Legislative Daily Reports

04/02 - Day 40: You Know What This Means

Day 40: You Know What This Means
by Angela Palm on 4/2/2019

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It’s Day 40 and you know what that means — we’re done for the year after a long, sorta messy, back and forth kind of day. And what would sine die be without some last minute drama and rumors?
 
Rumors of Vouchers  
The drama today was all about vouchers. And there was no shortage of rumors.  Although we had been told vouchers were dead, we were still on the watch for any effort to add the bill today.  SB 68 was the likely target as HB 68 had already been tried.  There were rumors of it being added to SB 68 if the bill went to conference committee.  It didn't.
 
The House passed SB 68 last week after adding other bills to it.  This morning the Senate agreed to the House version -- as they had amended it.  The Senate amendment removed HB 32 (moving the chief turnaround officer position from the State Board to the State Superintendent) and HB 86 (allowing certain teachers to appeal their evaluation) from the bill.  The House disagreed and the stage was set for a conference committee at which all kinds of amendments could turn up.  A story quickly spreading was that the voucher bill was attached already.  It was not.  Another was that it would be added to the conference committee report.  It never got that far.  Sen. Freddie Powell Sims did not make any move to bring the bill up to avoid her bill becoming a vehicle for vouchers.  
 
Bottom line -- vouchers did not pass or move forward any of the times the bill resurfaced.  We had help with that.  Thank you to all who responded to our alerts.  It made a difference in the legislative and executive branches.  Thank you to Gov. Brian Kemp who listened to the concerns of school board members and others then championed the financial changes to the bill and understood that funding was not the only issue and acted accordingly. We appreciate his efforts and encourage you to add your thanks to ours.  House Education Chair Rick Jasperse was also a major help in working through this process and other bills. Sen. Freddie Powell Sims obviously also played a major part in stopping this today.  Please take a moment to thank them also.

What Passed Today 
HB 68 prohibits an accrediting Association or a subsidiary from also being a student scholarship organization. When the voucher bill was attached to it in the Senate Education & Youth Committee, it created such an uproar (thank you for helping provide that uproar) that the bill was stuck. Friday, the Senate Rules Committee removed the voucher language. Today when it was up for debate in the Senate, an amendment was proposed to attach HB 69 allowing a student who had received the special needs voucher to continue to be eligible for it even if they left the private school for home school then wanted to go back to a private school. The amendment failed; the bill passed the Senate and was agreed to by the House. 
 
HB 59, allowing children of parents in the active military to enroll in a school upon receipt of orders, which now includes HB 558, allowing state charters with a statewide attendance zone to be considered a state agency for purposes of the Open Meetings Act. That means the governing board can meet by teleconference without limitation. 
 
SB 83, allowing for an elective to teach history, literature, art etc of Old Testament and New Testament, plus HB 562 which puts the REACH scholarship into statute. It’s currently a program but not a law.
 
HB 315, requiring consultants to local governments on bids or proposals disclose any conflict of interest
 
HB 459, requiring districts to verify school bus driver information twice a year
 
SB 9, relating to sexual contact between a student and school employee
 
SB 15, the school safety bill, passed with an amendment that would require the school safety coordinator to report reasonable suspicion of violent criminal activity to the appropriate law enforcement agency but also allowing the reporting of reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity.
 
HB 322, changing the value of bids or purchases of goods or services to be placed on the Georgia Procurement Registry, had a tangled path in both chambers tonight and oddly they mirrored each other.  The bill was back in the House for agreement with the Senate version.  The House agreed then reconsidered and disagreed.  The Senate then insisted, reconsidered, and receded.  After all that, it meant that the House version is the one going to the Governor.
 
SB 2, allowing EMCs to provide broadband
 
SR 64, urging the Georgia High School Association to add the 4x800 meter relay to the state track meet
 
SR 304, creating a Senate Athletic Association Study Committee 
 
SR 353, creating a Senate Study Committee on Community Schools 
 
SR 452, creating a Senate Study Committee on Financial Efficiency Star
 
SR 468, creating a Senate Study Committee on the Educational Development of African American Children in Georgia
 
The Governor has 40 days to sign or veto these bills and the others that already passed. We will update you when that process is complete.
 
What Did Not Pass 
HB 365, amending the tag ad valorem tax (TAVT) statute, passed the Senate.  The House then agreed as amended but the Senate took no further action.
 
HB 444, the dual enrollment bill, remained tabled in the Senate
 
SB 161, weighting of grades, was postponed in the House four days and never came up for a vote.
 
These bills plus SB 68 from above will start next session with the status they ended up with tonight.  For example, HB 365 and SB 68 will be in the Senate for any further action to be taken.
 
