Legislative Daily Reports

03/03 - Day 26: Voucher Bill Passes Senate

Day 26: Voucher Bill Passes Senate
by Scott Bierman on 3/3/2021

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While we may still be a few days away from Crossover Day, Wednesday felt like a preview as both the House and Senate worked into the evening voting on bills to send to the other chamber. It was especially noteworthy in the Senate as SB47, the Senate's expansion of the Special Needs Scholarship, passed the floor by a 30-23 vote. 

SB47 now heads across the hall to the House, who has their own voucher bill coming up in the days ahead.

The Senate also voted out the following education bills Wednesday:

  • SB42 - Removes school discipline data from the school climate rating
  • SB66 - Combines the Georgia Foundation for Public Education and Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation  
  • SB59Raises the charter school supplement amount for local charter schools, but also requires local districts with local charter schools to provide either a facility or a stipend to go to facility costs. A cap to the stipend amount was added to the original text.

The House had a long list of bills on their agendas for today, but relatively few education bills. So few in fact, that HB32 was the only one of note. If you recall HB32 creates a tax credit to attract teachers to teach in rural and high needs areas. Teachers new to these schools would be eligible for a $3000 refundable tax credit per school year up to five school years.  The Department of Education would develop criteria for selecting up to 100 participating schools, publish the criteria, and post the list of schools. 

House Education Committee

The House Education committee utilized the committee working day to take up four pieces of legislation, including one that had a controversial amendment.

  • HB517 was presented as a bill that made some technical changes to the Student Scholarship tax credit, and that is what the underlying bill did. However, Representative Ed Setzler introduced, and the committee passed, an amendment that moves the $100 million tax credit cap sunset from 2028 to 2031.
  • HB545 passed following several committee and subcommittee meetings. This is the newest version of "Tim Tebow" legislation. This version differs from past years in that it includes an enrollment requirement for home school students wishing to participate in extracurricular activities at their local public school. 
  • HB589 creates a Georgia Commission on Civics Education
  • HB606 adds the Georgia Independent School Association to the "eligible high school" list in terms of HOPE eligibility

Senate Finance Committee 

SB213 passed out of the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday afternoon. This bill allows school systems to use SPLOST funds to install equipment that reduces energy or water waste. 

Senate Judiciary Committee

Senate Judiciary met over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday to hear and take up SB226. Originally, this bill would remove the school library exemption from the distribution of harmful materials to minors statute. This centered around a group of parents concerned with some of the materials available to students in school libraries. After much discussion, the language was eventually changed. The new bill requires the State Board to come up with model policy regarding the process for a parental appeal of books and materials used in the classroom. Following the release of the State Board's model policy, local boards would then have until September 1 of this year to implement their own policy. 

Senate Education Committee

Beating the clock before the deadline to get bills into the clerks office to be considered by Crossover Day, the Senate Education committee met this morning and voted out three bills. 

  • SB106 encourages local districts (by using "may" instead of "shall" language) to utilize wraparound services before expelling or suspending students for more than five days for those in grades Pre-K through 8. 
  • SB240 allows local districts to create an instructional program for 11th and 12th graders on the importance of elections
  • SB266 limits participation in girls sports to students who were born biologically female

Thursday March 4 and Friday March 5 

The House and Senate are not in session Thursday, but some committees will still meet.

House Appropriations will release the FY2022 budget at 7:30am

House Education meets at 1pm

House Higher Education meets at 1pm

The House resumes session Friday morning at 9:30am, while the Senate meets at 10am. 

03/01 - Day 25: A Lot Left

Day 25: A Lot Left
by Scott Bierman on 3/1/2021

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Only 15 legislative days remain before the end of session, but much work remains before the General Assembly calls it. The House has started working through its major bills on the floor, with the elections bill being voted out today, and a sports gambling bill lingering in the background. We have still the FY2022 budget left to sort out, and that doesn't include all of the other bills to be considered. In that, of course, is HB60 the House voucher bill which will come up at some point.

