Legislative Daily Reports

01/03 - Calendar Committee Says ......

Calendar Committee Says ......
by Angela Palm on 1/3/2019

GSBA followed the work of several study committees this fall, but none generated the amount of calls and emails than the Senate Study Committee on Evaluating the School Calendar.  They have issued their final report including recommendations (page 9).  Be ready to read a lot about guardrails. 

Four recommendations were received from committee members and Chairman Steve Gooch added a couple more.  Only one went with a specific date but the other three included pushing the start date back or "providing guardrails" -- which means the state would set a "can't start before" date and "end by" date. The only specfic date given was to start no earlier than 7-10 days before the first Monday in September (Labor Day) and end on or about June 1st.  "Local control" you say?  "Guardrails are similar in nature to existing federal and state mandated windows and scheduling parameters by which each school system currently uses to set their calendars" they say.  Besides, you get to choose a date within the guardrails they added in discussions. There's not a lot of choice there as you will see below.

See the report for the full recommendations but here are a few of the others:

  • that the State Board explore ways to delay end of course and Milestone tests to maximize classroom instruction days
  • that school systems be required to survey parents and stakeholders about school calendars
  • that the State Board coordinate start date calendars with local districts to coincide more with the University System and Technical Colleges. 

That last one would be interesting to see.  There is no common calendar for colleges within either USG or TCSG much less between the two.  Here's what 2018-19 would have looked like using the specific date range provided for K-12 and the actual USG and TCSG dates this year:

 

 Start

 End 
 K-12 No earlier than Friday, Aug 24 or Monday Aug 27 Friday, May 31 
 USG

 Ranged from Aug 8-20 for Fall

 Ranged from Jan 2-14 for Spring

Classes: April 26-May 9

Exams: April 29-May 10 

 
 TCSG

 Earliest start date August 6th Fall

Earliest start date January 2nd Spring

Suggested latest end:  December 17th Fall

May 10th Spring 

 
  

The emphasis throughout the meetings has been on the importance of standardizing the calendar to maximize opportunities for students to be available for summer work to gain soft skills while minimizing time out of school for purposes of nutrition and child care.  High school students are about 30% of the student population but we would build school calendars around their work availability?  Some of them are the child care for the younger ones.  Some of them have no job opportunities nearby or lack transportation to get to a job if they find one.  Only 6% of high schoolers are in dual enrollment (2017) but we need to build a calendar around those 36,000 students?

We all want the children of Georgia to be fed, cared for and ready for their next steps past high school.  There are more people responsible for that than the local school system.  No one calendar is going to meet the needs of every person and business so let's leave the school calendar setting to focusing on the best schedule for educational purposes and those elected to make those decisions.  GSBA spoke to the Committee in opposition to the state setting limits at the second meeting.

Talk to your legislators, especially the Senators about this.  Tell them about your calendar setting process, how you use the breaks for remediation or acceleration if you do, mention any local events that impact your calendar, and what impact this change would make on your students and staff.  

Coming Up 

January 14th at 10 AM, the 2019 session of the General Assembly will begin! 

11/13 - Special Session Begins

Special Session Begins
by Angela Palm on 11/13/2018

The special session of the General Assembly started today on a sad note as the death of House Rules Chair John Meadows was announced.  It became a fairly routine day until a rally/protest chanting "Count Every Vote" got large and loud on the second floor of the Capitol.  Eventually fifteen people were arrested, many with several people following to record it on their phones, and the crowd drifted outside. Interesting times.

Special Session 

Last week Gov. Nathan Deal issued a call for a special session to amend the budget to address hurricane relief and to ratify his executive order suspending the collection of sales tax on jet fuel.  The Governor is proposing income tax credits for the replanting of trees lost in the devastation of Hurricane Michael plus spending for clean up and other things.  Revenue for the year is ahead of the amount projected so there will be no negative effect on the budget passed in March.

There has been a years-long fight over the tax exemption on jet fuel. The bill stalled in the General Assembly this year but the Governor used his statutory power to suspend it by executive order.  There's not much room for arguing over it as the plan is to do this special session over five days to end Monday.

The first Subcommittee hearings were held on the tax bills this afternoon with a second hearing scheduled first thing tomorrow.  House Appropriations will also meet tomorrow to get the budget moving.  All the bills must originate in the House.