What else is left? 
 
The House recommitted all bills remaining in the Rules Committee back to the committee from which they came for next session.  In education, that includes the following:
  • HB 1, renaming the special needs voucher the Eric Johnson Scholarship Act
  • HB 10, instruction on the best practices for and risks associated with the use of tampons
  • HB 32, duties of the Chief Turnaround Officer
  • HB 69, revising the prior year in public school requirement for eligibility for the special needs voucher if already qualified for it
  • HB 86, appeal of teachers' evaluations under certain circumstances
  • HB 464, requirements for a public comment period at regular monthly school board meetings
  • HR 553, House Study Committee on Cyberbullying
  • HR 680, House Study Committee on School Nutrition Program Funding 
The Senate had only SB 165, designation of a non-profit to govern high school athletics in the state, left in Rules in terms of education.
 
The House Education Committee had 21 bills remaining and nine in Senate Education & Youth.
 
So rest up, we still have plenty of work to do! 
 
We thank you for reading, for talking with your legislators, educating your community about these issues, and taking action as requested.  Thank you for your service to the children of Georgia attending your schools.  Also, a special thanks to the Communications Department of GSBA for their help in getting our message out quickly when Scott and I could not.   
 
 

03/29 - Day 39: Dual Enrollment on Pause

Day 39: Dual Enrollment on Pause
by Angela Palm on 3/29/2019

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The Capitol may have been the safest place in the state this afternoon as a lot of extra security arrived in preparation for the final vote on the abortion bill.  There was definitely some citizen participation after the House gave the final passage to the bill.  Civics in action. Otherwise, it was a typical late session kind of day swinging between slow moving and fast as the two chambers worked through agreement on bills and passing those still making their way through.  Here's the recap:

House 

SB 68 started out addressing financial governance issues of local boards but by the time it was voted on today it included three other bills. 

  • HB 32, moving the position of chief turnaround officer to a Department of Education staff position, has been oddly contentious.  There has been no discussion on changing the duties or processes to be followed, just to whom he/she would report (the State Superintendent) and who would fill a vacancy in the position (the Governor). Currently the State Board, appointed by the Governor, hires and supervises the position.  Gov. Kemp has said he wants to streamline government wherever possible.  This was a good place to start, and he supports the change.
  • HB 86, requiring local boards to establish a process for a teacher who has received their fourth (or more) consecutive contract to appeal their evaluation if they choose to do so.  The appeal could be to an independent third party.
  • HB 464, relating to public comments at local board of education meetings, got a slight revision before the vote today.  Originally, the board could not require any prior notice for the public to make comments.  That was changed to prohibiting the requirement of more than 24 hours notice prior to the regular monthly meeting.  A public comment period would be required, although I don't know of one that doesn't have that already.  The board chair can limit the length of time for individual comments and the number of people speaking.

The bill passed 153-2 and goes back to the Senate for agreement with the House changes.

SB 108, requiring computer science courses in high school and middle school on a phased-in timeline, passed 163-3 and went to the Senate for agreement.  They did and it now goes to the Governor.

SB 213, changing campaign finance reporting dates, passed and went back to the Senate for agreement.  They passed it again and it goes to the Governor.

Senate 

HB 444, the dual enrollment bill, was tabled before any discussion took place.  Reportedly there were several amendments coming.  By the way, I need to make a budget correction from last night's report.  The final decision on dual enrollment funding was to cut it $4.2 million not to increase it by that amount.  The House had recommended that cut to reflect implementation of HB 444.

HB 218 extends eligibility time for HOPE.  It passed and goes to the Governor.

HB 12 requires a sign be posted in each school with the toll-free phone number to report child abuse.  It passed and goes to the Governor.

HB 182 lowers the amount of internet sales an out-of-state company would have to make before they have to collect sales tax.  It also passed and heads to the Governor.

The Senate also agreed to the House version of SB 48, the dyslexia bill, and it goes to the Governor.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM on Tuesday, April 2nd 

03/28 - Day 38: Budget Is Done

Day 38: Budget Is Done
by Angela Palm on 3/28/2019

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In the last few days of the session, there is never a shortage of rumors and today was no exception.  It seemed like the rumors had rumors when it came to the education savings account voucher bill and how it would hit the floor today or be on the calendar tomorrow.  It didn't and it won't be.  We're told that it's dead for this session.  If that changes, you'll be the first to know :).  By the way, just because it didn't happen doesn't mean people weren't trying to get it moving again.  We appreciate everybody who was keeping an eye out for any action on it.