Speaking of voucher bills, the Senate added their version, SB47, to the calendar for this upcoming Wednesday. It will be a day full of education bills as the following will also be on the Senate floor that day:

  • SB42 - Removes school discipline data from the school climate rating
  • SB59 - Raises the charter school supplement amount for local charter schools, but also requires local districts with local charter schools to provide either a facility or a stipend to go to facility costs. 
  • SB66Consolidates the Georgia Foundation for Public Education and Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation
  • SB95 - Amends the Open Meetings law to require public hearings held via teleconference to allow members of the public to participate fully as if the meeting were held in public. 

Senate Education and Youth

Four bills were heard in Senate Education and Youth this morning, with the return of #SB153 along with a few new ones as well.  

  • SB153, which changes the funding formula for GOAL academies, was finally passed out of committee after its third appearance on the committee agenda. There was another lengthy discussion today but it ultimately passed.
  • SB240 Allows local districts to create an instructional program for 11th and 12th graders on the importance of elections
  • SB246, the Learning Pod Protection Act, protects learning pods from "additional restrictions or regulations"
  • SB106 requires wraparound services to be provided before suspending a student for longer than 5 days, or expelling the student. The initial bill required this for only students in grades Pre-K through 3, but the substitute presented to the committee today expanded it to grade 12. The bill was not voted on today as there were concerns with the language in the bill. It is expected to come back later this week.

Tuesday March 2 and Wednesday March 3

The House and Senate are not in session tomorrow, but will hold committee meetings.

The House Education Committee meets at 8am to take up four bills.

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets at 9am to hear SB226. This bill removes school libraries from the exempted list under the code section relating to the sale and distribution of harmful materials to minors.

02/26 - Day 24: Crossover Day and Sine Die are scheduled

Day 24: Crossover Day and Sine Die are scheduled
by Grace Kim on 2/26/2021

 

Committee Meetings:

The Senate Education and Youth Committee met first thing this morning to discuss SB 3, SB 220, and SB 153.

SB3, which would raise the mandatory minimum age to attend high school to 17, will become the subject of a study committee. 

The Committee passed SB220, the "Georgia Civics Renewal Act." This bill creates the Commission on Civics Education (Commission). The purpose of the Commission is to promote civic education among students and the citizenry. The Commission will be composed of members of the public, chambers of commerce, and government officials, including the state superintendent. Members of the Commission will make recommendations for legislation. 

 

The Senate Education and Youth Committee spent the bulk of its time discussing SB153, which is titled the "Graduation Opportunities and Advanced Learning (GOAL) Act." A substitute was introduced in committee which was not public. The intent of the bill is to ensure that GOAL academies, which help drop-out students earn their high school diplomas, are properly funded in the future. There was some discussion on whether GOAL academies should become a new type of state charter school for funding and administrative purposes. The interested parties are still working out the details, and a new committee substitute will be introduced on Monday. At this time, there is no indication that local funds will be used to finance GOAL academies.  

 

On the Floor:

Neither the House nor the Senate passed education bills today, but there was a lot of activity in both chambers. One of the bills that the House and Senate passed sets the schedule for the rest of session. The Senate reversed itself and changed 'Crossover Day’ back to legislative day 28. As you may know, Crossover Day is the last day that the Senate will allow House bills to crossover to the Senate. Both chambers stay in session late into the night to pass as many bills as possible.  Crossover Day will fall on Monday, March 8th. The schedule also states that the General Assembly will adjourn sine die on Wednesday, March 31st.

 

Monday March 1st:

The Senate Education and Youth Committee will meet at 1 pm on Monday

 

02/25 - Day 23: Voucher Bill Passes House Committee

Day 23: Voucher Bill Passes House Committee
by Scott Bierman on 2/25/2021

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While most of today's focus was the action in the committees, more on the below, there was a flurry of action in the chambers as the Senate passed out a couple pieces of education related legislation over the past couple days, while the House is adding more and more bills to their daily calendar.

SB51, the Dexter Mosely Act was passed by a vote of 39-15. This year's version of the Tim Tebow bill. 

This legislation allows home schooled students to participate in athletics and other extracurricular activities at their local public school. There are a few changes to the standard bill that we have seen in the past, here are the biggest:

  • students wishing to participate must enroll in at least one class in their local school, so the district receives a one-sixth segment, or block schedule equivalent, of QBE. 
  • home school students must be given a chance to try out for these teams, but are not guaranteed a spot should they not make the team.

