Legislative Daily Reports

10/31 - July State Board of Education Report

July State Board of Education Report
by Stephanie Tanner on 10/31/2023

GSBA-CWO HeaderJuly State Board of Education Report

The State Board of Education held the monthly Committee, Committee of the Whole, and regular State Board meetings on July 19. The Audit, District Flexibility & Charter Schools, and State Schools Committees did not meet this month. To view the complete agendas, click the highlighted links above.

Rules Committee

Deputy Superintendent of Policy, Flexibility, and External Affairs Tiffany Taylor presented the 12 items on the Rules Committee agenda. Ten items were placed on the consent agenda, and two concerning State Board Rule 160-4-2-.13 and universal reading screeners were pulled for a separate vote.

Discussion centered on three agenda items:

=         Adoption of the changes to State Board Rule 160-4-2-.13: Statewide Passing Score

o   Tiffany Taylor said 13 or 14 public comments were received, and some Board members said they received dozens of comments sent directly to them.

o   Helen Odom Rice shared concerns that members of the public may have been on vacation so they did not look at the comment page and may have found it difficult to enter their comments.

o   Martha Zoller said she heard overwhelmingly positive comments from her district and that people appreciate the flexibility.

o   Frank Griffin said educational leaders in rural districts told him they appreciate the flexibility as well.

o   Mike Royal said most comments sent to him were in opposition, and he referenced a speech from Coach John Scolinos because he worries the state is “widening the plate” when the going gets tough.

=         Initiation of public comment for amending State Board Rule 160-3-1-.07: Student Assessment

o   The purpose provided is “to adopt the mathematics and English Language Arts courses that will be assessed with the Georgia Milestones EOCs and Georgia Alternate Assessment 2.0 in alignment with Georgia’s new mathematics and English language arts standards, adopt dyslexia and universal reading screening requirements as specified in state law, provide exemption from the GKIDS ELA portion for kindergarten students being administered dyslexia and universal reading screeners, and adopt general rule clean-up.”

o   The public comment page about the rule change is posted here and will be open for 30 days.

=         Universal reading screeners

o   Helen Odom Rice wants to know more about challenges and highlights for the reading screeners because she believes the process and information is a bit incomplete right now.

The Board also heard brief highlights about positive public and industry comments concerning new CTAE standards and course revisions for biotechnology, healthcare science, light duty/hybrid electric vehicle technology, and marketing principles. These updates improve course alignment with industry standards and exams. Additionally, the new standards for the Business of Entertainment, Sports, and Event Management and Event Planning Applications will be posted for public review and comment.

The committee did not discuss the last agenda item, but eight more private schools applied to be on the 2023-2024 school list for the Special Needs Scholarship Voucher Program. The program began with 117 private schools participating and now has 302 participating with the new additions.

Budget Committee

Chief Financial Officer Rusk Roam presented the 16 items on the agenda. All items were placed on the consent agenda.

Budget highlights:

=         $1,666,106 in federal funds to the Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education Resource Network (CTAERN) to facilitate professional learning opportunities to support local CTAE programs

=         $4,525,928 in federal funds to 48 local education agencies (LEAs) for activities under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth grant

=         $1,171,279,188 in federal funds to LEAs for Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

=         $5,000,000 in federal funds for a contract with Coastal Plains and Southwest Georgia Regional Education Service Agencies (RESA) to plan and establish a Completion Special School in Zone 7 per HB 87

=         $1,450,000 in state funds to LEAs to provide feminine hygiene products to low-income students

=         $800,000 in state funds to the 16 Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs) to assist with mental health awareness activities to support student mental health and well-being

Committee of the Whole/State Board Meeting

In lieu of an inspiration, Chair Jason Downey shared inspirational quotes from educators and authors. My favorite quote was one from Barbara Coloroso that says “If kids come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they don’t come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.”

2024 Teacher of the Year (TOTY)

Christy Todd, a music technology teacher from Fayette County, attended her first State Board meeting as the 2024 Teacher of the Year. Ms. Todd shared that she is grateful for the opportunity and excited to serve as part of the Board.

Public Hearing

No one signed up to speak about the changes to State Board Rule 160-4-2-.13: Statewide Passing Score.

Actions Taken

Ten items from the Rules Committee and all 16 items from the Budget Committee were placed on the consent agenda. The June Board minutes, personnel report, and legal appeals were also added to the consent agenda. The consent agenda was quickly approved by the Board.

