by Herbert Garrett on 4/11/2007

Members of both the House and Senate were happy to learn that the end of this marathon 2007 session of the Georgia General Assembly may finally be nearing an end.  Senate Resolution 622 sets the calendar so that the General Assembly will be in session on Friday, April 13 (an omen?) and then on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of the week of April 16 (overlapping GSSA's Spring Bootstrap Conference).  Those who watch the House and Senate in action can only hope that the resolution meets with everyone's approval and that they stick to this proposed calendar!

Neither the Senate nor the House tackled any education bills as part of their calendars on this day, and it appears that any official action on the FY07 Amended Budget will occur on Friday.  Action was "spirited," though, in the House Education Committee, as that group raced to act on bills so as to give them a chance to appear on a rules calendar before the end of the session.

Interestingly, the House Education Committee neither heard testimony on nor acted upon the controversial SB 10, which has appeared once again in an (another) amended version.  Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) announced at the outset of the meeting that the bill would not be considered on this day.  He did note that the bill's sponsor, Senator Eric Johnson (R-Savannah), had "worked with" two of the subcommittee chairs of the House Education Committee so as to include some changes about which House committee members felt strongly.  [Editor's note:  A quick perusal of the new version upon which the House Education Committee may ultimately act reveals that it includes a mandate that a child be present for two FTE counts and have an IEP before being eligible for the voucher.  But, the revised bill would provide that, once a student is determined to be eligible, he/she could attend an approved private school in Georgia or in an adjoining state.  Looks like some of our elected officials want us to consider sending Georgia's taxpayer dollars to places like Miami, or Memphis, or Mobile, or Raleigh.]

The House Education Committee did act upon three bills:

  • SB 9 -- entitled the "Grade Integrity Act" by its author, Senator Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), the bill (as it was passed by the Senate) stated that a teacher cannot be forced to change a student's grade unless the grade assigned by the teacher is in conflict with a school or system policy.  Senator Rogers decided on a last-minute amendment for which he argued forcefully, and that amendment stated that the teacher could not be forced by a policy to assign a grade "other than the one actually achieved" by a student.  After receiving a unanimous "do pass" recommendation from the House Education Committee, it became apparent that the House Education Committee had given their approval to a bill that says the following:  A teacher cannot be forced to change a student's grade unless the grade was assigned in violation of a school or system policy unless such policy calls for a teacher to give a grade "other than the grade achieved" by a student; so constitutionally-elected boards can make policies, but at least in this case, an employee doesn't have to follow them.  The Georgia General Assembly continues its work.....
  • SB 168 and SB 170 -- the first (SB 168), the "Deaf Child's Bill of Rights," requires local school systems to "give consideration" to a deaf child's communication mode when developing his/her IEP.  The second (SB 170) requires that demonstrated proficiency in American Sign Language be accepted as credit for two units of foreign language.  Not discussed up to this point was whether the colleges and universities under the umbrella of the Board of Regents would be obligated to accept this credit as satisfying their requirement that a student have earned credit for two units of the same foreign language in order to be enrolled as a full baccalaureate student.  It was indicated that such a requirement might be added SB 170 as a floor amendment when the bill reached the floor of the House; it is anticipated that the Board of Regents just might have an opinion to offer before such action occurs.

Even though the General Assembly will not be in session on Thursday, April 12, the Senate Education and Youth Committee will meet.  First on their posted agenda is HB 332, the bill calling for a change in maximum class sizes for certain high school courses.  Even though there is open discussion of amending this bill so as to add the contents of SB 10, senators are well aware of the need for HB 332 to pass in light of the "temporary (but, seemingly never-ending) austerity cuts" that no one seems to be able to find a way to eliminate from the budget.  Legislators' action on this key bill will tell a true story as to whether they are cognizant of the damage that those aforementioned "temporary austerity reductions" have done to local school systems in recent years.