bill, has been signed and is effective for  Summer 2020. 

We will end with a salute to the late Sen. Jack Hill.  What a stunning loss.  He was a leader who did not seek the spotlight -- dodged it if he could -- but never failed to make hard decisions and stand behind them.  Sen. Hill was elected in 1990 and served on the Appropriations Committee from the start.  He became Chair in 2003.  While he is strongly linked to the budgeting process, he was also Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee from 1994 through 2002 and was an ex-officio member of the Education Committee much of that time.  He was a calm, shrewd leader, and he is missed. Sen. Blake Tillery has stepped in to Chair Senate Appropriations and sounds like a good student of the Jack Hill School of Appropriations. 

04/09 - April Called Board Meeting Report

April Called Board Meeting Report
by Scott Bierman on 4/9/2020

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The State Board of Education held a remote called meeting Thursday morning to handle several items of business between the previously scheduled March and May meetings.

Budget Committee kicked things off by hearing 18 items, all of which were added to the consent agenda. Notably, the approval of the State Superintendent to enter into a contract with Teach for America to provide training to new Teach fo America participants in the Metro Atlanta area, the renewal of several contracts, and grants given to local districts to purchase nutrition equipment. One very important item heard during today's meeting was the STOP School Violence grant, a grant received by the DOE from the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council that would go to assisting in preventing and reducing school violence. These, along with all 18 items can be found here.

The real fireworks came during the Rules Committee portion of the called meeting. While 11 of the 12 items were added to the consent agenda without problem, one item caused heartburn among several members. The approval to post the High School Social Studies Elective Course standards was throughly discussed by the Board and DOE staff, specifically around how the standards for 2 courses, History and Literature of the New Testament and History and Literature of the Old Testament, were developed. Several members of the Board pointed out that they were not informed of the process and would like to have been involved, while Superintendent Woods and DOE staff pointed out that they were following the same protocol for all standards reviews. Ultimately, the two courses were pulled from the item and the remaining courses, Sports in America and Intelligence and National security, were moved for approval to post.

The standards of the Commercial Fishing Management Career Pathway were approved, and the standards for the Financial Technology Pathway were approved to post. Franklin County School System requested that their Strategic Waiver School System contract be terminated and converted into a new charter system contract, and Camden County School System requested they be allowed to change RESAs from First District RESA to Okefenokee RESA. Both changes were added to the consent agenda. The list of Local Board Governance Training proposals was approved, including all 49 trainings offered by GSBA. The Rules Committee also moved the renewal of three charter schools, the renewal of state charter schools, and one charter school amendment to the consent agenda. 

There was not a report from either the Superintendent of Board Chair. The Board voted on two items, the consent agenda, and adjournment, both of which passed unanimously. 

03/26 - March Board Report

March Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 3/26/2020

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Usually, State Board of Education meetings take place over two days, with committees meeting one day followed by the entire board the following day. However, during a time when nothing is normal, the Board had to alter their plans and have the board meeting on only one day. And instead of a meeting in Downtown Atlanta at the Twin Towers, this one took place via Skype call and live streamed on YouTube. 

It was an abbreviated meeting, with a limited agenda. There were five items from the budget committee, one grant amendment, one new grant, two items related to the restructuring of the Chief Turnaround Office, and recurring contracts.

The Rules Committee heard two items, the first being the adoption of the Four Year State Plan for Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act and to submit the plan to the US Department of Education. The most notable news from the Rules centered around COVID-19 response and waivers being given to local districts in response to the current health crisis. Superintendent Woods recommended, and the board approved a long list of statutory and regulatory requirements to be waived for the remainder of the 2019/2020 school year. Of note the Department applied for, and has been conditionally granted by the US Department of Education, a waiver that would remove the requirement for mandatory state assessments for this school year. Below is the full list of statutes and State Board Rules that are being waived for the current school year, with more information on each at this link.

Each action item was pulled for an individual vote, and each item passed. Following votes, the Board received updates on how the State Schools are dealing with COVID-19 school closures, as well as how the current health crisis is putting a hold on the standards review.

The next Board meeting is scheduled to take place May 13-14, and hopefully by then we will be able to reconvene at the Twin Towers for an in person meeting. 

Shortly after the Board meeting concluded, Governor Kemp issued an executive order closing K-12 schools through April 24. Schools would be scheduled to reopen on April 26, but the Governor has the ability to move that date again if necessary. 

Waived Statutory and Regulatory Requirements 

Awarding Units of Credit and Acceptance of Transfer Credits/Grades: O.C.G.A. §20-2-159.3; O.C.G.A. §20-2-159.4 (c); SBOE Rule 160-5-1-.15(2)(d)(3) and (4), and (2)(h) • Career Education: SBOE Rule 160-4-8-.08 • Categorical Allotment Requirements: O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-167, 20-2-184.1 • Certification: O.C.G.A. §§ 20‐2‐200, 20‐2‐201 • Class Size and Reporting: O.C.G.A. § 20-2-182; SBOE Rule 160-5-1-.08 • Competencies / Prescribed Courses: O.C.G.A. §20-2-142 • Comprehensive Health/Physical Education Program: O.C.G.A. §20-2-277(a)(1); SBOE Rule 160- 4-2-.12(2)(b) and (g) • Direct Classroom Expenditures and Expenditure Controls: O.C.G.A. § 20-2-171 • Educational Programs: O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-154(b), 20-2-154.1, 20-2-156 and SBOE Rule 160-4-2- .38, SBOE Rule 160-4-5-.01(2)(d) • Georgia Virtual School Funding and Tuition: O.C.G.A §20-2-319.1(b)(2) • Graduation Requirements and Seat Time: SBOE Rule 160-4-2-.48(6)(i) • Organization of Schools / Middle School Programs / Scheduling: SBOE Rule 160-4-2-.05(2)(c), (d), (e), and (g) • Personnel Required: SBOE Rule 160-5-1-.22 • Promotion and Retention: O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-283, 20-2-284; SBOE Rule 160-4-2-.11 • Scheduling for Instruction: O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-160 except to the extent it relates to funding, 20-2- 168(c)(1) • School Day and School Year for Students and Employees: O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-151, 20-2-160(a), 20-2-168(c); SBOE Rule 160-5-1-.02 • Statewide Passing Score: SBOE Rule 160-4-2-.13(2)(d) and (f) Student Assessments: O.C.G.A. §20-2-281; SBOE Rule 160-3-1-.07