SB159, which allows local districts to use motor vehicles with a capacity of eight passengers or less and are marked and operated for the transportation of school children, passed unanimously. 

House Education Committee

A week and a half after holding its first hearing, HB60 made a return to the House Education Committee where it was passed out by a close 12-10 vote. The bill now goes on to the Rules Committee before it can make its way to the House floor. As a reminder this newest version of HB60 changes the voucher amount to match the amount the student would earn in QBE, including the deduction of the local five mill share. The latest version also limits the number of students who may take the voucher to one-quarter of one percent of statewide enrollment in year one, annually increasing by one-quarter of one percent per year for 10 years until the final cap of 2.5% is reached. The bill also requires an annual audit of the program, increased from an audit once every five years.

As HB 60 makes its way to the floor, now is the time to contact your representative and share your objections to the bill. 

House Education Academic Support Subcommittee

The subcommittee voted out HB545 early this morning. This bill is very similar to SB51, which was voted out by the Senate. This version also includes an enrollment requirement for home school students wishing to participate in extracurricular activities at their local public school. The bill now moves to the full Education Committee where it is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday.

House Ways and Means Committee

Despite making its way through the House Education Committee earlier this session, HB32 was recommitted and heard by the House Ways and Means Committee. This bill would provide a tax credit to attract teachers to teach in rural and high needs areas. Teachers new to these schools would be eligible for a $3000 refundable tax credit per school year up to five school years.  The Department of Education would develop criteria for selecting up to 100 participating schools, publish the criteria, and post the list of schools. 

Friday February 26 

It will be an early start to the morning as the Senate Education Committee kick things off at 8am. There are five bills on the agenda.

The House and Senate gavel in at 10am. 

02/24 - Day 22 Gearing Up

Day 22 Gearing Up
by Grace Kim on 2/24/2021

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We are gearing up to hear HB60, the House voucher bill. HB60 has reemerged and will be heard in the House Education Committee tomorrow at 1 pm. The committee released a new substitute which you can find here. The substitute makes several changes, but the most notable ones are to the funding formula and the cap on the number of students who will be eligible. The substitute revises the funding formula so the amount of the voucher will be equal to what the student would actually receive from the state through QBE. The substitute also limits the statewide number of students who can receive the voucher to 2.5% of the number of students who are enrolled this year. 

On the Floor:

The House passed HB455 today. HB455 allows local districts to use motor vehicles with a capacity of eight passengers or less and are marked and operated for the transportation of school children. Guidelines and regulations would be developed by the State Board of Education, with local boards retaining the authority to make more restrictive regulations if they feel necessary.

The Senate did not pass any education bills today.  

In Committee: 

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Revision passed HB32 today. The committee substitute provides for a $3,000 income tax credit for up to 1,000 teachers who are hired to work in rural areas or the state's lowest performing schools. A teacher can apply for the tax credit for up to five years, as long as the teacher does not receive an "ineffective" performance evaluation rating. Teachers of high-need subjects and those who have seniority will be given priority over other program applicants. (A different version of this bill previously passed out of the House Education Committee.) 

The Senate Finance Committee heard SB213 today. This bill allows school systems to use SPLOST funds to install equipment that reduces energy or water waste. 

Tomorrow's Schedule:

The House Education Academic Support Subcommittee will hear HB545, the House's version of Tim Tebow legislation at 8:00 am.

The House Education Committee will hear HB60 tomorrow at 1 pm.  

02/23 - Day 21: Anticipation Builds

Day 21: Anticipation Builds
by Scott Bierman on 2/23/2021

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Anticipation is building as we kick off the 2nd half of this year's session. While today was relatively slow, all eyes (in the education world at least) are focused squarely on the two voucher bills currently making their way through the House and Senate. While SB47 was passed out of committee yesterday afternoon, we are still waiting to see when HB60 will make a return appearance in the House Education Committee. As of this writing there is no scheduled House Education Meeting this week, but that is expected to change. 

SB47 looks to make its way to the Senate floor soon, possibly as soon as this week. Time is ticking as Crossover Day looms next week, so if the full Senate is going to vote on SB 47, it would have to be soon. 