Senate Study Committee on School Safety 

This Committee held its final meeting this morning.  The final report of the Committee includes 18 recommendations.   They are divided into the areas of Crisis Prevention; Physical Security of Buildings, Facilities, and Buses; and Emergency Response and cover quite a range. See pages 4-6 of the Report.  The powerpoint and other materials from the Committee's meetings are available here.

Senate Study Committee on Continual Audit Exceptions on School Systems 

The Committee held its third and final meeting today.  Its final report is not yet online but it includes nine recommendations including training, flexibility contract language, financial reports, and a one-time grant for outside consulting. Most school districts get their financial reports in on time and make any corrections needed after an audit.  This Committee's focus was the few districts that repeatedly fail to do so.

House Study Committee on Reforming Real Property 

This one isn't quite through.  They have considered the appraisal and appeals process and are now focusing on recommendations.  Presentations to the Committee are available here.  They are focused on the technical aspects of the property tax system rather than what and how much it is taxed.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

Wednesday, November 14th 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM

8:30  House Ways and Means Income Tax Subcommittee will meet in 133 CAP 

9:00  House Ways and Means Sales Tax Subcommittee will meet in 133 CAP

1:00  House Appropriations Committee will meet in 341 CAP to hear the amended budget -- the Governor will address the Committee at 1 

1:00 Joint Study COmmittee on Low THC Oil Access will meet in 310 CLOB to receive information on Georgia growers and access

2:00  Senate Study COmmittee on Evaluating the School Year Calendar of Georgia Public Schools in 450 CAP  Agenda 

10/17 - Education meeting for Rural Development Council

Education meeting for Rural Development Council
by Angela Palm on 10/17/2018

This will be a short one to let you know about an upcoming meeting of the House Rural Developmental Council which will focus on education.

They will meet Monday and Tuesday, October 22-23 at the Coastal College of Georgia in Brunswick. The theme is “Apprenticeships/Increasing Outcomes for Students and Employers.”  Tuesday’s discussion is centered on the possible move of CTAE to the Technical College System.
 
Monday’s  agenda

Tuesday’s agenda
 
 Their meetings are usually webcast and archived.  Check here for information on the Council.

10/15 - What the Candidates Said and Other Updates

What the Candidates Said and Other Updates
by Angela Palm on 10/15/2018

If the adage "time flies when you're having fun" is true, we have been having a whale of a good time! It's fall?!  How did that happen?  And no "frost on the punkin" just hurricane winds/tropical storms tearing through the state.  We wish our friends in the storm-damaged areas of the state the very best.  If GSBA can assist you in any way, please let us know.

Elections 

It's hard to believe that November elections are almost here, although in some ways it feels like we've been waiting for this election to be over forever.  In three weeks, it will be unless there is a run-off for an office.  Advance in-person voting started today.  As we do in each election year of Gubernatorial elections, we asked the candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, and State School Superintendent a few questions related to education.  Several education organizations joined with us.  If you haven't read the responses yet or want a refresher before voting, check here for their answers. We include the Lt. Governor as he/she plays an important role in Committee and bill assignments as President of the Senate.  Read it if you haven't and please pass it on if you haven't done that either! Knowledge is a powerful thing.

Over the last several years, there has been an intermittent cry for better civics education.  What we teach and what "takes" are often two different things.  Many adults have become disillusioned so imagine how the young adults feel.  There have always been people who said "my vote doesn't matter" and stay home.  If that's your inclination, I encourage you to think about when people like you got the right to vote.  Although voting is heavily identified with being American, it took the following to get us all there:

  1. The 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1870, to prohibit limiting voting rights based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude (the nice way of saying the previously enslaved could vote if they were male)
  2. The 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1920, to prohibit limiting voting rights on the basis of sex (women could vote nationwide; Georgia was not one of the ratifying states by the way)
  3. The Snyder Act of 1924 to admit Native Americans born in the U.S. to full U.S. citizenship including voting 
  4. The 24th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1964, to prohibit limiting voting rights for failure to pay a poll tax or other tax for federal elections (Georgia had eliminated this tax in 1945)
  5. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminated many of the barriers to voting that had been put in place in spite of the above Constitutional amendments

Whether you are Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, satisfied, angry, disillusioned, or don't know for whom to vote, do the research, and pick a candidate.  A lot of people worked hard and many paid a steep price to ensure all adults could exercise this right and meet this responsibility.  

