Legislative Daily Reports

07/21 - July State Board Report

July State Board Report
by Angela Palm on 7/21/2017

The State Board of Education held its regular monthly meetings on Wednesday and Thursday this week.  Wednesday was filled with Committee meetings and executive session.  On Thursday, the Board met as a Committee of the Whole to hear presentations and set the consent agenda for the State Board meeting which followed.

Presentations 

If you ever wonder what, if anything, we are doing to improve public education, tune into the Superintendent's and Chair's reports during the Committee of the Whole.

Dr. Melissa Fincher presented the work being done on the formative assessment for grades 1 and 2 required by legislation the last two years.  The Department has worked with Georgia Public Broadcasting and a game-based company in Austin to develop Keenville. The first phase is to begin next fall.

Dr. Barbara Wall presented the Economic Development Partnership program which rolls out this fall. 

Dr. Martha Ann Todd presented an evaluation of the Hall County pilot of the Technical College Readiness Courses.  It was a small sample since it was offered only in three high schools this spring but Hall County is expanding it.  State Board members were very interested in knowing if other districts were going to offer them this school year but the state won't know until the FTE counts are done.  Dr. Todd explained that it's more likely that they will be offered in the spring due to the qualification requirements.

In an effort to get the information out to as many teachers as possible about the improvements and additions to the Teacher Resource Link (TRL), a powerpoint has been created to walk users through it.  Please note there is no public access to the system.  

Teachers will access it through the district Infinite Campus or student information system, then click on the TRL tab.  There are 28,000 resources for K-12 that can be filtered seven ways.  For K-5 teachers there is also an essentials toolkit for Math and English Language Arts.  Grades 6-8 will get this resource next.  Teachers can save resources to a folder and it will be available to them even if they change districts

If your teachers have struggled to find needed curriculum resources, this is the place for them.  This site was designed as teachers requested to be easy to use. 

Action Taken on Rules 

The State Board adopted proposed changes to two rules:

They also initiated seven rules to incorporate legislative changes.  You can see the proposed changes by clicking on the rule on either of the agendas above. The rule on Language Assistance:  Program for English Learners was pulled from the agenda for further work based on feedback from stakeholders.

Other Action 

The State Board voted to reverse two local board decisions, 2018-38 and 2018-39.

All other items were approved through the consent agenda.

Budget 

Staff presenting to the Budget Committee should know coming in when a program was put into place and what impact data is available because they are going to be asked.  This Committee is being very intentional about looking at results rather than just the budget amount.  If five years of data is available, they want it to see any trends.  They also look for attainable but challenging goals.  For example, the budget item for the high school grants for career, technical, and agricultural education included information on performance on the Perkins Core Indicators.  Committee members questioned why the math and technical skills targets were so low.  The only answer seemed to be that the goals are negotiated with federal officials.

There was a good bit of interest during the session in the score comparability study between Georgia Milestones end-of-course assessments and national assessments required under SB 211. The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, Inc will do the study.

A portion of the FY '18 budget was once again adopted.  They expect their review of the budget to be complete by the August board meeting so they can do the final adoption.

First Priority Act Committee 

The Committee received a report on the meetings on the Education Turnaround Advisory Council, the job description for the Chief Turnaround Officer, and other documents from the Council meetings.  On August 9th at 2 PM the Council and this Committee will meet with representatives from the National Association of State Boards of Education to further discuss the qualifications of the CTO.

The Governor's Office of Student Achievement is recommending that the lowest five percent be calculated by averaging the most recent three years of the CCRPI score and ranking schools by that to determine the lowest five percent.  Under the most recent scores (2014-2016) the average would be 53.4 and 105 schools would be identified.  Under the requirement under state and federal law to identify the lowest five percent, we will always have 100-110 schools identified as needing support. 

The ESSA state plan has a two-step process for determining the lowest five percent: take the lowest five percent of the schools that scored less than 60 on the CCRPI for three consecutive years.  The Committee preferred the GOSA calculation.

The State Board will meet next on August 23-24. 

05/04 - Federal News

Federal News
by Angela Palm on 5/4/2017

We have a few things happening in Washington which is kind of news in itself.  Four topics in particular are of interest in the education world.

Nutrition Standard Changes 

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued a proclamation and press release on flexibility in meeting some nutrition requirements for school meals.  Our pragmatic former Governor noted that children were not getting more nutrition if the food was going into the trash.

