Day 32: New Version, But No Vote on SB 10
by Angela Palm on 3/29/2007

Today's news all came form the House Education Committee meeting.  The budget issue offered opportunities for some good-natured joking between the Senators present and committee members.  Chairman Brooks Coleman announced they would hear three bills but no vote would be taken.  He expects to have a short meeting Wednesday, April 11th to vote -- if certain items, such as the budget, have moved along.

Vice-Chair Fran Millar assigned bills to subcommittees and announced there would be no subcommittee meetings next week during spring break.

Still Talking About The HB 332 Amendment

The surprise amendment to the bill to delay the high school class size reduction apparently still rankled some.  Rep. Brian Thomas asked to make a comment to the House Education Committee today.   He expressed disappointment that, after being on the Committee for three years and seeing all bills receive a full debate in subcommittee and a fair vote in the full committee, committee members did not have that opportunity Tuesday when HB 332 was amended in the Rules Committee.  He and the Chairman had already discussed the matter, and Chairman Coleman reminded him that they all know how things work in the Rules Committee.

Chairman Coleman is a longtime, staunch supporter of smaller class sizes.  He does realize, however, that there is a price to pay for all the cuts to education funding.  This was not an easy position for him to adopt, and he has fought the good fight to get it through the House.  It says a lot about the man that he -- Chair of the committee and a 14-year veteran of the legislature -- allowed the Democrat who has been in the legislature three years to speak out.


Grading Policies Questioned

Sen. Chip Rogers presented a new version of SB 9, the Grade Integrity Act.  The bill was amended in the Senate to require that the teacher must act in accordance with grading policies of the school and system for this bill to apply.  Sen. Tommie Williams raised a different issue at the House Education subcommittee hearing on the bill.  He wanted an amendment to prohibit local boards from requiring a teacher to give a grade higher than that earned.  He said some boards require the teachers to give no lower than a 50 or 60.  

Efforts to amend the bill in subcommittee failed but by today it had indeed been amended. The policy provision applies unless it requires teachers to give a grade other than the one earned by the student.  There were a few comments about grading policies being made "just to suck up to parents"  but no one mentioned credit recovery policies established to help students.


Latest Version of Voucher Bill

Sen. Eric Johnson presented a newly amended version of SB 10 today.  The bill now requires the student's parent to have been a Georgia resident for at least one year as well as currently reside here.  That amendment was made at the request of Rep. Jan Jones who was concerned about people moving into the state to participate.

The second amendment was made in an effort to counter the arguments that there is no accountability.  It now requires the private school to report to the parent and the Department of Education on the student's academic progress, including the results of "pre-academic assessments and post-academic assessments" given to the student, in accordance with department guidelines.

The Director of the Foundation for Florida's Future came to present information on the McKay scholarship.  She gave much of the same information that had already been provided.  Rep. Fran Millar has been searching for data to show academic progress of students using this option rather than staying in the public school.  Ms. Lavesque stated there is no data since those students are not required to take the state test.  Some other points made were:

  • Florida requires the students to be in the public school for the fall and spring enrollment counts to be eligible -- unless the parent is active military.
  • Florida students are considered by federal officials to have been parentally placed in the private school so there is no requirement to do a re-evaluation every three years.
  • A new Florida law gives parents the option to have their child re-evaluated every three years.

Several committee members had amendments to offer, but they were not presented today.  They were asked to meet with Sen. Johnson and Rep. David Casas.  If there is another substitute, it is to be given to the committee members by Tuesday, April 10th.


Upcoming Schedule

The General Assembly will convene at 9 AM Friday for Day 33.

The General Assembly will then be in recess until Tuesday, April 10.