Day 8: Trying to Agree on Flexibility
by Angela Palm on 1/28/2010

The House of Representatives did more housekeeping today that brought some welcome changes.  They officially changed the rules to eliminate the dreaded hawks and to limit Rules Committee changes to bills to minor or technical changes.  Bills that can not be amended on the floor of the House are to be rare.  The new rules were adopted unanimously to cheers on the House floor.

The General Assembly is now in recess until Monday.

What Is Bullying Anyway?

As the Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil met to hear HB 927, there was a spirited discussion on the definition of bullying.  Is it one act or a pattern of behavior?  Also under discussion are reporting and investigating requirements, parental notification, and referring those identified as bullies to alternative schools based on the number of incidents.  They will meet again next week and bring a new committee substitute at that time.

Governance Bill Revisited

The House Education Committee met this afternoon to discuss two bills.  First up was SB 84, the school board governance bill.  The Governor's staff brought a substitute and suggested a few more changes.  The portions dealing with removal from office are still there and mostly the same.  The nepotism provision is addressed two ways:  everyone in office July 1, 2010 is grandfathered in and the State Board is authorized to waive the provision for someone who wants to run for office.

Limited comments were heard today.  There was an "I told you so" from Phil Jacobs, one of the three chairs of the Commission on School Board Excellence, as he urged the Committee to pass the bill again.  He reminded them that the told them last year that Clayton County was not an isolated incident; it would happen again.  And it is. A board member from Warren County also spoke to the Committee about their problem.

A hearing will be held next week, and a vote will be taken then.

Do You Prefer #1, 2, or 3?

Things got complicated fast when the House Education Committee moved on to HB 908, the flexibility bill.  Rep. David Casas came forward to present the committee substitute but caught the committee by surprise with his bill.  His version of flexibility is to suspend expenditure controls through June 30, 2013.  In return systems must report in October and March its budgets and expenditures received.  He was not amenable to any amendments.  There were, however, two more committee substitutes.

Rep. Tommy Benton offered to move his class size waiver language into the other bill which would have gotten us down to two bills.  He would allow grades K-5 to increase by one student, and grades 6-12 by two students. His substitute also included suspending expenditure controls and the 65% requirement.   

Rep. Ed Lindsey had the third substitute.  His bill waived expenditure controls, the 65% requirement, class size, and the salary schedule.  It would require 30 days notice and a public hearing before a local board used any of the provisions.  To maintain any flexibility used the school system has to meet some performance measures listed in the bill.

Class size is the biggest sticking point.  Rep. Fran Millar received information from the Department of Education that showed $525 million would be saved if two more students were added to each grade.  HB 908 will be discussed again in two weeks.  In the meantime, the Chairman says contact your Representatives and Senators.



Monday, February 1

House Appropriations Education Subcommittee will meet at 2 PM in 341 CAP to hear from the Department of Education, the Professional Standards Commission, and public comments on the supplemental budget.

Tuesday, February 2

Setzler Subcommittee of House Judiciary Non-Civil will meet at 2 PM in 132 CAP to continue work on HB 927, the bullying bill.