Legislative Daily Reports

10/17 - Chief Turnaround Officer Named

Chief Turnaround Officer Named
by Angela Palm on 10/17/2017

Another piece of HB 338, the First Priority Act/school turnaround bill, is on the verge of being implemented.  In case you're wondering what has been implemented, the Education Turnaround Advisory Council (lines 326-364) was named in June and has had several meetings. One of the first tasks for the Council was around the hiring of the Chief Turnaround Officer.

In an open session today, members of the State Board of Education and the Council met the three finalists for Georgia's first Chief Turnaround Officer:

  • Dr. Eric Parker, Superintendent of Eastern Kentucky University's Model Laboratory Schools, also led school improvement efforts in Montgomery, Alabama, after serving as principal in Gwinnett County and Atlanta Public Schools.
  • Dr. Lannie Milon, Jr., a leader at a high school in Houston, worked in turnaround efforts in Houston and Jefferson Parish.  He began his career teaching in Atlanta Public Schools. 
  • Dr. Eric Thomas, Chief Support Officer for the University of Virginia's Darden/Curry turnaround program, also served as Chief Innovation Officer for Cincinnati Public Schools.  He has also been a teacher and principal.

In full disclosure, GSBA is part of the Council and today I was representing the Association.  The information provided here occurred in the open, so no secrets here. 

Each candidate did a presentation based on a scenario given to them.  In two separate groups, State Board members and Council members then interviewed each of the candidates.  Council members could ask anything we wished.  Since most of us are veterans of hiring, we know the rules.

Each of the candidates was passionate and explained their views in detail.  The State Board received information from the Advisory Council in Executive Session as they deliberated on the finalists.  Dr. Thomas was selected.  Negotiations and final checks are the next step.  If all that works out, we have our first Chief Turnaround Officer.  

There has been a lot of concern about how this would work since the CTO reports to the State Board rather than the Superintendent who has his own School Improvement Division.  None of the candidates today took an adversarial position to the Department or school districts.  Rather, there was a general recognition that we're all in this together.  How refreshing.

Advocacy Workshop 

Don't forget our Advocacy Workshop is Tuesday.   If you haven't registered, please do!  Some of the material provided will be specific to your district, so we need to know you're coming.  See you there!

10/11 - Study Committees Are Busy, Busy

Study Committees Are Busy, Busy
by Angela Palm on 10/11/2017

It's time to catch up on some things.  As is customary this time of year, we have several House and/or Senate Study Committees at work on various topics.  See the rundown and upcoming schedule below.

Our Advocacy Workshop is coming up October 24th in Macon.  If you haven't registered yet, you need to do that!  We've planned an interactive day with a variety of topics, so y'all come on down/up/over.

House Civics Education Study Committee 

HR 634 is the basis for this Committee.  It is chaired by House Majority Whip Christian Coomer with House Education Committee Chair Brooks Coleman and Rep. Joyce Chandler, Vice-Chair of House Education Appropriations serving with him.  Their first meeting was held last week.  The video and agenda are here.

The Department of Education presented information on how civics are included in the standards.  Several other speakers presented their views on the state of civics instruction or lack thereof in the state.  Like the debates around Common Core and AP History of a few years ago, there are lots of opinions on this.  The Education Commission of the States issued a report on the 2015-2017 Civics Education Initiative around the states if this topic is of interest to you.

House School Nutrition Study COmmittee 

HR 57 established this one.  Chaired by House Chair of General Government Appropriations Amy Carter, the fifteen member Committee includes representatives from Floyd, Colquitt, Elbert, Lowndes, and Carrollton City school districts.  The Committee held its first meeting Monday in Elberton and they will be traveling around the state.  They heard from the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture.  The Georgia Grown program, getting students to try new foods, and food waste were the major topics.  The video and agenda are available here.

House State and Local Construction Management Study Committee 

HR 284 created this Committee.  Chaired by Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, the nine member Committee has had two meetings to extensively discuss the current process used, particularly at the higher ed level.  Videos and agendas are here.  This is the most technical, down in the weeds you're likely to see a Committee get but it's a specialized subject.

House Education Subcommittee on School Redesign 

Rep. Valencia Stovall is chairing this Committee.  Her HR 316 was not approved to create a Study Committee but she and Reps. Wes Cantrell, Dave Belton, Randy Nix, and Miriam Paris are seeking public input on state assessments and accountability, student-centered learning, and policy barriers.  Their first meeting was in Albany. The second will be next Thursday, see below.

