Georgia PTA Legislative Update 1/18/2014
Story Date: 1/20/2014

 

 

January 18, 2014

 

The 152nd session of the Georgia General Assembly convened on Monday, January 13, 2014 at 10 AM.  Everybody was busy moving forward; however, it is expected that we will have a short and quiet session. Legislators were in session Monday-Friday this week and will be in session Tuesday-Friday during next week.  Monday is an off day to observe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Both chambers had short days but a lot of work was done on the supplemental budget as all Subcommittees met. The Joint Education Appropriations Subcommittees heard budget presentations by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement, the Department of Education, and the Department of Early Care and Learning. There were few questions as this budget is pretty straighforward. One of them was on the charter system funding in this budget -- it's for three new charter systems that had not yet received the additional funding. Expect this budget to be voted out of Subcommittee next week.

Rep. Earl Earhart is trying again for an increase in the income tax credits allowed for donations to student scholarship organizations so they can provide vouchers to students to attend private school. HB 759 would raise the limit from $58 million per tax year to $100 million.  He is the sole sponsor of the bill and surely has not fogotten the battle last year when he wanted more for this program.  

Sen. Jason  Carter has proposed a constitutional amendment, SR 750, to require a separate K-12 budget be created.  He would also require it to be passed by both chambers and approved by the Governor before either chamber could pass a general appropriations bill. Constitutional amendments require a 2/3 vote of each chamber, and a member of the minority party has probably never gotten one passed.  Doesn't mean they shouldn't try.

HB 310, moving the qualifying and primary date, hit the Senate floor and passed 38-15 one day after being voted out of Committee. The House agreed to the Senate changes, shifting the qualifying and primary dates, and sent it to the Governor. The first bill sent to Governor Deal in 2014!

Also, the Subcommittee hearings on the supplemental budget were joint meetings.  It makes a lot of sense for the two groups to hear the departmental presentations together since it saves everybody time. 

 

Education Bills

Here are few education-related bills that have been introduced:

HB 717 creates a system for giving parents a letter grade for their investment in their child's education that grading period. Many educators have lamented the fact that there is no parental accountability system and that the teacher/school/system is often penalized for the parental shortcomings. This bill is not likely to get anywhere but it is an intriguing idea to set some indicators.

SB 283 allows school systems to educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations and allows students and staff to offer each other traditional greetings associated with those holidays. Those spring, summer, and fall holidays apparently need no state permission slip to discuss.

HB 733, the Georgia Student Religious Liberties Act of 2014

SB 288 requiring athletic associations to release financial reports for a public high school to participate in them

SB 289 authorizing local boards to adopt policies allowing students to deliver inspirational messages at student assemblies and providing required elements of the policy

HB 697 allows awarded hope grants to be equal to student's cost of tution

HB 698 allow parent or guardian banned by a school administrator the right to make written request to be netitled to a hearing before a panel (prefiled)

HB 705 move the responsibility of coordinating and supervising the work of the 5 Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel from the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children to the commissioner of public health or his or her designee (prefiled)

HB 766, the Work Based Learning Act, makes changes to the Youth Apprenticeship Program. The intent is to increase the number of students and employers participating in the several work based learning programs we have such as apprenticeships and internships.

 

Education Funding

One of the biggest issues facing school districts has been how to deal with the rising cost of providing insurance for non-certified employees. Excellent news: The planned 2015 increase will not go into effect.  The Governor has recognized the huge problem and will have a working group to look at the issue.  So consider $150 per month per classified employee saved in your 2015 budget at least right now. The Governor also added a lot of money for education. Here are some highlights:

Amended 2014 Budget

  •  $130.5 million for mid-term adjustment
  •  $25 million for OneGeorgia Authority to provide grants to districts for digital education and wireless technology enhancements 
  •  $14.5 million for school districts for Forestland Protection grants
  •  $3 million midterm adjustments for other programs such as Special Needs Vouchers, Move On When Ready, charter systems, and GNETS
  •  $700,000 to develop 20 courses for Georgia Virtual School

2015 Budget

  • $314.3 million to reduce the austerity cut to increase instructional days, reduce furlough days, or enhance teacher salaries
  • $101 million for enrollment growth and training and experience
  • $10 million for test redevelopment for CRCTs and End of Course Tests
  • $7 million for Equalization
  • $5 million for the Governor's Office of Student Achievement to establish the Georgia Innovation Fund to award grants to local districts
  • $1 million for differentiated pay for newly certified Math and Science teachers
  • $1.8 million for charter systems
  • $1.3 million for school nurses
  • $8.6 million for Special Needs Voucher
  • $146,160 for Move On When Ready
  • $560,000 to RESAs for trainers in PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Service)
  • $720,000 redirected from Educational Technology Centers to RESA /English and Language Arts specialists
  • $1.2 million for PSAT administration
  • $982,240 for application development and support and systems training for local systems
  • $2.5 million for sparsity grants to 34 newly qualified schools
  • $303,947 for Enrollment growth in Residential Treatment Centers
  • $238 million in bonds for construction and renovation projects
  • $20 million in bonds for buses
  • $14 million in bonds for technology infrastructure upgrades for local districts (This fast-forwarded the three year phase-in for these upgrades recommended by the Education Finance Task Force -- it was $7 million per year for 2014, 2015, and 2016)

The state is also funding four e-rate specialists in the University system to help districts complete the e-rate applications. Some districts have had to contract with someone to help them. A number of these additions are the continuing implementation of recommendations from the Education Finance Task Force. The additional funding in the supplemental budget for the forestland protection grants catches the state up with all the applications in the Department of Revenue.

The Governor's recommendations are the first step in the budgeting process. Now the House and Senate get their say.

See the full Governor's Budget Report for the Fiscal Year 2015: Here 

 

UPCOMING SCHEDULE 

Tuesday, January 21st

  • The Senate will convene at 10 AM; the House at 11 AM
  • 2 PM House Education Committee will meet in 506 CLOB to organize the Committee, summarize the listening tour, and discuss their legislative agenda 
  • 2 PM Senate Education & Youth Committee will meet in 307 CLOB to hear SB 288SB 283, and SB 289


Throughout the legislative season (General Assembly Session), the Georgia Parent and Teacher Association (GPTA) will provide regular email updates about important legislation impacting public education and our children in Georgia. These updates are part of our Capitol Watch service. Questions may be directed to 
Tyler Barr, Legislative Policy Specialist/Lobbyist at tbarr@georgiapta.org.