Constitutional Amendments 

There are five Constitutional amendments on the ballot.  Two are of interest to school districts, number 3 and 5.  Amendment three amends the Forestland Protection Act of 2008 by removing from the Constitution the formula to calculate the forestland tax and protection grant to local governments.  It would authorize the General Assembly to create a new class of property for forestland and allow the Department of Revenue to keep up to 5% of an assistance grant for administrative purposes.  For more information on the grant and the amount received by your school system, see pages 49-55 of the 2017 Annual Property Tax Administration Report. Any change is going to create winners and losers.   

Amendment five has generated a few questions.  Georgia has 159 county school systems and 21 city systems.  The 1996 Constitutional amendment to allow school boards to call for a referendum for a special purpose local sales tax (SPLOST) for capital outlay required that the city school system and county system call for the referendum at the same time and distribute the proceeds by FTE or as negotiated.  A few city systems cross into two county systems.  In that case, they had to all call the SPLOST together or it could not happen.  For instance, Fulton, Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb, and Decatur all had to join together.  There have been no issues with that particular group, but there have been stories from the beginning that some city systems held the county(ies) "hostage" in negotiations for a higher-than-FTE share of the proceeds in exchange for agreeing to the SPLOST.  This amendment would allow the district with the highest enrollment (the county) to call the SPLOST if there is no agreement with the city district.  There can still be negotiation but the lack of agreement would not be able to kill the calling of a SPLOST referendum.  The proceeds would be split based on FTE without a negotiated split.  

Study Committees 

Several Study Committees have been meeting.  We have previously reported on the House and Senate School Safety/Security Committees and the Dyslexia Committee. These Committees continue to meet.  The Dyslexia Committee has continually referred to Kentucky legislation but it is not yet clear where they are headed in terms of recommendations.  See schedule below for next meetings.

The Senate Study Committee on Service Animals held its first meeting.  The focus was on commercial establishments, not public spaces. See schedule below if this is an area of interest for you.

The Senate Study Committee on School Systems with Continual Audit Exceptions has held two meetings.  They have discussed the issues and consequences for school districts/school boards. 

The Senate Study Committee on School Calendars held its first meeting.  We have received more questions about this one than all the others combined.  Committee members were not fond of the "local control" argument but there is no indication yet of what if anything to expect from this Study Committee.  As always, GSBA urges school boards to work with their city councils and county governments in addition to the parents and staff to set the best calendar for the students, staff, and community.  The next meeting of this Committee has not been announced

Check here for all Senate Study Committees, their members, and documents form meetings. 

The House Study Committee on Reforming Real Property Taxation will be gearing up soon.  See the schedule below.

Assessment Task Force 

In case you've forgotten, State Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods created an Assessment Task Force after the state ESSA plan was completed.  The goal was to consider what short-term changes there should be to the existing assessment program and what long-term changes there should be.  The task force has heard form Louisiana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina about their innovations.  

The State Board has approved three districts/consortia for the state's innovative assessment pilot, and the task force heard from them today.  Georgia will apply to U.S. Department of Education in December to be part on an innovative pilot under ESSA.  The task force is working its way towards recommendations. It's a big, complicated issue and interconnects with the accountability work at the school, district, and state level.  It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact the changes in state leadership has on the topic.  Please note there is no implication there that the State Superintendent will change.  We know we will have a different Governor and Lt. Governor.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE  

Friday, October 19th 

10 AM Senate Study Committee on Dyslexia will meet in 307 CLOB  Agenda 

Tuesday, October 23rd 

10 AM House Study Committee on Reforming Real Property Taxation will meet in 403 CAP to discuss the appraisal process

Friday, October 26th 

10 AM Senate Study Committee on School Safety will meet at Islands High School in Savannah, agenda TBA

Monday, October 29th 

10 AM Senate Study Committee on Service Animals will meet in 450 CAP, agenda TBA

Friday, November 2nd 

10 AM House Study Committee on Reforming Real Property Taxation will meet in 403 CAP to discuss the appeals process

Tuesday, November 6th 

Election Day

Thursday, November 8th 

10 AM Senate Study Committee on School Systems with Continual Audit Exceptions will meet in 450 CAP

Tuesday, November 13th 

10 AM House Study Committee on Reforming Real Property Taxation will meet in 403 CAP 

09/14 - Twenty-Five Years of Change

Twenty-Five Years of Change
by Angela Palm on 9/14/2018

When House Education Chairman Brooks Coleman announced he would retire this year, I thought of all the ways the education landscape changed during his years, from 1993 to 2018.  His first year happened to be my first year at the Capitol as a PTA volunteer so I saw the polar shifts firsthand.