Joint Study Committee on Establishment of a Leadership Academy 

HB 338 (lines 435-486), the turnaround legislation, included authorization for two Joint Study Committees.  Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Gwinnett Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks to chair the one on establishing a Leadership Academy.  They have held two meetings so far to gather information on what is currently in place and what other states have done and any successes.  Videos and materials are here

Joint Study Committee on Establishment of a State Accreditation Process 

This one was also authorized in HB 338 in lines 381-434 but hasn't gotten off the ground.  Gov. Deal made his appointments in August but the rest have not been made as far as we can tell.  

Senate Study Committee on Special Tax Exemptions 

SR 222 authorized this Committee.  Chaired by Sen. Chair of State and Local Government Operations John Albers, the six person Committee has met three times.  They have found there is a lot to digest and want to set up a regular review of exemptions and establish a template for consideration of exemptions and credits. 

The materials from the Committee meetings have not been posted online but anyone interested can contact Sen. Albers' assistant for them.

Senate Cyber Security Education Study Committee 

SR 454 established this one. Senate Chairman of Science and Technology Bruce Thompson is chairing the seven member Committee.  They held their first meeting today at Augusta University.

Rural Focus  

The two chambers took different paths to focus on the needs of rural Georgia.  HR 389 created the House Rural Development Council. This large group has been busy since May.  Videos and materials are available here.  You will notice there has been a strong focus on healthcare, economic development, and broadband.  Meetings in November will focus on workforce development and K-12.  SR 392 established the Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee.  Healthcare has been a large focus for this group too.  Committee documents are available here.  (Scroll down to SR 392) The Senate plans to start webcasting their meetings next year but for now there are no videos available.


(Check the legislative calendars for the meetings or ask the staff member for the Committee to add you to the mailing list)

Tuesday, October 17th

10 AM Joint Study Committee on Establishment of a Leadership Academy will meet in the DECAL Board Room, the Oak Room, on the 8th floor, East Tower of Sloppy Floyd building

10 AM House Study Committee on State and Local Construction Management will meet in 506 CLOB, Agenda here

Thursday, October 19th

9 AM House Military Affairs Working Group will meet in 406 CLOB (This group has been meeting since 2016 and several pieces of legislation have come from them.)

5 PM House Education Subcommittee on School Redesign will meet at Georgia Public Broadcasting at 260 14th St. NW in Atlanta

Wednesday, November 1st 

2 PM Joint Study Committee on Establishment of a Leadership Academy will meet at 437 Old Peachtree Rd. in Suwanee in the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center 

09/29 - State Board Discusses ESSA and Holds Meetings

State Board Discusses ESSA and Holds Meetings
by Angela Palm on 9/29/2017

The State Board of Education completed its monthly meeting yesterday (Thursday).  Wednesday included meetings of the Rules Committee, District Flexibility and Charter Schools Committee, Budget Committee, and Executive Session.  The Budget Committee reviewed all relevant items from the agenda of the Committee of the Whole. 

Yesterday the Board met in full, held its official meeting, and held a hearing on the McIntosh County Board of Education due to its accreditation status.  McIntosh's motion for a continuance was granted and the hearing was suspended until March 22nd.  The district will make monthly progress reports by the fifth of each month.

If your interest is just in the discussion on the state ESSA plan, scroll to the bottom. 

Rules Committee 

The Rules Committee reviewed the changes up for adoption this month to the rule on Language Assistance.  Staff said the minimum required by ESSA was put into rule.  Guidance will provide more direction to districts but the districts can go above the minimum in the rule.

Standards for World Language 3 were created at the request of districts that have students coming in having taken less commonly taught languages such as Farsi and Hindi in other countries. Students receiving credit in lieu of enrollment in a foreign language are not counted in the CCRPI calculation.

The Committee received a report by district on usage of the Teacher Resource Link (TRL).  Teachers in some districts are using it a lot more than others.  They also received a report on the impact of Hurricane Irma on schools.  Staff noted that many districts do not have back up generators and that power was off long enough in some places that the schools lost all the perishable food.  There was discussion as to whether districts had insurance coverage for that and they are working on finding that out.

Six SWSS districts did not include a waiver for the minimum school year so may need a waiver -- or amend their contract as two districts plan to do. 