FY '20 Budget Done 

The Conference Committee on the FY '20 budget wasted no time coming to agreement.  They finished yesterday and both chambers adopted it today. The Department of Education section begins on page 93 of the document. Here are a few of the changes from previous versions of the budget:

$522 million for a $3000 raise for certified employees beginning July 1, 2019 -- budget writers had to find $86 million more to start the raise in July instead of September

$12.2 million in bonds for vocational equipment 

$4.2 million increase for dual enrollment plus $1 million to establish funding for an Early HOPE program for those in dual enrollment

$2 million for charter school facilities grants

$1 million for grants to schools for feminine hygiene products for low-income students

$1 million for additional high school counselors and enriching counselor programs for Title I schools

$968,634 increase in sparsity grants -- the budget also directs a study to be done over the summer to come up with a plan for updating the sparsity grant formula

$750,000 for professional development to implement SB 108, the computer science bill

$413,000 increase to RESAs by reducing austerity to the base formula

$274,920 for three school safety coordinators and for operations (Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency) 

$200,000 to expand the Communities in Schools model of wraparound services

We appreciate all the efforts of the Governor, Lt. Governor, legislators and budget staff to fund all these needs.  There were some big shifts in the money needed, and it's hard to do that.  Between the supplemental budget and this one, the Governor kept those campaign promises about school safety funding and got 60% of the teacher pay raise done in his first year.  What an excellent start for a new administration.

What Passed 

HB 530, notification to DFACS if a student is absent 45 consecutive days and the school has not received a notice of intent to homeschool or a request for a transcript

HB 266, doubling the state income tax credit for contributions to 529 education savings accounts (completely different kind of accounts than the voucher mentioned above)

HB 322, advertising certain bids or proposals in the Georgia Procurement Registry

HB 527,changing the program weights for QBE

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM for Day 39 

03/26 - Day 37: Recess Is Over

Day 37: Recess Is Over
by Angela Palm on 3/26/2019

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Several bills we have followed passed one chamber or the other today.  One of them crossed the finish line.  HB 83, the recess bill, passed the Senate today and goes to the Governor.  Four Senators voted against the bill - it seems they thought recess should be decided at the local level.  This bill has had quite a journey but will be in effect for the 2019-20 school year after the Governor signs it.

Following are the other bills that were on calendars today:

  • SB 9 is one of several attempts we've seen to create a statute to address sexual contact between a student and school employee.  It passed the House today and goes back to the Senate for agreement to House changes including a floor amendment today with some of the language Rep. Ed Setzler had in his HB 43.
  • SB 161, weighting of grades, was postponed again today in the House.
  • SB 83, teaching of the Old Testament and New Testament as electives, passed the House and goes back to the Senate for agreement.  HB 562, putting the REACH scholarship into statute, is now part of this bill.
  • HB 59, allowing a military family who has received orders to move to enroll a child in the school zone they intend to move to, passed the Senate and goes back to the House.  One of the Senate changes was to attach HB 558, recognizing state charter schools with a statewide attendance zone as a state agency for purposes of the Open Meetings Act.  The other change added a section to state enrollment in a charter school requires residence at the time of enrollment.
  • HB 315, consultants hired by a local entity to develop or prepare specifications for bids, RFPs, or purchase orders must provide a conflict of interest statement, passed the Senate and goes back to the House for agreement.
  • HB 459, verification of school bus driver credentials twice a year, passed the Senate and goes back to the House for agreement. It now includes HB 394 relating to volunteers to police for traffic control.

Conference Committee on FY '20 Budget 

The conferees held a brief meeting this morning and agreed funding the teacher pay raise is a priority.  The conferees, by the way, are the Appropriations Chair, Majority Leader, and Pro Tem in each chamber. They will continue to hash things out over the next few days.

Tim Tebow Bill 

SB 163, allowing homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities and interscholastic sports at the public school, was heard in the Academic Innovation Subcommittee of House Education today.  It was often described as an equal opportunity access bill to eliminate bias.  If it's an equal access bill, that raises even more issues. Several home school parents spoke for the bill.  They seemed to think possible cheating issues were a moot point as "it's already happening."  The point was consistently made that these students are allowed to participate through 8th grade but are suddenly no longer welcome.  Tying extracurricular activities to enrolled students was referred to as discriminatory.

Muscogee Superintendent Dr. David Lewis gave examples of issues he faced in Florida when a similar bill was first passed.  Representatives from GSSA, GSBA, and Georgia PTA also spoke.  The Assistant Director of the Georgia HIgh Schools Association explained an upcoming proposed rule change to the Subcommittee. Decisions regarding participation, grade validation, and discipline would be left to the school district but GHSA would allow them to play for the school in their attendance zone.

