Day 12: Some Inflexible on Flexibility
by Angela Palm on 2/4/2010

The General Assembly focused on issues unrelated to education in the chambers today, but there was plenty of discussion in committees.

As noted before, there is a different atmosphere this year, and one of the changes is more extensive discussions and work on bills.  Expressing opinions and making suggestions actually seems worthwhile again.  Long may it last.

Expenditure Controls Unleashed

HB 908, in its newest form, was heard in the House Education Committee meeting today.  It now suspends the expenditure controls for the next three years.  A separate class size bill will be introduced.  There was much angst about allowing even this much flexibility among some members, but it ultimately received the needed "Do Pass" in a 15-6 vote.  An amendment to limit it to two years failed.  The bill now goes to the Rules Committee.

Governance Bill Amended

SB 84, the school board governance bill, also received a hearing today.  The Governor's staff brought a substitute incorporating some of the changes discussed last week.  The biggest change was to the nepotism section.  The previous version explicitly grandfathered in current school board members and provided a waiver process for future candidates.  The waiver process was not in the latest version, and the language to grandfather current members in was not as clear.  An amendment to clarify this section will be made next week when the House Education Committee votes on the bill.

Several amendments were made to the substitute today:

  • If a board was about to lose accreditation, the State Board would hold a hearing and make a recommendation to the Governor before he initiated action against the local board.  There was only one dissenting vote on this change.
  • If temporary board members were appointed by the Governor, they would serve the rest of the term or until the next general election, whichever came first.  There was only one dissenting vote to this change.
  • The provision allowing the board to remove a member was deleted with only three disagreeing with this change.

Another amendment expected next week would change some of the language in the conflict of interest provisions.  The Committee meets again next Thursday at 2 PM.  Copies of the new substitute are to be available by next Tuesday. Contact Chairman Brooks Coleman's office to receive a copy. 

Bullying Bill Up Again

HB 927, amending the bullying provisions, was discussed in the House Judiciary Non Civil Committee today.  The current committee substitute is not yet available on the internet since it has not been voted out of committee.  After a long discussion on the street gang terrorism bill, the Committee briefly discussed the bullying bill and called it a day.  They will take it up again next week.

Voucher Bill Details

A day after his press conference, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers formally introduced his voucher bill.  SB 361 extends the current state voucher program to students with a section 504 plan, students who are or have been in foster care, and students with a parent in the military on active duty, in the National Guard or reserves.  Like the Special Needs voucher, it also gives the students' parents the choice to enroll them in a public school outside their district if the parent provides transportation and if the school district chooses to accept the student.  The funding for the state voucher program would be changed to include a proportional share of state categorical grants, non-QBE state grants, equalization grants and a proportional share for transportation, food services, and building programs.  Total funding divided by the total number of students in the school system would yield the alleged proportional share.  A full analysis of the bill will be available soon.



Friday, February 5

The General Assembly will be in session.

Tax Reform Subcommittee of House Ways and Means will meet at 8:30 AM in 133 CAP to discuss four bills that would eliminate the sales tax exemption on lottery tickets and dedicate the revenue to K-12.