District Flexibility Committee 

The Committee heard a report on the newly approved State Charter Schools.  Taliaferro County presented its case for switching from being a SWSS district to a charter system, the state's 43rd.  Contract amendments and charter grants were also reviewed.  Stewart and Twiggs were the school districts reporting to the Committee this month on their accountability results and plans to improve.

Budget Committee 

All their items include powerpoint slides with data if you want more information on any of them.  The Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in GA grant (formerly known as Striving Readers) was added at the last minute as the Department had just been notified that Georgia has been awarded $20.5 million for the program.

Committee of the Whole 

A public hearing was scheduled for the proposed changes to State Board rule on Language Assistance but no one spoke.  The State Board created its consent agenda and received reports from the Superintendent and Board Chair.

The graduation rate is now at 80.6%, the highest in maybe ever.  Fifty districts have a graduation rate over 90%.

Dr. Stephanie Johnson, Deputy Superintendent of the Office of School Improvement, provided a presentation on the data analysis her office has done and their action plan.  Superintendent Woods has asked the Education Turnaround Advisory Council to work with this Office and provide feedback.

Troup County reported on the LaGrange Industrial Fellowship for Teachers (LIFT) Program, an interesting community partnership linking teachers to business and skills students need.

State Board Meeting 

Almost all items were on the consent agenda which was adopted.  The Board separately adopted Rule 160-4-5-.02 Language Assistance:  Program for English Learners.

ESSA Plan and CCRPI Changes 

Georgia's state plan to implement ESSA was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education on September 18th.  As reported by various news outlets, the Governor requested changes to the plan that the Superintendent did not make.  Under the federal law, the Governor had to be given 30 days to review the plan but the plan does not require his signature.  He's not the first Governor not to sign his state's plan.  Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Maryland have had or are having very public disagreements.  Several of the plans that have been approved did not have the Governor's signature.

The letters between the two officials and the red-lined version of the plan showing the changes are online. Board Chair Mike Royal said several times that he believes it is a good plan but there are two big areas in which they are struggling to find consensus.

The two major areas of disagreement are testing/accountability for grades K-2 and changes made to the CCRPI.  These are fundamental, philosophical differences that will not be resolved in a quick public discussion, if there is a resolution.  State Board members expressed frustration since they are the policy-making body and complained about communication issues.  The Superintendent and his staff defended their choices.  Local boards and superintendents may have a feeling of "I've been there" at this discussion.  Everybody was polite and professional, they just disagreed.

Dr. Melissa Fincher did a presentation on the assessment/flexibility issue.  The Superintendent is forming an Assessment Task Force, including two State Board members, to continue to look at assessments and flexibility with them.  The Board Chair announced the Board would create its own working group made up of personnel from districts that are being innovative with assessments.  He felt that the Task Force of 33 members is too large to make hard decisions and is more of a "CYA committee with no offense meant to the Task Force members."  

The disagreement on the CCRPI goes to the inputs or outcomes argument.  Adding to the reluctance to include inputs such as enrollment in AP/IB courses was a report that a high school principal enrolled all the students in AP History to get the CCRPI points.  A comparison of the current CCRPI and that proposed in the plan can be found here.

This discussion will continue next month at the State Board Retreat.  The Board Chair said he has three "buckets" on the agenda:  assessments, CCRPI, and accreditation. 

The meeting closed with a focus on the good news this week on ACT and SAT scores, and the graduation rate.

The next meeting is scheduled for October 23-25 for a retreat.  

08/25 - August State Board Report

August State Board Report
by Angela Palm on 8/25/2017

The State Board of Education finished its two-day meeting Thursday, August 24th.  On Wednesday, five Committees of the Board met.  

The Audit Committee discussed the school districts and state charters that are considered high risk based on timely financial statements, audit findings, and other factors.

The Rules Committee reviewed proposed rule changes up for adoption, proposed changes to the school bus specifications, and discussed two portions of the state ESSA plan.  The bus specifications have not been changed since 2010 so appropriate district personnel might want to review the proposal or at least review the summary of changes.

The Committee also discussed proposed changes to the Testing Programs - Student Assessment rule.  One of the changes would reduce testing for students in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.  The course grade would be used in lieu of the end of course test (EOCT) so that students do not have to take the EOCT and the AP or IB exam.  The Governor's Office of Student Achievement disagreed with the change since grading differs from one teacher to another and there should be consistency in the elements of the accountability system.  There was no resolution in the meeting as this topic was for discussion only.