This was a hearing only so no vote was held.  House Education Chair Rick Jasperse had to leave the meeting but left a statement that he would form a working group to continue to look at this.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

Wednesday, March 27th 

This is a Committee Work Day

10 AM Senate Higher Education Committee will meet in 450 CAP.  No agenda has been posted but HB 444, the dual enrollment bill is still in this committee. 

11 AM House Education Committee will meet in 406 CLOB to hear SB 108, the computer science bill.

3 PM House Governmental Affairs Elections Subcommittee will meet in 406 CLOB to hear SB 213, changing some campaign reporting dates.  The Governmental Affairs Committee will meet immediately after. 

Thursday, March 28th 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM for Day 38! 

03/25 - Day 36: Fast Tracking the Budget

Day 36: Fast Tracking the Budget
by Angela Palm on 3/25/2019

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As the day began the General Assembly was down to its last five legislative days to get their work for this session done.  Each chamber is keeping an eye on the other to see what's moving forward, what's not, and what might be used for leverage.  Each chamber had bills we have followed up for a vote today.

Senate 

  • passed the FY '20 budget 55-0 and by the end of the day, all the disagreeing and insisting had been taken care of to put the budget into a conference committee to work out the differences.  At this point, we have the Governor's recommendations, the House's, and the Senate's.  
  • passed HB 130, allowing the Georgia Foundation for Public Education to create a 501(c)(3).  That one can go on to the Governor.  
  • HB 311, changing some provisions for sovereign immunity for the state, passed 49-0 and goes back to the House for agreement with Senate changes.

House 

  • passed SB 48, the dyslexia bill, and SB 60, the Sudden cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, both of which have to go back to the Senate for agreement to House changes. 
  • passed HR 52, urging the state and local school districts to recognize the impact of dyslexia  
  • postponed SB 161, weighting of grades, until tomorrow

Senate Education & Youth 

This Committee held its final meeting of the session this afternoon. 

  • SR 195, urging school districts to have an emergency medical technician at all full-contact sporting events, was on the agenda but Chairman P. K. Martin said the sponsor said they didn't need to take it up this year, so they would skip that one.  
  • SR 64, urging GHSA to add the 4x800 meter relay to state track meets, received a "Do Pass" and provided another opportunity for some to complain about "non-responsiveness" from the organization.  
  • HB 12, requiring the posting of the child abuse hot line phone number in schools, also received a "Do Pass."  Both those bills go on to Rules.

Computer Science Bill 

SB 108, requiring courses related to computer science in middle and high schools, was heard in the Academic Achievement Subcommittee of House Education.  The implementation date was moved forward another year in the substitute bill.  Several people spoke for the bill.  House Education Chair Rick Jasperse told two of them, representatives from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, that he looks forward to seeing what they do to support the bill as volunteers are needed to help with this effort.  The bill received a "Do Pass" and goes to the full Committee.

School Safety Bill 

SB 15, the school safety bill that passed the Senate about a month ago, was scheduled for a hearing in the Academic Support Subcommittee of House Education this afternoon but the meeting was canceled when the Chamber session went into the late afternoon. 

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

Tuesday, March 26th 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM

8:30 AM FY '20 Conference Committee will meet in 403 CAP 

1 PM Academic Innovation Subcommittee of House Education will meet in 415 CLOB for a hearing only on SB 163, the Tim Tebow bill

03/22 - Day 35 - Loooooong Friday

Day 35 - Loooooong Friday
by Angela Palm on 3/22/2019

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It was a long crazy day around the Capitol with all eyes on the Senate which took until 6:30pm to complete its business, while the House quickly finished their work and wrapped up before lunch.

In the major news of the day, SB 212, introduced by Chairman P.K. Martin and carried in the House by Chairman Alan Powell was passed the House by a vote of 165-0. As you may recall, this legislation would allow online driver training courses to administer the drivers license test as long as the program is licensed by the State, and that 6 in-car hours of instruction are completed. 

And that was all the major legislation considered by either chamber today. Yep... nothing else happened. 

(Checks notes)

Oh, right.

The Senate spent most of their day debating HB 481, the widely discussed, and widely protested, bill on abortion. I'm sure all of you have seen the coverage in the news, and it will continue to be an issue over the next week plus as we head toward the end of session.

If the protesters were not enough excitement for the chamber, rapper/actor/record producer/songwriter/entrepreneur/author (so says his Wikipedia) Clifford Harris Jr. was recognized by Senator Donzella James for his "musical talent and philanthropic contributions". Harris, better knows by his stage name "T.I." rolled up to the Capitol in an all black Rolls-Royce, catching the attention of all who walked in.

Next Week

Both chambers will be in session on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of next week, the final full week of the session. Wednesday will be a committee work day.