House Retirement Committee

The 2nd bill in Governor Kemp's teacher pipeline package was heard in the House Retirement Committee this afternoon. HB385 would allow districts to hire certified teachers who have been retired for at least a year to return to work full-time in an area of highest need as determined for the RESA to which the district is assigned.  The teacher continues to draw their retirement but accrues no additional time.  The district must pay the employer and the employee portion of  TRS.

Wednesday February 24 

The House and Senate meet at 10am

The House Higher Education Committee meets at 1pm

The Special Subcommittee on Tax Revision of the House Ways and Means Committee also meets at 1pm and will hear HB32 by Representative Dave Belton. This bill previously passed the House Education Committee but was recommitted to Ways and Means. This bill would provide a tax credit for new teachers in rural school districts that have performed in the lowest five percent in the state.  

There is the potential for more committee meetings to be added to the calendar. 

02/22 - Day 20: Senate Voucher Passes Committee

Day 20: Senate Voucher Passes Committee
by Scott Bierman on 2/22/2021

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We are now halfway finished with the 2021 General Assembly as Monday saw Day 20 come and go. We are quickly headed toward Crossover Day which is expected to be sometime next week. We don't have a final schedule for the session but one must be coming soon. 

Among the bills passed by the House today was HB98 which amends the Open Meetings law to require public hearings held via teleconference to allow members of the public to participate fully as if the meeting were held in public. 

Senate Education and Youth Committee

The Senate's version of the expansion of the Special Needs Scholarship was heard for a 2nd time in the House Education and Youth Committee earlier this afternoon.  SB47 expands the Special Needs Scholarship to include students with a 504 Plan. This version closely resembles the version that passed the Senate last year in that it expands the Special Need Scholarship to include students with a 504 plan and a specific diagnosis of one of a list of conditions. It also expands the program to include students who received preschool special education services under IDEA, and students who have been adopted or placed into permanent guardianship from foster care. 

Following a lengthy back and forth among senators and lobbyists on both sides of the bill, the committee passed it out by a vote of 6-5. It now goes on to the Rules Committee before it gets to the Senate floor.

Two other bills were heard following the voucher bill, SB66 and SB159

SB159 is the Senate's version of HB455This bill allows local districts to use motor vehicles with a capacity of eight passengers or less and are marked and operated for the transportation of school children. Guidelines and regulations would be developed by the State Board of Education, with local boards retaining the authority to make more restrictive regulations if they feel necessary.

SB66 Consolidates the Georgia Foundation for Public Education and Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation 

Both bills passed out of committee. 

House Higher Education Committee 

Last Friday, during the General Assembly's day "off" the House Higher Education Committee held a hearing only on HB120, the Georgia Resident In-State Tuition Act. This bill would allow DACA recipients to pay in-state tuition at some Georgia colleges and universities. It is unclear if this bill will come back up before Crossover Day.

Tuesday February 23 

The House and Senate meet at 10am. 

House Retirement Committee meets at 2pm to hear HB385 Governor Kemp's teacher return to work bill, sponsored by Ways and Means Chairman Shaw Blackmon. 

We expect a House Education meeting sometime this week, but one has not been announced yet. 

02/19 - Action Time!

Action Time!
by Angela Palm on 2/19/2021

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We now have three bills in the General Assembly expanding vouchers in Georgia.  Talk to your legislator about these bills, especially if they are on the Committee with the bill.  They've heard our opposition, but they need to hear from people back home.  So email, text, call, or however you communicate with your legislator, please do it. Get your communities involved! Things will move quickly the next two weeks. Be respectful, use our points to create your message. When you just forward or copy or paste, it does not have the same impact as your own words.  You can find out who your legislators are at the My Voter page.

SB 47 expands the current special needs voucher to:  

  • Students with a 504 plan OR a formal diagnosis from a licensed physician or psychologist relating to one or more conditions to be identified by the State Board which must include at least the 21 identified in the bill 
  • Those who received preschool special education services the previous year
  • Students adopted or placed in permanent guardianship from foster care within the previous year 

There is no fiscal note for the bill so it is unknown how much more money the state is obligating for this voucher.  In 2019-20, there were 5,203 students receiving a voucher at a cost of $35.6 million.

