Day 22: Flexibility Bill Squeaks By
by Angela Palm on 3/9/2010

The General Assembly continues to adjust their calendar to deal with the budget.  The new schedule puts day 30 on March 25th.  That day is known as  "crossover" day, the final day for bills to pass one chamber so they can be heard in the other.  The session is expected to end mid to late April.

A Squeaker In Senate Ed

HB 908 has had quite a journey.  It started out suspending requirements for class size, expenditure controls, 65% expenditure, and salary schedule for the next three years.  Many House Education Committee members, however, would not support that degree of flexibility.  It passed the House suspending only the expenditure controls including the 20 additional days of instruction.  Today Senate Education and Youth heard a substitute that added back some of the flexibility originally intended.

Three leading members of the House Education Committee accompanied Chairman Brooks Coleman as he presented the bill to the Senate committee.  The House and Senate have been working jointly on the budget and on ways to offer flexibility to local school districts.  The new provisions are:

  • For the next three years a local board may notify the State Board that they are electing not to complete up to 10 days of the school year due to a financial exigency (defined in the bill).  The 10 days can be a combination of planning days and up to 5 instructional days. 
  • It allows for a system average maximum class size in K-8 for the next three years.
  • It authorizes the State Board to provide a blanket waiver for class size requirements for a specific school year when a financial exigency occurs.

Some speakers wanted to require a public hearing before the board could act and to reduce the waivers to two years.  The difference in the vote came down to a difference in opinion about how to help teachers and help boards work through this economic mess.  Some could not vote for the flexibility; some believed the flexibility was better than seeing thousands of teachers fired; some believed they needed to untie the hands of boards and superintendents and let them make the decisions they need to make.  The vote was 6-5 with Chairman Dan Weber breaking the tie.  

The bill now goes to Senate Rules, and it is expected to go to the Senate for a vote in the next week.  Board members should talk to their Senators about the need for this bill and the time period covered.

SPLOST Bill Moves Forward

HB 1020 and HR 1203 provide a constitutional amendment and enabling legislation for a school district to list maintenance and operations as part of its SPLOST.  House Ways and Means gave them a unanimous "Do Pass" today.  Some school boards want this, and some do not.  Be sure to let your Representative know your position.

HB 1082 was also voted out unanimously.  For several years there have been attempts to repeal the inventory tax. That tax is local revenue and the last fiscal note showed school districts received $167 million from it.  HB 1082 takes a different tactic.  Cities and counties could call a referendum to provide an exemption of 20% - 100% of the value of the inventory.  Local boards would lose a revenue source but without having any official vote on the matter.  That is consistent with current statutes regarding freeport exemptions.  I encourage board members to find out the potential impact of this and to talk to your Representatives. 



Wednesday, March 10

Senate Education and Youth has been cancelled.

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee will meet at 1:30 in 132 CAP to hear HB 1121 which makes it a misdemeanor to tamper with a state assessment.

Academic Achievement Subcommittee of House Education will meet at 2 PM or upon adjournment in 515 CLOB to hear a substitute for HB 1100, eliminating the first and second grade CRCTs, and HB 1079 requiring a uniform start date no earlier than the third full week of August.

Senate Government Oversight Committee will meet at 3 PM in 125 CAP to hear SB 143 which would change the deadline to challenge official actions under the Open Meetings law and SB 393/SR 1013, a constitutional amendment to change the agency heads of Education, Agriculture, Labor, and Insurance from statewide elected officials to appointees of the Governor.