Monday - House Academic Support Subcommittee of Education will meet at 1 to hear Senator Albers' SB 15, the Keeping Georgia's Schools Safe Act.  Immediately following, the House Academic Achievement Subcommittee of Education will consider SB 108requires computer science courses in middle and high school by a certain deadline. As noted in yesterday's Capitol Watch, the Senate budget includes funding for professional development in these fields. 

Tuesday - In what appears to be the final House Education subcommittee meeting of the session, the Academic Innovation Subcommittee will hold a hearing only on Senator Bruce Thompson's SB 163, better known as the Tim Tebow Bill, at 1pm.  At 2pm, the Senate Education committee will meet. If you're a fan of the 4x800 relay race in track and field, this is the meeting for you, as the committee will take up SR 64, a non-binding resolution that urges the Georgia High School Association to add the 4x800 relay to the state track and field meet. Also on the agenda is HB 12, which requires schools to post the toll-free number to report child abuse and neglect, and SR 195, a non-binding resolution which urges local districts to have an EMT on hand during all full-contact sporting events.

And not to bury the lede, there is still a chance that HB 68, the voucher bill, will make an appearance in the Senate next week. Angela sent out an alert earlier this week with information about the new bill. This report, as well as all past reports, can be found online at GSBA.com or on the GSBA Hub app. Please keep a look out for any future information about the movement of HB 68. 

Lastly, thanks to all who listened to the latest episode of the GSBA podcast, we hope this adds a little something extra to the written reports you receive daily. Look for a new episode next week!

03/21 - Day 34: Senate Shows Its Budget

Day 34: Senate Shows Its Budget
by Angela Palm on 3/21/2019

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Both chambers passed a number of bills today but only one had relevance to K-12 education.  The Senate passed HB 514 creating the Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission.

FY '20 Budget 

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted out their budget recommendations first thing this morning.  It will go to a floor vote early next week.  Here are some of the major changes from the House: 

  • $436 million to provide a $3000 raise for certified employees effective September 1
  • $2.3 million to meet the projected need for dual enrollment (the Governor recommended an increase of $3.5 million; the House recommended a reduction of $4.2 million based on provisions of HB 444)
  • $5.3 million for charter facilities grants
  • $1.7 million for sparsity grants based on enrollment decline and to reduce austerity
  • $1.3 million for 11 positions and associated equipment costs for school safety positions to implement SB 15 (this is under the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency)
  • $1 million for additional counselors and enriching counseling programs for Title I schools
  • $1 million for professional development programs for teachers providing computer science instruction per SB 108
  • $826,000 to RESAs by reducing austerity to the base formula
  • $600,000 for grants to schools for feminine hygiene products for low-income students
  • $250,000 for cybersecurity initiatives in high schools (under the Governor's Office of Student Achievement)
  • $220,000 for systems and schools to reach and maintain industry certification in the field of construction
  • $100,000 for a 2 year dyslexia pilot per SB 48
  • $100,000 to expand the Communities in Schools model of wraparound supports to new schools

Christmas Party in House Education 

The House Education Committee had five bills on the agenda but moved eight bills on to Rules through the common tactic of attaching one bill to another -- sometimes called Christmas tree bills.  Everything was voted out but it wasn't all smooth sailing.

HR 52, encouraging the state and school districts to recognize the impact of dyslexia, was acted on quickly.

SB 83, adding components to the elective for Old Testament and New Testament, created quite a discussion.  Rep. Brenda Lopez-Romero tried to amend the bill to include the Koran so it included the three "sister/cousin religions."  That did not go over well with some Committee members as they asserted this is a Judeo-Christian country and you can't change our history.  Rep. Dave Belton thought adding Muslims would destroy the intent of the bill while Rep. Dominic LaRiccia pointed out that local boards can add to the provisions of the bill.  Predictably the amendment was voted down.  

Rep. Robert Dickey's bill to put the REACH Scholarship into statute was added to SB 83.  It started a constitutional discussion over including the phrase citizen or eligible noncitizen as part of the eligibility.  An amendment to strike that also failed. After a second spirited discussion, the committee substitute passed.

SB 68, relating to financial governance, had two other bills added.  HB 32, moving the Chief Turnaround Officer to the School Improvement Division of the Department of Education, and HB 86, requiring districts to have a complaint policy for teachers receiving their fourth or more consecutive contract so they could appeal their performance rating to an independent third party. 

The controversy in this one was moving the chief turnaround officer from the State Board to the Department.  Some members strongly opposed the move and asked to give him more time.  Rep. Kevin Tanner said, as he has previously, that Gov. Kemp wants this to avoid redundancy and he can make the change in several ways.  There were also questions about striking the section of the current statute regarding grants.  The previous Governor wanted the Governor's Office of Student Achievement involved with the grants; the current Governor does not.  Since he will be a part of the Department of Education funding will be handled through there.