Two items were pulled for a separate vote:

=         Adoption of State Board Rule 160-4-2-.13: Statewide Passing Score

o   Helen Odom Rice said she is concerned that dropping the minimum percentage to 10 percent decreases the merit of the test and does not properly value the work of teachers.

o   Mike Royal said he believes the state already has many areas of flexibility.

o   Stan DeJarnett emphasized that students must still pass the Georgia Milestones EOC exam, but the school district will have more flexibility to determine whether the exam should count as ten percent or a higher percentage of a student’s grade.

o   Helen Odom Rice, Lisa Kinnemore, and Mike Royal voted “no” while all other members who were present voted “yes.” Two members were absent. The final vote was 9 to 3.

=         Universal reading screeners

o   Helen Odom Rice wants clarification because several of the reading screeners submitted are the same as those submitted for dyslexia screeners.

o   The Dyslexia Taskforce did not analyze the list because the taskforce wrapped up their work at the end of April right before the list was released.

o   Matt Jones agreed to share more information about the reading screeners with the Board.

o   All twelve members who were present voted “yes.”

Superintendent’s Report

Chief of Staff Matt Jones attended on behalf of Superintendent Woods and waived presenting the superintendent’s report.

Chair’s Report

Chair Downey waived presenting the chair’s report and moved to announcements.

Announcements

=         Stan DeJarnett shared the meeting information about the Georgia Council on Literacy, which held a virtual organizational meeting on July 19 at 2 PM. The first official council meeting will be held on August 7 at 10 AM at Georgia Southern University.

=         Dr. Keith Osborn, Associate Superintendent of Georgia Virtual Learning, recently received the Jim Puckett Award for his leadership skills.

=         GaDOE was recently awarded the State Leadership Award at the 2023 SREB Making Schools Work Conference for School Improvement and CTAE.

=         Helen Odom Rice attended a Science of Reading and literacy conference put on by ExcelinEd and 95 Percent Group. She would like to share information about that with Matt Jones and the Board.

=         The next State Board of Education meeting will be held on August 23 and 24 at the Georgia Academy of the Blind in Macon.

10/31 - August State Board of Education Report

August State Board of Education Report
by Stephanie Tanner on 10/31/2023

GSBA-CWO HeaderAugust State Board of Education Report

The State Board of Education held the monthly Committee, Committee of the Whole, and regular State Board meetings on August 23 and 24 at the Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon. The Audit and State Schools Committees did not meet this month. To view the complete agendas, click the highlighted links above.

Before the committees met, there was a brief presentation on early literacy efforts at the Georgia Academy for the Blind followed by an upbeat student musical performance from Junie B. Jones.

Budget Committee

Chief Financial Officer Rusk Roam presented the 11 items on the Budget Committee agenda. All items were placed on the consent agenda.

Here are a few budget highlights:

  •  $5,160,000 in federal funds for participating in the Georgia Leader and Educator Acceleration and Development System (GaLEADS) Pilot Program, which emphasizes how to lead with a growth mindset
  • $33,444,267 in federal funds for schools to implement comprehensive strategies to create safe and healthy learning environments for all students via a competitive grants program called Stronger Connections designed by GaDOE
  • $14,889,117 in federal funds to 74 LEAs for Safer Georgia Schools grants 

Rules Committee

Deputy Superintendent of Policy, Flexibility, and External Affairs Tiffany Taylor presented the five items on the Rules Committee agenda. Discussion mostly focused on adopting the amendment to State Board Rule 160-3-1-.07. Stan DeJarnett wanted to amend the definition of “screener” used. Members asked if they changed the definition in the rule if it would have to published for 30 days of public comment again, and it would. Adoption of this rule amendment was pulled for a separate vote.

The Board briefly discussed that they would move to adopt the CTAE standards for the Business of Entertainment, Sports, and Event Management and Event Planning Applications that had been posted for public comment. They touched on the need for more mental health professionals in the state and said they would approve the posting of the CTAE standards for the Mental Health Professional course for public comment. These two agenda items were placed on the consent agenda along with two other committee items.

District Flexibility & Charter Schools Committee

Deputy Superintendent of Policy, Flexibility, and External Affairs Tiffany Taylor presented the two agenda items. George Walton Comprehensive High School in Cobb County requested renewal of its charter, and the State Charter School’s Commission asked to affirm new charter contracts with Excelsior Village Academies and Movement Schools Athens. Both items were placed on the consent agenda.

Committee of the Whole/State Board Meeting

Macon Businessman Blake Sullivan provided the inspiration by telling three stories about the power of teaching and leadership in Georgia history. Chairman Downey also mentioned the Board had the chance to see the “Leader in Me” program in action at the Vineville Academy of the Arts and that he looked forward to expanding it statewide. “Leader in Me” is a pilot leadership program in Bibb County Schools based on Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Actions Taken

Eleven items from the Budget Committee, four items from the Rules Committee, and two items from District Flexibility and Charter Schools Committee were placed on the consent agenda along with the July Board meeting minutes, personnel report, and six legal appeals. The consent agenda was quickly adopted.