Medicaid 

As we've noted before, there are some negative consequences for schools' Medicaid reimbursements in the American Health Care Act as passed by the House today 217-213.  The program has been funded as a partnership between the states and federal government.  As the cost has risen, there have been federal proposals to find a way to cap the expenditure or provide a block grant to states.  The funding structure in the bill is changed to a per capita allotment, and it is left to the state to decide whether school districts are eligible Medicaid providers. 

U.S. Senate leaders have been relatively quiet about the House bill.  After passage this afternoon, it looked like the Senate may come up with their own bill.  Stay tuned.  The National School Boards Association joined 59 other organizations in sending a letter to House members Tuesday detailing the issues.

Executive Order on Local Control 

On April 26th, President Trump issued an Executive Order on Enforcing Statutory Prohibitions on Federal Control of Education declaring it to be the policy of the executive branch "to protect and preserve State and local control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, and personnel of educational institutions, school, and school systems..."  The President directed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to review all regulations and guidance documents for any evidence of federal overreach in the next 300 days. The Order mentioned several federal education bills but not IDEA, but it does not say the Secretary is limited to those bills either.  

Although Secretary DeVos has the authority to do this review on her own and purpose the changes she wants, it is nice to see boundary lines at least mentioned again.  

Budget 

With five months to go in the federal Fiscal Year 2017, Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill. It passed the House yesterday (309-118) and the Senate today (79-18).  The President has said he will sign it. 

The Continuing Resolutions adopted to keep the country afloat this year have maintained appropriations at the 2016 level.  Last month the new administration released a budget blueprint but Congress did not necessarily follow the recommendations there.

As you review these numbers, keep in mind that the appropriations support more than 50 million students in 13,600 school districts. 

Overall, the budget for the U.S. Department of Education is $60 million less than in FY '16. The FY '17 total is $71.6 billion.

IDEA grants are $90 million more than the FY 2016 level for a total of $12 billion to the states. 

Title I has an increase of $100 million.  Additionally it now includes $450 million from the School Improvement Grants program which ESSA ended.  Congress added the extra funding to help with the first year of implementation of state plans under ESSA.  The total Title I appropriation is $15.5 billion.

Title II grants for teacher development are slated for a cut of $294 million this fiscal year, bringing it down to $2.1 billion.  The administration's recommendation was to cut it in half this year and eliminate it next year.

Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants would receive $400 million.  ESSA consolidated 45 programs to create this grant to allow more flexibility in spending.  Although this amount is a far cry from the $1.6 billion ESSA authorized for the program, it is $122 million more than the amount previously funded for the programs eliminated.  The appropriations bill allows states to distribute the money competitively or by formula as long as each district would receive at least $10,000 each. ESSA authorized the funds to be spent on three broad areas:

  • Providing students with a well-rounded education for example: STEM, STEAM, civics, IB and AP participation, college and career counseling)
  • Supporting safe and healthy students (for example: mental health, drug and violence prevention, health & PE) 
  • Supporting the effective use of technology (professional development, blended learning, technology devices for example) -- no more than 25% could be spent on technology infrastructure

Impact Aid for schools went up $23 million to $1.3 billion. 

Charter school grants went up $9 million for a total of $342 million

21st Century Community Learning Centers funding was increased by $25 million for a total of $1.2 billion.  This was one of the programs the Blueprint proposed eliminating in FY '18.

Next the President and Congress will have to agree on FY '18 spending or we will continue at the levels set when the President signs this bill. 

04/07 - End of Session Wrap Up

End of Session Wrap Up
by Angela Palm on 4/7/2017

After 947 bills and 1,440 resolutions, we are through with the 2017 session of the General Assembly.  

This is the first year of the session, so whatever didn't pass is mostly still lurking for next year. Since it will be an election year, there will be bills aplenty. 

One of the few things that died was SR 192, the Constitutional amendment to change the local governance structure.  There is no recovery once the "Do Not Pass" motion has succeeded except somebody introducing it again in another bill. 

Other bills that crossed over then floundered but are still viable next year include:

  • HB 32, making it a crime for any employee of a district to have sexual contact with a student 
  • HB 61, trying to find a way to collect the sales tax on e-retail purchases
  • HB 217, increasing the cap on income tax credits for donations to student scholarship organizations
  • HB 273, the recess bill 
  • HB 329, amending the individual income tax provisions
  • SB 3, the Creating Opportunities Needed Now to Expand Credentialed Training (CONNECT) Act 
  • SB 152, limiting the amount of time a student can be assigned to alternative school 

A list of the bills that passed plus a brief description is here

Revenue 

If you want a refresher on the budget, here's one. Note on the list above, the House is setting up a study committee on equitable local funding.  It's a three person Committee which, according to the author, will look at the recommendations of the Governor's Education Reform Commission. 