Although these students are funded at a level for the services they need, there is no requirement that those services be provided to the students in the private school.  When the parent accepts the voucher, they waive their rights under IDEA and Section 504.  There is no requirement that a student be re-evaluated for continued eligibility under IDEA or 504, once a student is eligible they can continue to receive the voucher until graduation.  There has been no evaluation of the program to determine effectiveness for the students. 

There needs to be more transparency about the cost of the program.  Special needs students are funded at a higher rate than others due to the services needed.  A student going into the voucher program remains funded at that level throughout their time in the program.  The voucher is the full QBE funding whereas a school district would have received less to educate the same child. 

SB 47 has had one hearing in Senate Education & Youth.  It is on the agenda for Monday at 3:30.  It will probably be on the Senate floor for a vote next week. Click on the Committee link for contact information.

HB 60 would create an additional voucher but of a different type.  "Educational savings accounts" would put state funding in an account the parent would use for specific qualified expenses. Click on the link to see the list.  A limited number of students could get this voucher, although that could of course be changed in future years.  Students who could qualify are mostly similar to those in SB 47:

  • Students with a family income below 200% of the federal poverty level (about $52,000 for a family of four)
  • Those adopted from foster care
  • Those with a parent who is an active duty military service member stationed in GA within the previous year
  • Those with an IEP, a formal diagnosis from a licensed physician or psychologist or a 504 plan relating to one or more conditions which shall be identified by the State Board but must include at least the 21 conditions listed in the bill
  • Students whose public school is in a district which is not currently offering the option to receive 100% of instruction in person for a semester or more 
  • All these students would have to be currently enrolled in a GA public school. 

The account funds could be used for a private school, postsecondary, tutoring, home school curriculum etc. Up to 50% of the funds could roll over each year.  When the student graduates, the leftover total could be used for tuition at a postsecondary institution in GA.  How much will they get?

Students with an IEP would be funded as they are for the special needs voucher -- full QBE which gives them more to take somewhere else to be educated than the state would send to a school district to educate them since there is no local deduction.  Other students would receive 100% of the statewide average which is far more than the district would receive.  According to the most recent revenue report on the Department of Education website, the state average is $6,095. No regular education student brings that much to a district under QBE, even before a local deduction.  The amount of these vouchers is subtracted from the resident district's QBE earnings.  Somebody will be paying more for these students, is it the state or the state and the district?  That is not clear and there is no fiscal note.

There is a Parent Review Committee to assist in determining whether certain expenses qualify and to hear appeals from private schools not accepted into the program.  Accountability and transparency issues with the bill are similar to those we've seen in other voucher proposals.  This program would be under the Student Finance Commission.

If the state wants to go down this road with either HB 60 or SB 47, the voucher amount should be the same as a local district would receive for the same student.  The funding should be handled completely at the state level rather than subtracting it from a district's revenue.   

HB 60 had one hearing in the full House Education Committee.  Chair Matt Dubnik asked that written comments be sent in, so when it is scheduled again it is likely to be for a vote. Click the link for contact information for the members of the Committee.

Finally, HB 142 would raise the cap on income tax credits for donations to student scholarship organizations for vouchers to private schools.  In 2018, the cap was raised from $58 million to $100 million through 2028 then is supposed to revert to $58 million. A recent performance audit had several recommendations for changes to the program.  HB 142 would raise the cap to $150 million through 2028.  Will we ever reach a cap supporters will be satisfied with?  

HB 142 is in the Income Tax Subcommittee of House Ways and Means. It had its first hearing earlier this week. Click on the link for contact information for members of the Subcommittee.  

Crossover Day is quickly approaching, so there will be plenty of pressure to move these bills forward. Speak up!

02/18 - Day 19: No Voucher Bill... Yet

Day 19: No Voucher Bill... Yet
by Scott Bierman on 2/18/2021

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We thought it may have been a busy and hectic day at the Capitol, but ultimately the fireworks held off for another day. The House kept up its trend of a full floor workload, but the Senate only voted on one bill and was done with session after one hour.  

