Day 20: Voucher Bill Goes Forward
by Angela Palm on 2/18/2010

The things one can learn at committee hearings never ceases to amaze, but there were a couple of jaw-droppers in the Senate Education and Youth Committee meeting today as they heard the voucher bill, SB 361.  On the issue of the constitutionality of vouchers, Sen. Chip Rogers responded that "sometimes we need to do what's right not what the Constitution says."  Civil disobedience is usually the citizenry refusing to obey certain laws, not the government.  As to the concern that private schools can discriminate in its admissions process, the answer was that "now they (students who might be refused at private schools) have no opportunity to be discriminated against."  There's a new benefit of vouchers -- the opportunity to be discriminated against.  

Six people spoke for the bill including some who want some changes:  

  • One mother wants a grandfather clause because she had her child in private school before the special needs voucher bill was passed making the child ineligible.
  • A military family wants the requirement to be in a Georgia public school for a year before becoming eligible changed.

Five spoke against the bill, including GSBA. An interesting twist to the funding formula also came to light during the hearing.  Sen. Rogers said he was using the "new funding formula created in HB 881" -- the bill that created the Charter Commission and deducts the "local share" for Commission Charter School students from the district's state funding.  The local portion was not stated in the bill but that was his intent.  He said afterwards that he is willing to consider a change.

The bill was given a "Do Pass" with two opposed.  The bill now goes to the Senate Rules Committee.  The General Assembly is in recess until March 8th.  Go get 'em.  It is urgent that you let your opinions and concerns be known.

Schedule Change Cancels Legislative Site Visits

After the abrupt change in the Legislature's schedule today, we have cancelled the legislative site visits scheduled for February 23rd and March 2nd.  Due to the uncertainty of their calendar, we have not rescheduled these events.  Board members and superintendents are, of course, welcome to join us at the Capitol anytime.

Supplemental Budget Passes Senate

Right after they decided to take this break to work on the 2011 budget, the Senate passed the supplemental budget 35-17.  Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill cautioned the Senators about the revenue picture.  As the 2010 budget stands, if revenues do not increase the remainder of the year, there will be a $235 million deficit. By the time they come back, the February revenue numbers will be reported and they will have a slightly better idea of what must be done.

Battle of the Diplomas

The House Education Committee brought back a bill from last year for a hearing.  HB 215 was referred to last year as the three diplomas bill, but it now has only two -- career prep and technical.  The hearing turned into a passionate debate of philosophies on which method will get more students through high school prepared for college (university or technical) or the workforce.  Do all students need to take the same core curriculum regardless of their postgraduate intentions?  Are we hurting some students by dropping the technical diploma?  Are we hurting students by having the technical diploma?  These questions have been part of an ongoing discussion for years now in Georgia and elsewhere.  Chairman Brooks Coleman promised a full debate of 2-3 hours  on this after the legislative break.

The hearing on HB 1100, the bill creating a growth model and school grading system, was postponed.