On the federal level, Congress is out for a district work period until April 25th.  They have some urgent budget business to take care of when they go back.  They need to pass an appropriations bill for the rest of FY '17 as this one is effective until April 28th.  As they work on the FY '18 budget, they will need to put something in place or the sequestration cuts will automatically kick in again. Those who are new might not be aware of that.  

Don't forget the Blueprint that contains a brief outline of the President's proposals for FY '18.  Talk with your Congressman and Senators while they are out --or their staff -- about the proposals and what they would mean for your district.  For example $1 billion for Title I connected to student-based budgeting and open enrollment doesn't mean much if you have few schools, but a billion dollars provided in some other way could be helpful.  Let them know how the federal dollars help you do your work.  Focus on innovation -- students get choices in more ways than inviting them to go to another school.  Show them what great things are happening in your district.  Talk about all the ways your students are succeeding.

Coming Up 

By the end of the day on May 9th we will know for sure what will go into effect and what the Governor nixed.  Then the rulemaking and implementation begin, so stay tuned and check the State Board agendas and Department of Education website to keep up with what's coming.

I hope many of you will join us in Savannah on June 8th for our annual Policy Workshop where we will once again discuss all that is going on in the world of policy and what school boards need to do.  There are other pre-conference workshops available, if for some unfathomable reason you prefer another topic, and then the summer conference June 9-10.  More information is available here.

03/31 - Day 40: Backdoor Voucher Increase Voted Down

Day 40: Backdoor Voucher Increase Voted Down
by Angela Palm on 3/31/2017

It's been a weird session.  The 2017 session of the General Assembly ended just after 1 AM this morning, but there wasn't much of a sense of celebration as legislators departed.  "There was no joy in Mudville" seemed an apt description, to steal a phrase from a 19th century poem. There was a lot of frustration though as several of the biggest disagreements remained unresolved.  News of the fire under and collapse of part of I-85 north out of town didn't help. 

It seems to be more and more of a struggle for a part-time legislature to deal with the magnitude and variety of issues arising across the state, but both parts seem unlikely to change.  Legislators set a fast pace for themselves this year and stuck to the schedule they set on February 1st. With the third largest legislature in the country, we have a wide variety of personalities with diverse goals and values and that adds even more complexity. (Yes, we have the third largest.  Only New Hampshire and Pennsylvania have larger legislatures than we do.)  

Best Thing Today 

Before getting into the list of bills with action taken today, one of them deserves a bit more explanation and many thanks to Chairman of Senate Education & Youth Committee Sen. Lindsey Tippins:HB 217, increasing the cap on income tax credits for donations to student scholarship organizations (SSOs) to give vouchers to students to go to private school.  

The House initially wanted the cap to be raised from $58 million to $100 million over the next few years.  The Senate decreased it to $65 million and limited the administrative fee of the SSOs to 3%.  The House countered with a $85 million cap and a tiered system of fees.  

Sen. Michael Williams asked the Senate to agree.  To his credit he also corrected his mistake on Tuesday when he said the QBE formula is fully funded.  However, he went on to say that one way to fill that funding gap is to send more students to private school.  He clearly believes the hype that this saves money.  

Sen. Lindsey Tippins asked the Senate to disagree with the House version for all the reasons you've heard before.  They voted down Sen. Williams motion by a huge margin (12-39).  They approved Sen. Tippins' motion to disagree with the House 48-4 and the House never took it up. The program remains in effect at the $58 million credit cap.

Hurray for Sen. Tippins, not just because his remarks reflected our views, but because he stepped out with complete discussion points and hard facts.  That's what it is going to take to actually deal with difficult issues.

What Happened Today? 

This was the first year of the two-year session; anything not voted down is still "alive" next year.  So don't write anything off yet.  The Governor has 40 days to sign, veto, or allow a bill to become a law without his signature.  May 9th is the 40th day.

Below is a rundown of major happenings today.  It is as complete and correct as possible.  We'll do a summary of the complete session soon.

Sent to the Governor 

HB 139, financial transparency

HB 198, providing information on flu vaccines

HB 237, creating income tax credits for donations to the Public School Innovation Foundation Fund

HB 340, revising the tag ad valorem tax process, went to Conference Committee but the only thing they were able to agree on was changing the taxable value of a lease.  The rest of the problems will be left for another day.  Kudos to Rep. Shaw Blackmon for tackling this complex topic and trying to balance all the interests.  Elected in August 2015, he hit the ground running.