Chairman Coleman ran for office in 1992 after serving 31 years in public education. Less than a third of the House members were Republican at the time.  Today there are 115 in the chamber.  There are also a lot of new faces each year.  Over half the House members were elected in 2012 or later. He was named Chairman of the Education Committee in 2005.

His long tenure deserves a celebration, so we are having one this Sunday at Brooks Coleman Middle School.  The invitation is here if you have forgotten the details or missed the invitation. The event is open to all.

Below is a brief recap of some of the major changes.  Including the bills here does not mean the Chairman supported them or had anything to do with them except as noted. 

Recurring Themes  

The efforts to establish accountability measures, reports, consequences, state chain of command have been numerous.  In 1993, the Council for School Performance was set up independently of the Department of Education to "measure outcomes of the state's investment in each public school and public school system." Before state report cards were the cool thing to do, we had two of them.  The statute was repealed in 2000 with the creation of the Office of Education Accountability which was later renamed the Office of Student Achievement.  

Student discipline has been a frequent object of legislation.  A number of the bills we've seen in the past few years are undoing legislation passed in the 90's when zero tolerance was the new thing to do.  Attempts to scare them into good behavior didn't work out quite as planned obviously.  New requirements for the student code of conduct came in the early 2000's as did the Attendance Protocol Committees.  Now we shift our focus to improving school climate and using PBIS to try to get at the root of many of the problems.

Certainly there have been many changes in the kinds of schools we have.  Georgia was the third state in the nation to authorize charter schools.  In 1993, existing public schools were allowed to convert to a charter school under certain conditions. From there it expanded to start-up charters in 1998, State Board chartered schools, career academies, and State Commission charter schools. We have special needs vouchers and income tax credits for donations to student scholarship organizations and annual efforts to add to the mix.

Assessments and requirements for a high school diploma have seen whiplash-inducing changes. The general diploma was eliminated and math and science requirements were increased.  In 1995, Gov. Zell Miller decided a high school diploma should mean something.  He replaced the Basic Skills Test, given to high schoolers since 1982, to must-pass graduation tests in core subjects. Gov. Roy Barnes added annual assessments for everybody in 2000 and end-of-course exams in high school.  He planned to phase out the graduation tests but the voters didn't give him time.   

We still struggle with the "right" number and kinds of assessments we should have but the high school graduation tests went away in 2015. Chairman Coleman dropped HB 91 that year to end the requirement that students pass the tests to get a diploma.  It was effective immediately and went back to those who had to take the Basic Skills Test.  To date 39,706 people have received a diploma due to HB 91.  

When asked what bill he was proudest of, the Chairman immediately said HB 91.  We can see why.

If you miss the celebration, we encourage you to send him a note of thanks.  We did not always agree but his door was always open and he was willing to listen to all sides.  He will continue to work through the year and complete his term. 

  

07/17 - July State Board Meeting

July State Board Meeting
by Scott Bierman on 7/17/2018

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The State Board of Education met earlier this week for their scheduled July meetings, with committee meetings taking place on Wednesday the 18th, and the full board meeting the following day, Thursday the 19th. The agendas for the committee and full board meetings can be found here. 

06/16 - Federal and State Catch Up

Federal and State Catch Up
by Angela Palm on 6/16/2018

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Sorry to interrupt the summer fun but it's time to update you on some state and federal doings.  

Federal 

While Secretary of  Education Betsy DeVos tours Europe looking for education reform she can believe in, there has been some movement in Congress on education issues.  Monday, the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act will once again see the light of day when it is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  The House passed its version almost exactly a year ago.

The FY 2019 budget got a first look in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.  Remember these are proposed numbers:

  • Hold ESSA Title I and II at the 2018 level
  • Add $50 million to IDEA
  • Add $100 million to Title IV which can be used for a variety of things including school safety and education technology
  • Add $52 million to Impact Aid
  • Add $115 million to Perkins funding
  • Add $50 million to charter schools

The House Education and Workforce Committee is trying to get a floor vote on its reauthorization of the Higher Education Act which would eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Title II programs for teacher preparation (not to be confused with the ESSA Title II programs).