In attaching the bill, the section related to the Turnaround Education Specialists pilot with a stipend funded jointly by the state and district was left off.  An amendment added it back. The committee substitute doesn't include this change. 

SB 48, the dyslexia bill, saw some changes but no other bills were added. The pilot to screen all kindergarten students and those in grades 1-3 who had not been screened was changed from two years to three.  Mandatory testing would begin after the pilot in 2024-2025.

SB 60, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, created no controversy nor did it inspire any amendments.  

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

Friday, March 22nd 

The House will convene at 9:30; the Senate at 10 

03/20 - Alert -- It's Back!

Alert -- It's Back!
by Angela Palm on 3/20/2019

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Remember when I said to keep the phone numbers and emails of legislators handy?  You're going to need to get that out for your Senator.  Today in Senate Education & Youth, HB 68 went from a one page bill with 14 lines to a ten page bill with 317 lines as it was amended with the education savings account voucher bill.  

They've made some changes to it so pat yourselves on the back for speaking up -- because none of these changes would have happened without all our voices carrying a common message.  That doesn't mean we no longer oppose the bill though.  There is no electronic version yet with all the changes, but here's a summary of the differences:

  • All students must have been in public school the prior year for the two FTE counts
  • Students eligible are limited to students with special needs, students from families up to 150% of the poverty limit, children of active duty military parents, students adopted from foster care, and students with a documented case of being bullied
  • Enrollment in the voucher program will be frozen in any year that there is an austerity cut to QBE
  • The voucher amount will be calculated with the five mill share deduction made as well as any other cuts to funding going to districts for their students
  • After graduation, funds rolled over from previous years can not be used for postsecondary purposes.  The funds left over are to be returned to the state general fund.
  • The program cap was changed from 5% to 2.5% statewide and a 2.5% cap per district. 

The legislative positions of the members of GSBA include the following:

GSBA is opposed to vouchers, tuition tax credits, K-12 education savings plans, or scholarships whose purpose is to allocate public funds to private school or home study. GSBA urges the General Assembly to include accountability measures in any voucher program including financial and policy transparency, performance evaluation measures, and consequences for poor performance. 

 HB 68 does not include those accountability and transparency measures.  

  • Just as with the special needs voucher we already have, there is no requirement that the private school follow the student's IEP.
  • There is no uniform evaluation of student achievement.  If this is "empowering" parents, where is the supporting structure to help parents choose a school?
  • The names of schools the voucher students attend is protected in the annual report.  Why the secrecy and again, how does this help parents?
  • Audits of the accounts are random.  Public schools must be audited annually.  The Arizona education savings account voucher requires parents to submit quarterly expense reports with detailed receipts. This bill has no such requirement.
  • There is no requirement that the program be evaluated by a third party at any time.  No voucher program we have has been evaluated.  Taxpayers deserve better.

Those are just a few of the issues.  Call your Senator to let him or her know this bill is in Senate Rules.  It needs to stay there.

In Other News 

The last two days were set aside as Committee Work Days. Here's what happened:

SB 68, setting some rules around financial governance issues, and HR 52, encouraging recognition of the impact of dyslexia, both got a "Do Pass" from the Academic Support Subcommittee of House Education and go to the full Committee.

SB 147, on elected officials and lobbying, was heard in Senate Ethics but no action was taken.  It is of course way past crossover for this bill.

HB 322, revising advertising requirements for bids in the Procurement Register, got a "Do Pass" from the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee and goes to Rules.

SB 175, requiring the school district to pay the employer and employee share of TRS for those retirees who are working 49%, was tabled again in House Retirement as was HB 109, changing parts of TRS.

HB 83, the recess bill, was voted out of Senate Education & Youth and it goes to Rules.

HB 130, authorizing the Georgia Foundation for Public Education to form a 501(c)(3), also got passed on to Rules.

HB 530, relating to the extended absence of students whose parents have not notified the state or district of the intent to home school, also was moved on to Rules.

HB 68, as noted above was moved on to Rules as amended.  There were several other amendments attempted but they failed.  Interestingly, somebody knew about this move early enough to bring in Dr. Matt Ladner, Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, from Arizona to testify for the bill. Make those calls!

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

Thursday, March 21st 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM

8 AM Senate Appropriations will meet in 341 CAP to vote out the FY '20 budget

1 PM House Education Committee will meet in 606 CLOB for this agenda 

03/18 - Day 33: Back to Business

Day 33: Back to Business
by Angela Palm on 3/18/2019

The House and Senate zipped through their calendars quickly today to move on to Committee work.  The House passed SB 67, disaster-related capital outlay, 162-0 and it heads to the Governor.

