Day 37: Merit Pay Reappears - Maybe?
by Jim Puckett on 4/20/2010

By law, the only thing the General Assembly is required to do each year is to approve the state budget.  Again this year, it has taken all session to do that.  On this 37th legislative day, with only three more days of work remaining, it appears that both the FY 10 continuation and FY 11 budgets are nearing completion.

 

Today, it was announced that the House and Senate Conference Committee had reached agreement on the FY 10 continuation budget.  The House is expected to approve the document on Wednesday. 

 

The Senate Finance Committee gave approval to its version of the FY 11 budget today.  This version restores some of the cuts proposed by the House, including restoring funds for PSATs, ITBS, and first and second grade CRCTs; charter system funding was restored; the Governor’s Honors Program was funded for 2010; and sparsity grants and migrant grants were restored (exception: alternative sparsity grants).  However, the Senate version increased cuts to transportation (total cuts: $5.6M) and increased cuts for the school nurse program (total cuts: $2.3M).  Both the House and Senate versions restore $10.5M reimbursement for forest land protection tax exemptions.

 

A detailed review of both the FY 10 continuation and FY 11 budgets will be provided soon.

 

Alas, in practice, the budgets are not the only topics of consideration during the legislative session.  Today, the House:

  • Agreed with the Senate version of HB 703 which allows school districts to sell surplus buildings to other governmental agencies.  The bill now goes to the Governor for action.

 

The House Education Committee:

  • Gave a “do pass” to SB 521 which began life as a bill allowing local systems to receive FTE funds for dual enrollment students that remain on the public school campus for instruction.  The bill had two additions:
    • Language allowing the Charter Commission to reduce funds to virtual schools in order to deal with “factors that affect the cost of providing instruction.”
    • Language requested by the Governor’s staff requiring the State Board of Education to develop model performance evaluation instruments by July 1, 2011 that must be used by local school districts in annual evaluations of teachers, assistant principals, and principals.  The State Board “may take into consideration… factors such as peer review, student academic growth, and parental input.”

 (Editor’s note:  the original language of this amendment required at least 50 percent of the calculation for the evaluation  instrument to be based on student academic growth.  Committee members rightly pointed out that the amendment was a precursor to merit pay legislation that might soon follow and changed the language from mandatory to permissive.)

  • Gave a “do pass” to SR 153 which calls for a Constitutional amendment allowing for the creation of education improvement districts for the of implementation of a special tax for facilities or purchase of land for schools to be built within a specific geographic area.  The bill had passed the Committee earlier but was sent back to the Committee on a technicality.
  • Gave a "do pass" to HR 1950 a resolution urging local schools to inform student (through assemblies and other appropriate means) of the danders of sending explicit texts.

The Senate:

  • Passed HB 651 which allows the Department of Education to provide required lists of sexual offenders to schools in electronic format.  The bill now goes to the Governor for action.
  • Passed HB 1405 which creates a Special Council on Tax Reform to review Georgia’s revenue structure.

The Senate Education Committee gave "do pass" recommendations to:

  • SR 886 urging Congress and state agencies to utilize more natural foods in school lunch programs.
  • HB 936 allowing bus replacement funds to be used for refurbishing buses.  The bill was amended to include language dealing with the sale of bonds for school construction and equipment purchases.
  • HB 977 prohibiting raises for administrators in years when teachers are furloughed.

 

Both the House and Senate will be in session Wednesday, April 21 and will recess until Tuesday, April 27 for the 39th day.