HB 430, the charter school bill, took an interesting path.  Sen. Vincent Fort got his Community Schools bill, SB 30, attached in the Senate.  The House rejected that amendment and struck it.  The Senate then agreed to the bill which left it as it came out of the Senate Education & Youth Committee.

HB 434, eminent domain condemnations converted to other than public use 

SB 16, expanding the conditions eligible for lawful use of medical marijuana

SB 149, training for school resource officers

SB 186, clarifying that students who get a high school diploma through a dual enrollment program are eligible for HOPE, PLUS HB 331, the Caregiver Educational Consent Act, attached

SB 201, use of sick leave for family members

SB 211, on assessments, passed along with HB 114, the valedictorian bill that was attached. 

SB 258, ineligibility for city or school board office for failure to turn over public money

Left Among the Debris 

HB 32, sexual misconduct between a school employee and student, didn't make it out of House Rules by Crossover but then SB 154 was stripped and used to try to get it through.  That didn't work either as SB 154 remained in House Rules too. 

HB 61, the e-retail sales tax bill, was attached to the income tax bill and neither made it out of a conference committee

HB 273, the recess bill

SB 3, the CONNECT Act, ended up in a conference committee due to attachments and never made it out

SB 30, the Sustainable Community School Operational Grants, failed to make it out of House Rules, was attached to the charter school bill then stripped off that

SB 152, relating to assignment to alternative school, was voted down by the House 65-102, reconsidered and voted down again, 71-100.

Thanks to each of you for the work you do on behalf of the 1.7 million students in public schools in Georgia! And a very special thanks for responding to our legislative alerts.  It is always a pleasure to serve you.

03/29 - Day 39: Oh Boy

Day 39: Oh Boy
by Angela Palm on 3/29/2017

Most of this day was spent with many lobbyists musing about the slow pace of the day.  Both chambers seemed to be just moseying along killing time unlike the frantic pace that we are all used to in the closing days of the session.  Then the rat showed up.  Literally, not figuratively.  Really, a rat showed up at the Senate desk for pages, but a valiant doorkeeper took it out and saved us all from dissolving into the screaming-meemies.

Late in the evening, things really livened up especially for the wonks among us.  The two chambers stopped and started like a game of chicken.  Bills were attached to each other.  Some bills were stripped and other language inserted.  Amendments piled up.  Some questioned whether an amendment was germane to the bill.  Shocker, but they almost always are.  

If you're wondering what all this has to do with education, legislators don't work in a vacuum. They are faced with a huge variety of bills.  When one bill is held "hostage" to try to make the other chamber act, it impacts other bills for better or worse.  Late tonight (Tuesday) Lt. Governor Casey Cagle said the Senate had voted on 38 House bills but did not see the House acting on the Senate's six priority bills then called for a recess.  The House also needed a break.  

The House came back and took up one of the Senate's priority bills which had some House bills attached.  Just before the House voted, the Senate started back.  By the time it was done, the House had voted down the Senate priority bill (SB 1 on defining and punishing domestic terrorism) twice and the Senate was having a marathon debate on a religious freedom amendment to a bill that most would consider had nothing to do with that.

The Senate stopped debate and tabled everything.  While it looked like a response to the House, it was also the move everybody expected from the start of the day since they had 72 bills on the calendar.  It allows the Senate to call bills Thursday in any order they choose.  The House did a little more business, postponed two bills until the next legislative day, and went home too.  It was way past time.

Action on Bills

HB 139, financial transparency, passed the Senate 51-0.  A floor amendment added HB 148 requiring a unique military identifier to track the progress of military students (HB 148).  It goes back to the House for agreement with the Senate substitute. 

HB 217, the backdoor voucher of income tax credits for donations to student scholarship organizations, passed the Senate 34-18 and goes back to the House for agreement. 

HB 338, the First Priority Act, passed the Senate 133-36, and the House agreed to the substitute.  It goes to the Governor.

HB 329, changing the state income tax structure, passed the Senate 38-16 with HB 61, collecting internet sales taxes, attached.  It went back to the House for agreement and they disagreed.  It's back in the Senate for them to insist or retreat from their position.

HB 340, revising the tag ad valorem tax process, went back to the Senate when the House disagreed with the Senate substitute. 

HB 434, on eminent domain, passed the Senate 42-10.  They amended it with a two-year moratorium.  It goes back to the House for agreement.