Here are a couple of resolutions of note:

  • HR 531 is a constitutional amendment to allow local legislation to authorize the election of the local school superintendent. Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Forest Park) is the sole signer but she at least phrased the ballot question honestly.
  • SR 348 would create the Senate Freedom from Property Taxes Study Committee.  The sponsors, Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) and Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), put their goal in the title of the Study Committee.  By the way, there are numerous Study Committees proposed each year but few are approved.  It's good to know what policy changes people are thinking about though.

School Board Appreciation Week 

Before moving on to Committee action today, we want to recognize the service of our school board members.  We have 180 elected boards of education across the state.  Bless them for stepping forward to serve.  A spotlight hits them every time something goes wrong but still they run for the office.  May you be publicly appreciated for all you do!

We frequently get questions about the school boards so here are answers to a few of them:

  • About 60% of the school boards are categorized as non-partisan
  • 63% have five members, 27% have seven -- the rest have either 6, 8, 9, or 10 members
  • The board chair is selected by the voters in 18% of the districts (32) 

Back to Business 

After a three day weekend, legislators were back and moving through bills in Committee meetings.  Here are the results:

SB 83, adding the History and Literature of the Old and New Testament as an elective, received a "Do Pass" from the Academic Achievement Subcommittee of House Education.  The sponsor, Sen. Jeff Mullis, said the purpose is "to teach not to preach." It moves to the full Committee. 

SB 60, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, also received a pass on to the full House Education Committee.

SB 48, the dyslexia, made it unanimous from this Subcommittee as they also voted this one out to the full Committee.

HB 365, this year's TAVT bill, was amended in Senate Finance to delay the implementation date a year.  It got a "Do Pass" and goes to Senate Rules.

HB 527, adjusting the QBE weights, also passed out of Senate Finance.  Most of the Committee members were puzzled by the bill and tried to be careful they weren't doing something that would cause trouble down the road.  This bill has usually been in the Education Committee where members are more familiar with the terminology. At least they were being cautious. It goes to Senate Rules.

HB 459, creating a school bus driver status verification system, passed by a committee substitute in Senate Public Safety.  Language was added about public safety assistants that had nothing to do with school bus drivers.  It goes to Senate Rules.

The following three bills were heard in Senate Education & Youth today but no vote was taken.  That was planned.  They will probably be voted out of the Committee at Wednesday's meeting. 

HB 83, the recess bill was back today.  This may be the most talked-to-death bill yet.  Several speakers wanted 30 minutes of recess to be required daily in elementary school with no exceptions. Two students testified for the bill -- this made the third year for one of them to speak for the bill.

HB 68, limiting a student scholarship organization from also being an accrediting group, again got puzzled looks from legislators.  SSOs and accreditation aren't two things heard together in a business plan very often.

HB 530 tries to add a layer of protection for home schooled students. It stems from the recent case in Effingham County where two children were murdered. The bill has changed greatly since we first described it.  When a parent notifies the Department of Education that they will home school their child, the Department will notify the local school district.  If the parent does not file the intention to home school and the student has been absent for 45 days, the district would notify the Department of Family and Children's Services. 

HB 59 was the one bill that the  Committee voted out.  The bill started out as allowing a military family to enroll a student in a school when orders have been received but have not yet moved. It got two amendments. 

  • One contained the language mentioned in Thursday's report about giving state charter schools statewide jurisdiction.  According to the testimony, many of the state charters have been operating their meetings by teleconference which a statewide jurisdiction allows.  The Attorney General gave an informal opinion that this portion of the law is vague, so this would clear it up.  The amendment was ruled germane and was adopted.  
  • The second amendment was actually related to the bill. It would allow pre-enrollment at charter schools according to the author.  

It moves on to Senate Rules.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

The General Assembly is adjourned until Thursday.  The next two days are Committee Work Days.  Here are the meetings scheduled so far:

Tuesday, March 19th 

10 AM Academic Support Subcommittee of House Education will meet in 506 CLOB to hear SB 68, financial governance requirements, and HR 52, encouraging recognition of the impact of dyslexia

1 PM Senate Ethics Committee will meet in 307 CLOB to hear SB 147, prohibiting an elected official from being a registered lobbyist if compensated by the county, city, or school district.