The U.S. Department of Justice published two notices for competitive grants under the STOP School Violence Act. Applications are due July 23rd.  The BJA STOP School Violence Threat Assessment and Technology Reporting Program information is available here. The BJA STOP School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Program application is here.  

State 

The Senate School Safety Study Committee held its first meeting last Friday, June 8th.  GSBA staff were in Savannah for our summer conference so no first hand information on this one.  They have a webpage set up with a video and the powerpoints from the meeting. Their next meeting will be July 13th, 10 AM at Ringgold High School.

The Senate Study Committee on the Financial Impact of Atlanta Annexation on Schools met Thursday to discuss the conflict over the recent annexation of Emory and other parcels into the city of Atlanta.  This isn't applicable to most others, just FYI.  The Committee wants to work with both parties to reach a resolution rather than the courts settling it.  They have also discussed possible local legislation to prevent future issues.

Yesterday, a House Education Review Committee held a hearing on the Special Needs Voucher Program.  The Committee is co-chaired by Rep. Randy Nix and Rep. Scott Hilton.  Rep. Hilton said they are looking to see if there are ways to improve the program, add flexibility to it, expand access, and add transparency to the funding.  He authored HB 801 from this past session which would have changed the program to an 'education savings account' allowing the parents to spen d the funds on educational needs in addition to tuition for private school. Since the expenses would not be limited to tuition, the voucher amount would no longer be the lesser of the QBE funding or the tuition.  It is not known (at least by me) how many receive less than the QBE amount. 

Dr. Garry McGiboney of the Department of Education gave the history of the program, the complex mechanics of it, and three-year trend data.  There are two exceptions to the requirement that students be in public school the prior year to qualify for the voucher program.  In 2013, the State Board was authorized to approve a waiver fro medically fragile students.  Dr. McGiboney said they are approving about six waivers a month, and they are extreme cases, not parents trying to beat the requirement.  In 2015, an exception was made for special needs students in military families.  The Department has received less than a dozen requests for this.  He recommended they be careful about changing the program, lest they unintentionally destabilize it.

Representatives from the Georgia Independent Schools Association, GSBA, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, EdConnect, and parents spoke.  There were two attendees from Florida who extolled their process. The EdConnect representative said the parents could combine this voucher with funding from Student Scholarship Organization money to have enough for a private school but she didn't know how many are.  She did not know how many are doing that but thought the state should.  The parents speaking wanted flexibility in the use of money (use it for more than tuition), elimination of the requirement to attend public school a year, and more money. 

It was mentioned several times that parents say they are not told about the voucher availability by the school in the IEP meeting.  That doesn't mean they weren't told of course, but just a reminder that state law does require parents be notified of this opportunity in the initial IEP meeting with an annual notice before school starts thereafter.

No further meetings of the Committee are planned.

Now, back to your summer! 

06/15 - June State Board Meeting

June State Board Meeting
by Angela Palm on 6/15/2018

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The State Board held its regular monthly meetings June 13-14.  On Wednesday, several Committees of the Board met.  The schedule, agendas, and attachments can be accessed here. The agenda for the Budget Committee consists of all items listed under Budget on the Committee of the Whole agenda.  On Thursday, the Board met as a Committee of the Whole and held the Board meeting.

Some of the Committee meetings are discussed below.  Scroll down for information on the full Board meetings.

Rules Committee

The Committee discussed the four items for action on Thursday. All were placed on the consent agenda.  

  • Standards for Middle School Computer Science Courses were placed on Thursday's consent agenda.  No issues were raised during the comment period.  Committee members and staff discussed the timeline for updating the high school standards and keeping all levels aligned.
  • Amendments to State Board Rule on Bidding Requirements for School Capital Outlay Projects were initiated.  These changes reflect passage of HB 489 and HB 899. 
  • Troup County school and business officials presented their Locally Developed International Business CTAE Career Pathway courses.  This was approved to post.  The presentation will be repeated for the full Board at the July meeting.
  • Two more private schools were approved to participate in the Special Needs voucher program.  There will be 304 schools from which to choose in 2018-19.