SB 3, the CONNECT Act, passed the House 152-18 with HB 458, traffic cameras in school zones, attached.  It goes back to the Senate.  SB 3 was one of the Senate's six priority bills mentioned above.

SB 16, expanding the allowable uses for medical marijuana, passed the House 167-4 and goes back to the Senate for agreement.  It now includes autism but the patient must have severe autism for it to apply to anyone under 18.  

SB 104, requiring the posting of the sex trafficking hotline information in government buildings, passed the House 161-3 with HB 9, the upskirting bill, attached.  It's back in the Senate for agreement.

SB 211, on assessments, passed the House 167-4 with HB 114, the valedictorian bill attached.  It goes to the Senate for agreement. 

The Senate also approved three study committees:  special tax exemptions (SR 222), rural Georgia (SR 392), and Cyber SEcurity Education (SR 454).

Among the bills tabled in the Senate are:

  • HB 430, the charter school bill
  • HB 234, rapid flash beacons in crosswalks
  • HB 237, income tax credits for donations to the Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation
  • HB 198, providing information on the flu vaccine
  • HB 273, the recess bill 

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

The General Assembly is in recess until Thursday, March 30th.

Wednesday, March 29th 

10:30 AM Joint House and Senate Education Committees meet in 606 CLOB to hear two presentations.   A new bill was added to the agenda --   HR 686 creating a House Study Committee on equitable local funding. 

Thursday, March 30th 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM for sine die

03/24 - Day 38: Surprise Voucher Amendment Voted Down

Day 38: Surprise Voucher Amendment Voted Down
by Angela Palm on 3/24/2017

Just two more legislative days!  Each chamber passed 20 bills today, most of which were not related to education, as we head to the finish line.

Voucher Proposal Pops Up 

The day's excitement came with word that an amendment creating a voucher program would be proposed to HB 338, The First Priority Act.  With only about half an hour before the bill would be called for a vote in the Senate, there was some fast work done.  Sen. Hunter Hill tried to bring a scaled down version of his previous voucher bill back.  Any new program set up through a floor amendment is probably not going to go well.  Trying to use the education bill that has been the star of the session -- and already worked out between the House, Senate, and Governor's office -- is also probably not the best idea. 

When criticized for trying to do an end-run around the Committee process, he said voters don't care about the process.  He tried selling it with a less government and more freedom argument plus the "it's their money anyway" line.  It would not decrease the size of government unless we are going to shut something down.  It's not "their" money; it is money paid by all of us. 

It ended up getting only 14 votes for the amendment and 38 opposing it so the amendment failed.  We will definitely take it and celebrate, but do understand that some of those who opposed it were opposing the way Sen. Hill did it not the proposal itself.  

There were two other amendments proposed, but both failed.  One would have had the Chief Turnaround Officer appointed by the State Superintendent and reporting to him.  It failed 20-34.  An amendment authorizing the turnaround coaches to take parents to court for failing to support the student failed 13-32.  The bill passed 37-18 and goes back to the House for agreement to the Senate changes.

Also Passing Today

Senate 

HB 437, setting up the Agricultural Education Advisory Commission again.  It goes to the Governor.

HB 340, revising provisions of the tag ad valorem tax (TAVT).  It goes back to the House for agreement.  The TAVT is a one-time tax paid when purchasing a car.  

HB 224, allowing students living in military housing to choose any public school in the district with capacity.  Two amendments failed.  It goes to the Governor.

House 

SB 186, ensuring students who earn their high school diploma through dual enrollment are eligible for HOPE, was amended with HB 331, The Caregiver Educational Consent Act.  HB 331 was not voted out of the Senate Committee, so the House is trying again.  SB 186 goes back to the Senate for agreement.

SB 258, ineligible to hold office in a city or school district if you are a holder or receiver of public money and have failed to account for it or turn it over to the proper office.  It already applies to counties.  It goes to the Senate for agreement.

HB 149, regarding training for school resource officers.  The House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security turned this into a Christmas tree -- attached other bills to it.  It goes back to the Senate for agreement.

The House postponed till the next legislative day SB 3, the CONNECT Act, and SB 211, on assessments.

The General Assembly is in recess until Tuesday, March 28th.  Have a great weekend! 

03/22 - Day 37: Million Dollar Turnaround Effort

Day 37: Million Dollar Turnaround Effort
by Angela Palm on 3/22/2017

Christmas arrived early in the form of the FY '18 budget as the House and Senate adopted the Conference Committee Report today and sent it to the Governor.  They added $1 million to begin implementation of HB 338, the First Priority Act, and hire the Chief Turnaround Officer.  We, and others, kept telling legislators that they needed to put in funding to show a commitment to this effort.  So thanks to those who kept their eye on the ball during the negotiating process and made sure at least this much was funded.  