House Academic Support Education Subcommittee

HB455 was the only bill on this morning's Academic Support Subcommittee meeting agenda. This bill allows local districts to use motor vehicles with a capacity of eight passengers or less and are marked and operated for the transportation of school children. Guidelines and regulations would be developed by the State Board of Education, with local boards retaining the authority to make more restrictive regulations if they feel necessary. The subcommittee gave the bill a "Do Pass" recommendation and it moved on to the full Education Committee.

House Education Committee 

Despite speculation that HB60, the House voucher bill, would be heard in the morning's House Education Committee meeting, HB455 ended up being the only bill heard. Following a short discussion on the bill, the committee passed it out and moved it on to Rules.

Week of Feb 22-26

Next week is the last full week of session before crossover, and the General Assembly is taking full advantage and will be in session all 5 days. Currently, Senate Education and Youth has a meeting scheduled for Monday at 3:30pm, but it is a certainty that more relevant committee meetings will be scheduled in the days ahead.

We do expect HB60 to make another appearance before Crossover Day. 

Please contact your representative, especially if your representative serves on the House Education Committee, and tell them that you oppose HB60.  When the state is sending more money with a student than they would send you to educate that child, it is neither revenue neutral nor a money-saver.


02/17 - Day 18: Day Full of Committees

Day 18: Day Full of Committees
by Scott Bierman on 2/17/2021

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It was a day full of committee action, but the two pieces of education legislation were vote on in the House and Senate today, with HB287 and SB88 passing their respective chambers unanimously.

HB287  requires tobacco and vaping products be added to current drug and alcohol courses. 

SB88 is part of Governor Kemp's package of teacher bills.

This bill: 

  • Makes the Georgia Teacher of the Year an ex officio member of the State Board of Education 
  • Creates an alternative teacher certification program for veterans
  • Directs local districts to use evaluation time that was to be spent on teachers with 3+ years and "Exemplary" or "Proficient" ratings to coach and mentor teachers with under 3 years of service with performance ratings of "Needs Improvement" or "Deficient" 
  • Directs PSC to include differentiated instruction and instruction on the fundamentals of reading in approved teacher education programs and to partner with HBCUs to recruit and train minority teachers 

House Ways and Means Income Tax Subcommittee

The Income Tax Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee held a hearing only on HB142 this afternoon. This bill would raise the cap income tax credits for donations to student scholarship organizations. Currently the cap is set at $100 million, but this bill would raise it to $150 million. It's noteworthy that the cap has not been reached in either 2020 or 2021.  

The bill was heard, but not passed. 

Senate Education and Youth

Senate Ed and Youth voted out three bills and held another hearing on a fourth. 

SB42, a bill that removes student discipline data from school climate ratings

SB51, the Dexter Mosely Act. For years this bill was known as the Tim Tebow Bill before a name change this year.

This legislation allows home schooled students to participate in athletics and other extracurricular activities at their local public school. There are a few changes to the standard bill that we have seen in the past, here are the biggest:

  • students wishing to participate must enroll in at least one class in their local school, so the district receives a one-sixth segment, or block schedule equivalent, of QBE. 
  • homeschool students must be given a chance to try out for these teams, but are not guaranteed a spot should they not make the team. 

SB59 legislation that raises the charter school supplement amount for local charter schools, but also requires local districts with local charter schools to provide either a facility or a stipend to go to facility costs. 

All three of these bills passed the committee. 

SB3 which raises the minimum mandatory education age from 16 to 17 was discussed but no vote was taken.

House Education Appropriations Subcommittee 

As Chairman Todd Jones and committee members continue to build their version of the FY2022 Education Appropriations bill, several agency heads delivered presentations to provide more information on issues surrounding the budget. Representatives from the Georgia Virtual School, Employees' Retirement System of Georgia, Governor's Office of Student Achievement, and the Professional Standards Commission presented.

Thursday February 18 

The House Education Academic Support Subcommittee meets at 8am to hear HB455. This bill allows local districts to use motor vehicles with a capacity of eight passengers or less and are marked and operated for the transportation of school children.

The full House Education Committee meets at 8:30am, but the agenda is still TBA. It is possible that HB60 the House voucher bill, is called for a vote.