The Committee discussed the feedback and coming evaluation of the Technical College Math and English courses and the Foundations of Algebra course.  The Governor's Office of STudent Achievement is waiting for data to evaluate the courses but expects the report to be available this fall.  Hall County followed through with the Technical College courses with real-time feedback and updating the course information accordingly.

They have not seen much success with the Foundations of Algebra course but they need at least one more year of data before making a decision about the course.  There was not much difference in the scores of students who took this course then Algebra and those who went straight to Algebra.  The Department staff are working with districts with Math Institutes and communication.

They also discussed initiating amendments to the Comprehensive Health/PE rule in July to incorporate the requirements in SB 401 for sexual abuse and awareness education.

District Flexibility and Charter Schools Committee 

The Committee discussed the renewal of a charter system, two charter schools, four college and career academies' charters, a charter system amendment, and four SWSS amendments.  The renewals were partially to align the charter dates with the accreditation cycle.  

One of the more interesting discussions was with governing board members of Walton High School, a conversion charter school.  As required by the state, they have transitioned from a governing council to an autonomous governing board.  They plan to have competitive bids in which the district can participate.  They were cautioned about their responsibility for oversight of special education services and received the happy news that they can be sued.  They were also questioned about having made the "mental conversion" from advising to governing.  They've converted.

The Governor's Office of Student Achievement announced they would have a report on the external evaluation of Beating the Odds out soon.  If goals aren't met, a school improvement plan must be submitted.  Most of the plans are in.  

First Priority Act Committee 

Chief Turnaround Officer Eric Thomas updated the Committee on the second cohort of schools which includes schools in Richmond and Savannah-Chatham, CTO partnerships, and his work with RESAs.  RESAs will continue to serve the turnaround schools and the CTO's work will be in addition to that. Dr. Thomas is trying to find ways to address the challenge of adding to the quality teachers and leaders in rural areas.  His office is researching before acting but they are considering Teach for America, financial incentives, and working with the private sector in those areas.  

Another challenge he is dealing with is finding a way to do a health assessment for students as part of the required needs assessment under HB 338.  Dr. Thomas is working with Georgia PTA on a parental engagement program.

Communities in Schools is working with the CTO in several districts.  The cost is split up, with the district paying a third of the costs.

Thursday Meetings 

State Superintendent Richard Woods and the State Board celebrated the graduation of 35 students from the state schools for the deaf and blind.  Almost all earned a regular diploma, the highest number ever in a single year.  

It was announced that career-ready diploma seals will be ready for 2019 Georgia graduates. 

One budget item was held for a separate vote; everything else was on the consent agenda.  The item to award RESAs up to $13.8 million in state and federal funds for educational technology services, math mentors, English Language Arts specialists, school climate specialists, and school improvement specialists had been pulled after a discussion in the Budget Committee on Wednesday.  Some Committee members were concerned that there was no accountability framework set up for this money.  There was some thought to releasing the money in portions to retain some control.  On Thursday, the item was added back after the Board received more information about the MOU. 

The Macon County Board of Education has notified the State Board they do not wish to enter into an agreement for the turnaround effort.  The local board will be invited to next month's meeting to explain.  State law allows a local board to turn down the opportunity, but there are consequences.  The State Board has 60 days to either implement one or more of the interventions in 20-14-41(a)(6) or to terminate any charter or flexibility contract held by the board. The State Board looks forward to hearing from Macon County in July.

The Liberty County Board of Education is scheduled for a hearing before the State Board due to its accreditation report.  The hearing is scheduled for July 19th at 12:30.  A hearing for the McIntosh Board is scheduled immediately after.

The State Board will hold its next regular meetings July 18-19. 

05/15 - School Security Takes Center Stage

School Security Takes Center Stage
by Angela Palm on 5/15/2018

GSBA-CWO Header After the Valentine's Day tragedy at Parkland High School, school security became a major topic in the General Assembly.  They added $16 million in bonds for school safety capital projects, added requirements for school safety plans and drills to HB 763, created a House Study Committee on School Security and a Senate School Safety Study Committee and saw several other bills dropped (but not passed) to address the subject including a resolution urging local boards of education to implement the 2014 statute allowing the arming of personnel. Since the session, there has been a media frenzy over school districts that have recently considered adopting a policy that would allow implementation of that statute should they decide to do so.