They had already identified $1.25 million in existing innovation grant funds for a competitive grant program that would provide certified school counselor-graduation specialists for the lowest performing high schools.  The Conference Committee added $500,000 for innovation grants which was to include $50,000 for Sustainable Community School Operational Grants.

Other appropriations are pretty much as we started.

Medicaid Funding 

News stories have talked a lot about the proposed American Health Care Act which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. You may have not thought about how the proposed changes to Medicaid funding would affect your students and school budgets.  If passed, the bill would change the way states are alloted Medicaid funds to a per person grant.  See the NSBA issue brief here for more details on the proposed change.  

The U.S. House of Representatives has scheduled a vote on the bill tomorrow.  Let your Congressman know this funding is vital to delivering needed medical services to students with special needs and impoverished students.  If you don't know who your Representative is, you can find out here.  It's extremely helpful for them to hear your local stories of how these funds are used.

Bills Passed 

SR 95, the Constitutional amendment on city school district/county district SPLOSTs, had a redo in the House and passed 128-44.  It will be on the 2018 ballot.

SB 201, requiring employers with 25 employees or more to allow workers to use any sick leave they have for care of immediate family, passed the House with a 3 year sunset.  It goes back to the Senate.

Committee Work 

HB 273, the recess bill was amended before getting a "Do Pass."  It requires recess, encourages an average of 30 minutes per day of unstructured break time, requires local board policies to prohibit withholding recess as a punishment, and ensures the provision is waivable under the current statutes in a flexibility or charter contract.  It goes to Senate Rules.

HB 430, the charter schools bill, was also amended in kind of a win-win for all.  The language around the funding disbursement from the district to the charter schools was changed to more clearly state that it is as earned.  The definition of unused facilities was changed to be a facility which has not been used to house students for two years and is not included in the five year facilities plan.  It also goes on to Senate Rules.

HB 61, on e-retail sales taxes, was attached to HB 329, lowering the income tax, in Senate Finance today.  The Committee changed the proposed income tax changes but the fiscal estimate is a $200 million savings for taxpayers or a $200 million cost to state revenue.  It goes to Senate Rules.

HR 608, creating a Joint Study Committee on School Calendars, passed out of House Special Rules and goes to the regular Rules Committee.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

The General Assembly will convene Friday, March 24th at 10 AM 

03/20 - Day 36: First Priority Act

Day 36: First Priority Act
by Angela Palm on 3/20/2017

Happy Spring!  With only four legislative days to go, there's still a lot of horse trading -- or bill trading -- to do. 

The Senate made an unusual, as in unheard of, move first thing this morning when Senate Rules rescinded their calendar and replaced it with a different slate of bills.  Quite a mind change over the weekend.  The Senate passed HB 425, students who opt out, and it goes to the Governor. A similar bill was vetoed by the Governor last year, but the sponsor tried to address the issues he had.  We'll see.

Governor Nathan Deal has appointed a board for the Georgia Center for Early Language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University.  See the press release and board members here

Budget Conference Committee 

The conferees for the FY '18 budget met for about five minutes and moved on to their other meetings.  The budget details are never worked out in the public meetings; the conference committee report just somehow gets done, usually on Day 40.

Talking About Money 

The Senate Finance Committee had three bills of interest today.

HB 340, revising the tag ad valorem tax (TAVT), was a substitute.  From the beginning this program has had several problems with valuations, how to charge individuals in various circumstances, and how to divide the revenue.  Should we tax on the price paid or the blue book value?  Should new and used cars be taxed the same way?  How should leased vehicles be handled? What about the impact on people just moving into the state?  This might sound tedious, but we're talking about a lot of money.  This version addresses several of the problems but leaves the distribution formula and a phase-in period to a study committee in the interim.  It goes on to Senate Rules.

HB 217, increasing the income tax credits for donations to student scholarship organizations, came out a bit different today.  The cap would be raised to $65 million but no automatic increase was included -- the sponsor wanted a 10% increase annually to get it to $100 million.  The administrative withholding fee for the student scholarship organizations was reduced from 10% to 3%. There was a long debate over this one, especially the decrease in the administrative fee, but it goes on to Senate Rules.