2 PM Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee will meet in the Mezz 1 to hear HB 322, changing requirements for advertising in the Procurement Registry

2:30 PM House Retirement Committee will meet in 515 CLOB for this agenda 

Wednesday, March 20th 

1 PM Senate Finance Tax Expenditures Subcommittee will meet in Mezz 1, agenda TBA

2 PM House Higher Education will meet in 606 CLOB to hear SB 161, weighting of grades

2 PM Senate Finance will meet in Mezz 1, agenda TBA

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

03/14 - Day 32: Lot of Bills About to Move

Day 32: Lot of Bills About to Move
by Angela Palm on 3/14/2019

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We are entering the home stretch when things will move slow as molasses then faster than the speed of light and back to slow again.  Bills are likely to bounce back and forth between chambers as they trade amendments.  We have 8 legislative days left for legislators to get it all sorted out by midnight (hopefully) on April 2nd.  Please stay alert for changes to bills that matter to you and keep the phone numbers and email addresses of your Senators and Representatives handy. 

There was nothing in either chamber related to our work today, so on to the Committee action. If you have concerns about any of the bills listed below, legislators are home for the next three days.

Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee

This Subcommittee heard the proposed FY '20 budget review from the six agencies included in the education budget.  There were few questions raised.  The Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) reported that its foundation has raised $750,000 so far in its first year in answer to a question.

There were some questions about the funding for the AP exams, funding for the Agricultural Education extended day/extended year teachers and those for the Young Farmers program.

A number of people addressed the Subcommittee as they mostly sought additional funding.  No vote was taken nor any indication given as to any changes they might make.

Dyslexia Learning Opportunity 

The House Education Committee was introduced to SB 48 and the work of the Senate Study Committee on Dyslexia last year.  It is a complex subject and Chairman Rick Jasperse had several presentations to help his members understand the bill and subject. 

SB 48 will be heard in a Subcommittee meeting on Monday although the meeting is not yet posted.

Several bills were assigned to Subcommittees (just to remind you of some bills still out there):

Academic Support 

HB 558 would allow a state charter school with a statewide attendance zone to be considered to have statewide jurisdiction for the purposes of the Open Meetings Act.  This will be wordy, but for your understanding of the bill here's why the change is being sought:  the Open Meetings Act allows agencies with statewide jurisdiction to meet by teleconference without restriction as long as they comply with the statute, such as providing notice.  All others, including governing boards of local charters and local boards of education, are very limited in using teleconferencing:  

  • In case of an emergency involving public safety or preservation of property, they may meet by teleconference as long as notice is provided AND the public can have simultaneous access to the teleconference meeting
  • A member of a local board may participate in a meeting by teleconference if necessary for health reasons or absence from the jurisdiction IF a quorum is present in person and the other requirements are met.  This is limited to twice in one calendar year for a local board member unless there is an emergency or the written opinion of a doctor or other health professional is provided.

Most, if not all, state charters have statewide attendance zones.

HR 52 encourages all schools, local education agencies, and the state education agency to recognize that dyslexia has a profound educational impact that must be addressed.

SB 15 is the "Keeping Georgia's Schools Safe Act."  The bill is a result of the Senate Study Committee on School Safety last year and passed the Senate early in the session.

SB 60, the Jeremy Nelson and Nick Blakely Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, requires information be provided on the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest and provides a protocol if a student faints or shows any symptoms of the condition during or after an interscholastic athletic activity.

Academic Achievement 

SB 83 authorizes elective courses in the History and Literature of the Old Testament and New Testament

SB 108 requires computer science courses in middle and high school by a certain deadline. There is a strong professional development component in the bill and the Senate is expected to add funding for it to the FY '20 budget.

Academic Innovation 

SB 163, the Tim Tebow bill, would allow homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities and interscholastic sports at the school to which they would be zoned or at the school the student could choose under any intra-district open enrollment provisions.  The local board would be prohibited from questioning the accuracy or validity of information provided by the parent and from requesting additional information. 

SB 219 requires that high school students and those seeking a GED correctly answer at least 60% of the questions on the U.S. Citizenship Civics Test. For high school students, the test would be part of the required U.S. History course.

Senate Higher Education Committee  

This Committee heard the dual enrollment bill, HB 444, but took no vote.  Members had a number of questions about the reasons and mechanics of the bill.  Chairman Lindsey Tippins noted there are two different academic purposes for dual enrollment and we have to look at the bill in light of both. It was clarified that the thirty hour limitation on state-paid dual enrollment courses is no longer limited to core courses.  Rep. Bert Reeves, a Governor's floor leader and sponsor of the bill, said again the bill is a work in progress.

Senate Government Oversight Committee  

HB 315 is described by the sponsor, Rep. Mark Newton, as a contractor's transparency bill. A contractor helping develop a bid would have to disclose any conflict of interest.  The bill was amended to ensure no conflict with another code section and given a "Do Pass" on to Senate Rules.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

Monday, March 18th 

The General Assembly will convene at 10 AM

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

Expect other Committee meetings to be added