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle recently appointed the members of the Senate Study Committee but meetings haven't been announced yet. Speaker of the House David Ralston's appointees held their first meeting yesterday. Speaker Ralston issued a charge to the Committee to work with educators and school board members and made it clear that this is not an attempt by the state to interfere with local authority.  He selected the members of the Committee to have diversity in geography, party, and life experiences. He wanted this Committee because addressing school safety "takes more than money."

Dr. Garry McGiboney, Deputy Superintendent of External Affairs at the Georgia Department of Education, presented information to the Committee on current laws, Rules, and programs around school safety and climate. We have 41 state laws, six State Board rules, and two federal laws related to school safety if you ever wondered.  He emphasized how school climate and school safety are interconnected and the difference PBIS is making in discipline issues.  Over the last three years, nine types of discipline incidents have decreased but four types have increased (slide 10).  One of those categories increasing was handguns.  There were 170 handgun reports last year across the 2,291 public schools with 1.7 million students.  McGiboney said that was low compared to national numbers. 

The meeting also included panel discussions with sheriffs from Dawson, Gordon, Fannin, and Pickens counties and school officials from Gilmer, Fannin, Dawson, Forsyth, and Pickens. It quickly became clear that the arrangements between the sheriff department and school district varies by location.  Most seemed to have a good working relationship. The question of who is responsible for school safety also became a recurring thought.  Both discussions included safety measures put in place, challenges they face, recommendations.

The Chief Assistant District Attorney of Cherokee County recounted the success of "see something, say something" when a student tipped the school police to a potential threat at Etowah High School last year.  She stressed the role parents have in school safety as well as everybody else.

Their next meeting will be in July at a time and place to be decided. 

03/30 - Day 40: Yea!

Day 40: Yea!
by Angela Palm on 3/30/2018

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Another legislative session is over except for sorting out what bill ended up where.  There's a lot more fun to be had when the state has money.  The House completed the passage of the FY '19 budget today, so it's on to the Governor who has 40 days to sign or veto bills.  

We will provide a full summary of the session after the legislation is updated on the state website.  The TAVT bill was changed and passed as a conference committee report on HB 329.  It eliminated the "true up" but split the revenue 65% to the local governments and 35% to the state.  School districts will receive 49% of the local dollars.  GSSA and GSBA checked with a variety of school districts and they all would receive more money under this plan than the current one.

The following other bills passed today:

HB 787, increasing the state charter supplement, was amended in the House.  The "hold harmless" amendment pointed out in Tuesday's report was eliminated among other changes.  

HB 217, increasing the income tax credit cap for donations to the student scholarship organizations to fund vouchers to private school students, finally came out of conference committee.  The cap was increased to $100 million for ten years then reverts to $58 million and must be reviewed at that point.  The sunset on the tax credits for donations to the Public Education Innovation Fund was extended for three more years but the cap was not raised.

SB 362, authorizing an innovative assessment pilot 

SB 401, adding requirements for the individual graduation plan and requiring a study of counselors' duties and workloads also includes language from HB 762 on sexual assault and abuse awareness education 

HB 65, added post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intractable pain to the eligible conditions to the use of cannabis oil and creates a study commission to review in-state cultivation and access to medical marijuana

HB 673, the distracted driving bill, also applies to school bus drivers

HB 740, requiring a multi-tiered system of supports before suspending or expelling a student in PK-3 more than four days

HB 763, adding school climate review to the duties of the attendance protocol committee; adding requirements for the school safety plans and drills; directing the Department of Education to develop criteria for school safety grants

HB 853, education funding for students in certain psychiatric facilities

SB 330, the Green Agricultural Education Act, creates a pilot program for elementary grades and provides other requirements for the agricultural education program

HR 51/HB 85, a Constitutional amendment and enabling legislation to make changes to the forestland protection grant program and creates a new category of timber

HB 61, collection of sales taxes on internet purchases -- puts the burden on the company not the buyer

HB 489, requiring certain bids or proposals to be advertised in the Georgia Procurement Registry

HR 1036, urging the state to do a public awareness campaign in support of computer science education

Not Passing

These bills had some action taken today or were on the calendar but did not pass 

HB 791, making limited changes to sovereign immunity

HB 273, the recess bill

HB 743, the Sudden Cardiac Prevention Act

HB 978, automated traffic enforcement safety devices in school zones

As always, GSBA thanks you for your service and your advocacy efforts.  It makes a difference when you communicate with your legislators, and I thank you for responding to our requests!