HB 237, creating the Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation, was reduced to $5 million with a sunset in three years.  The question as to whether the bill is constitutional came up again, but it passed 7-6 and goes on to Senate Rules.

"Plan B" Becomes The First Priority Act 

The Senate Education & Youth Committee met today to review the latest version of HB 338, the plan to address the lowest performing schools. The role of the turnaround coach has changed from the House version.  Third-party specialists play a much larger role.  Local boards, in consultation with the turnaround coach, would select a third-party specialist to conduct the diagnostic review rather than the coach leading the effort and perhaps involving a third-party specialist.  The back and forth over this is odd since turnaround coaches would be a third-party and presumably be specialists.  Not special enough apparently.  The coaches are also referred to as "assigned state site liaisons in the school improvement process." 

The funding question for this has come up repeatedly.  This version says: "The local board of education shall not be eligible for supplemental funding to support the implementation of the [intensive school improvement] plan unless such local board demonstrates financial need based on its most current annual budget and the results of the most recent audit.  The local board of education shall coordinate the hiring and contract renewal process for personnel and the allocation of school resources to support the plan.''  From control and management to coordinating.  Hmmm.  Those contracts should be interesting.

The Education Turnaround Advisory Council was trimmed back down in this version.  The Committee amended the substitute bill by naming it "The First Priority Act" and prohibiting the operation of the school by a for profit entity.  It got a "Do Pass" and goes on to Senate Rules.

HB 273, the recess bill; and HB 430, the charter schools bill, were pulled from the agenda but are expected to be back in Committee on Wednesday.

House Education Committee 

Nobody could accuse the House Education Committee of making any rash decisions or of not thoroughly vetting their bills today.  Four bills took over 90 minutes,  but they finished.

  • SB 3, the CONNECT Act, was amended with part of SB 139, on adding a pathway.  Two amendments passed; one failed.  The bill passed and goes on to House Rules.
  • SB 211, the assessments bill, also was moved on to Rules.
  • SB 30, Unlocking the Promise Community Schools Act, came as a substitute and was amended five times before getting a "Do Pass" on to Rules.
  • SB 152, on use of alternative schools, was a substitute that changed the "shalls" to stating the preferred practice in sending students to alternative school.  

The Committee may meet again on Wednesday.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

The General Assembly is in recess until Wednesday, March 22nd

Tuesday, March 21st 

9:30 AM House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee will meet in 406 CLOB

Wednesday, March 22nd 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM

2 PM Senate Finance Committee will meet in 125 CAP

2 PM Senate Education & Youth Committee will meet in 307 CLOB

3 PM House Special Rules Committee will meet in 515 CLOB to hear three bills including, HR 608, a Joint Study Committee on Public Schools Calendar 

03/16 - Day 35: SR 192 Voted Down!

Day 35: SR 192 Voted Down!
by Angela Palm on 3/16/2017

THANK YOU to all who contacted legislators about SR 192, the Constitutional amendment written about earlier today.  There were mentions of phone calls and emails about the bill.  Good job!  The House Education Committee heard the bill and asked numerous questions.  

Rep. Howard Maxwell, a former school board member, made a motion of "Do Not Pass" which was seconded by Rep. Amy Carter, a teacher.  17 voted for the motion not to pass it, one voted for the amendment (Rep. Valencia Stovall), and one abstained (Rep. Mike Glanton).  Rep. Sam Teasley made a motion to reconsider because he wanted to make a motion to table it and work on the language.  Several members of the Committee were interested in voting for both board members and superintendent.  Eight voted to reconsider it and eleven voted not to do so.  It's dead.

FY '18 Budget 

The budget went back and forth three times today as the House disagreed with the Senate version, the Senate insisted, and the House insisted on disagreeing.  A conference committee has been named.

SB 201, on use of sick leave, was on the House calendar but was postponed to the next legislative day.

House Education Committee

The Committee heard three other bills today.

HR 354, an urging resolution related to providing a list of mental health training resources, received a "Do Pass" and goes to Rules

HB 500, on the local board nepotism statute, received a hearing but no vote.  Rep. Patty Bentley brought the bill to clarify that a local board member vacates their office if an immediate family member is named as a principal, assistant principal, or system administrative staff in the district in which the board member serves. The question has come up several times since the statute passed in 2009-2010 about what it means "to be eligible to serve" in terms of the statute. 

Many of the Committee members were not in office in 2009-2010 when this statute passed, so there were questions.  Some were the same ones we asked way back when, such as "what does system administrative staff mean?"  Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman assigned a working group -- Rep. Bentley, Rep. Randy Nix, Legislative Counsel Betsy Howerton, and yours truly -- to work on this for next year.