The District Flexibility and Charter Schools Committee reviewed proposed amendments to district contracts and the updates to the charter rules.  Dr. Bonnie Holliday, Executive Director of the State Charter Schools Commission, gave an update on the current petition cycle.  Of the 12 petitions received, two will be recommended for approval.  Five withdrew after the interview process and two did not meet the legal requirements. The Commission has averaged an approval rate of 20%-25%.  There have been a lack of quality petitions. 

The bulk of the time was spent on a discussion on the comprehensive needs assessment (CNA) and district improvement plan (DIP) sent out this year for the first time.  Dan Weber, Executive Director of the Charter Systems Foundation, discussed the issues he saw with the plans and the legal authority to require that districts complete them.  He made recommendations for changes based on feedback from some districts.  Department personnel explained the state's rationale and efforts they have made to address the problems.  Both sides will continue the discussion.

The Budget Committeee pulled one item from the agenda.  Title V, Part B, Rural and Low-Income Schools Allocations was pulled as no information has been received from Washington as to the amount. The Committee reviewed most of the budget items on the agenda. The budget request for amended FY '18 and '19 did not receive much discussion as it contains few changes in accordance with the budget instructions.  The proposed mid-term adjustment is $115.8 million in the amended budget.  FY '19 includes a $25 million increase in equalization, a $35 million increase to the local five mill share deduction, and a total of $445 million in increases to QBE.  The austerity reduction would rise $2.6 million to $169,388,279.

The First Priority Act Committee received an update from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) on the search for a Chief Turnaround Officer. The application period closed August 18th.  They received 58 applications with at least 20 being identified as top tier.  This group will be screened by phone in a 20 minute call with one State Board member and on member of the Turnaround Advisory Council on the call with NASBE.  

That group will be narrowed down to around 5-8 candidates.  An in-depth screening call will be done with NASBE, three State Board members, and three members of the Turnaround Advisory Council.  At its last meeting, the Council chose Dr. Allene Magill, Executive Director of PAGE; Kim Evans, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the CSRA in Augusta, named to the Council by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle; and Lex Rainey, former Superintendent in Gilmer County, named to the Council by Speaker of the House David Ralston. 

The second screening call will determine who will be interviewed in person.  They anticipate having the CTO named by the end of October.

Committee of the Whole Meeting 

On Thursday, the State Board met as a Committee of the Whole to develop the consent agenda for the Board meeting and to hear reports from the Superintendent and Board Chair.  Time was allotted for public hearings on the seven rules up for adoption but no one spoke.

The Superintendent's Report included eight presentations, but only a few will be highlighted here.  Apparently complaints about the AP curriculum are not over.  The first presentation was from Ken Craft, a citizen who frequently testified against Common core and AP History a few years ago.  This time he seemed to oppose all the AP courses with his powerpoint titled "AP Invasion."  Among other things he said, "too much of our education is teaching kids to hate America."

On a happier note, Supt. Woods awarded the Superintendent's Impact Award to Rep. Dave Belton for his work on legislation for military families. 

Diane Hopkins presented information on the Assessment Inventory Project the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education is doing with the Department. 

The Chair's Report included information from Martha Ann Todd, Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Student Achievement, on the words2reading initiative which promotes early learning and literacy.  Former Rep. Ben Harbin introduced the Board to RoboKind and its robot Milo, a tool to teach social skills to children with autism.

In its State Board meeting, all the proposed rules were adopted in separate votes.  They also approved posting the school bus specifications mentioned above.

The Board Chair announced McIntosh County Board of Education will be served a notice for a hearing before the State Board on September 28th due to its accreditation status.

Following the Board meeting, the State Board reconvened the suspension hearing of the Hancock Board of Education. After receiving their latest AdvancEd report which returned Hancock to accredited status rather than accredited under review, the Board voted to recommend to the Governor that he not suspend the Hancock Board.  The Chair noted that 178 districts have signed contracts with the state and that is a much better way to handle accountability for local boards rather than the "nuclear option" of removal.  They will continue to look at and hold Hancock accountable for its contract.

The next State Board meeting will be September 27-28. 

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.


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.


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.


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.  


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


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 


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


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.


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!