HR 319, a Constitutional amendment to allow a school board to call a referendum for a 1% sales tax for maintenance and operations.  Each district could call for the referendum on its own, and no millage rollback is required.  As planned, there was no vote.  The Committee plans to have 3-4 hearings this summer around the state to get feedback on the proposal. We'll let you know when and where as soon as we know.

Federal Budget News 

President Donald Trump released his "America First:  A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again" today. He said, "One of the most important ways the Federal Government sets priorities is through the Budget of the United States. Accordingly, I submit to the Congress this Budget Blueprint to reprioritize Federal spending so that it advances the safety and security of the American people."

The budget proposal decreases funding for the Department of Education by $9 billion or 13%. He makes his education priority clear, if he hadn't before, as he proposes "increas(ing) investments in public and private school choice by $1.4 billion...ramping up to an annual total of $20 billion, and an estimated $100 billion including matching State and local funds." This includes:

  • $168 million increase for charter schools
  • $250 million for a new private school choice program
  • $1 billion increase for Title I "dedicated to encouraging districts to adopt a system of student-based budgeting and open enrollment that enables Federal, State, and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice." 

Keep in mind this is the President's proposal to Congress and there's a long way between here and an adopted budget.  Pages 17-18 of the document cover education.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

The General Assembly is in recess until Monday, March 20th.

Monday, March 20th 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM

1 PM House Public Safety & Homeland Security will meet in 606 CLOB to hear SB 149, training for school resource officers

2 PM Senate Education & Youth Committee will meet in 307 CLOB, agenda TBA

2 PM Senate Finance Committee will meet in Mezzanine 1, agenda TBA

4 PM House Education Committee will meet, agenda and location TBA (the intent is to meet after Senate Education meets) 

03/15 - Day 34: Senate Plan B

Day 34: Senate Plan B
by Angela Palm on 3/15/2017

The FY'18 budget was unanimously voted out of the Senate today and immediately transmitted to the House but there was nobody home as they had already adjourned.  The Senate also passed HB 359, the Strengthening and Supporting Families Act, creating a temporary power of attorney for parents to use.

The House recommitted SR 95, the SPLOST Constitutional amendment.  That usually means they need to think about it, they need to make a change, or it's had its day. 

Senate Plan B 

The Senate Education & Youth Committee met today and heard several bills.  First up was the introduction of a substitute for the House version of HB 338, the "Plan B" bill.  Committee Chairman Lindsey Tippins said he would like public comments sent to him by Friday morning (lindsey.tippins@senate.ga.gov).  After reviewing the feedback, another substitute will be brought to the Committee meeting Monday.

The Committee gave a "Do Pass" to the following bills and they go on to Rules:

HB 114, the valedictorian bill

HB 246, repealing the sunset for the SHAPE Act

HB 224, intra-district public school choice for students of military families living in military housing when space is available.  This is similar to the option already in statute often referred to as HB 251, but Rep. Dave Belton, the bill's sponsor, said the military wants this spelled out for them.  He described it as the most important military bill this session.  How odd that repeating a concept already in statute but naming a specific eligibility group is that important.

HB 463, authorizing a foundation for DECAL

HB 430, on charter schools, was heard but no vote was taken.  The sponsor, Rep. Buzz Brockway, brought a substitute that included some of GSBA's suggested changes.  Chairman Tippins said there would be a substitute on Monday.  The biggest issues for those who wanted changes and those who supported the bill were the definition of unused facilities and distribution of federal funding.  There were numerous speakers, mostly for the bill.

Chairman Tippins also clarified the status of HB 273, the recess bill.  The Committee is not "holding" it, they are working on wording.  Their intention is to require K-5 recess but not require that it be made up if something such as inclement weather prevents it.  They will bring a substitute Monday.

School Calendars On Radar Again 

It's been a few years since somebody in the General Assembly tried to address the school calendar, but here we are again if this is approved.  HR 608 proposes a Joint Study Committee on the Georgia Public Schools Calendar. The committee would be composed of 13 people, none of whom work for a school system.  According to the resolution, "the General Assembly needs to study the issue of early school start dates to determine its social, growth, and economic impact."  

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

Thursday, March 16th 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM

2 PM House Education Committee will meet in 606 CLOB for a hearing only on:

HR 319, a Constitutional amendment to allow school districts to have the option of a 1% sales tax for M&O

HB 500, relating to a local board member holding office in violation of the nepotism statute