Three legal appeals and one Rule Committee item were pulled for a separate vote. They included:

=         Case 2023-43 – All twelve members who were present voted “yes” to reverse the local board’s decision.

=         Case 2023-46 – All twelve members who were present voted “yes” to reverse the local board’s decision.

=         Case 2023-47 – Mike Royal said some clarification around allowed products/substances is needed. The original vote to reverse the local board’s decision failed with 7 members voting “no” and 5 voting “yes.” After a motion, the Board voted about affirming the local board’s decision, and the vote passed with 7 members voting “yes” and 5 voting “no” to uphold the local decision.

=         Amendment to Rule 160-3-1-.07 – All twelve members who were present voted to table the adoption of the rule amendment for now.

Superintendent’s Report & Chair’s Report

Superintendent Richard Woods waived presenting a report this month. Chairman Downey invited Scott Johnson, former SBOE member and current Chair of the Georgia Council on Literacy, to present on the literacy council’s work, including its four working groups (Birth to Five Years, Grades K-3, New/Existing Teacher Professional Development, and Community Outreach), and the council’s next meeting date on October 17 at 10 AM at Kennesaw State University. Scott Johnson mentioned a recent meeting with Wellstar who is taking an active role in encouraging pediatric literacy.

The State Board of Education will meet next on September 27 and 28 in Atlanta.

06/16 - June State Board of Education Report - CORRECTION

June State Board of Education Report - CORRECTION
by Stephanie Tanner on 6/16/2023

GSBA-CWO HeaderJune State Board of Education Report 

Note: The report has been updated to reflect the correct tenure of the current State Board Chair.

The State Board of Education held the monthly Committee, Committee of the Whole, and regular State Board meetings on June 14th and 15th. Committee meetings were held on the first day with the Committee of the Whole and full State Board meeting on the second. To view the complete agendas, click the highlighted links above. 

Committees 

The Rules, Budget, and District Flexibility & Charter Schools Committees met on June 14th. The Audit and State Schools Committees did not meet this month. 

Rules Committee 

Deputy Superintendent of Policy, Flexibility, and External Affairs Tiffany Taylor presented the eight agenda items to the Rules Committee.  

  • Seven items were placed on the consent agenda, and a rule amendment to State Board Rule 160-4-2-.13 Statewide Passing Score was pulled for a separate vote.  

  • The rule amendment will change the minimum percentage requirement of the Georgia Milestone End-of-Course (EOC) assessment score from 20 percent to 10 percent of a student’s final grade. During the pandemic the percent was reduced to 0.01. There was disagreement on setting the required minimum percentage at 10% rather than the historical 20%. The discussion on the rule amendment focused on rigor, accountability, comparability, and local control. The change is open to public comment for the next 30 days.  

  • The committee briefly discussed updating CTAE standards for biotechnology, healthcare science, light duty/hybrid electric vehicle technology, and marketing principles based on feedback from industry professionals and educators. They are also posted. 

  • When discussing approval of the list of Local Board Governance Training Providers that includes GSBA, Former GSBA President Frank Griffin asked if the State Board has required training like local boards do. Training is not required for the Board, but most members agree that it is a best practice and want to revisit having both new board member and whole board training in the near future. 

  • Seven more private schools have applied to be on the 2023-2024 school list for the Special Needs Scholarship Program. The program has gone from 117 private schools participating to 294 with these additions.  

Budget Committee 

Chief Financial Officer Rusk Roam presented the 40 items on the Budget Committee agenda. All items, except the contract for the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), were placed on the consent agenda. GaDOE is requesting that the Board authorize a new $88,800 contract with the SREB for professional development and mentoring for principals and assistant principals to increase retention. A few other budget highlights can be found further down in the report under “Actions Taken.” 

District Flexibility & Charter Schools Committee 

Tiffany Taylor presented the 11 agenda items, which included six charter renewals, two charter school contract amendments, two strategic waiver school system contract amendments, and the approval of the RISE schools for a state charter by the State Charter Schools Commission. All agenda items were placed on the consent agenda. 

Charter school representatives presented either virtually or in-person to highlight programs like career pathways and other successes at their academies. For example, Effingham College and Career Academy pointed to being named the Georgia College and Career Academy of the Year for 2022. 

The RISE schools were denied a charter renewal at the local level by Fulton County Schools due to academic, governance, financial, and special education compliance concerns. However, the State Charter Schools Commission uses their own standards when approving state charters. The Commission compares the charter to schools near its location rather than to all schools across the district, although the attendance zone is district-wide. Commission representatives said other charter schools could not absorb these students, and the Commission feels students would be better served by the RISE schools than other local options. The two RISE schools will be consolidated into one school. Matt Donaldson requested the charter’s financial score. The Board discussed concerns that some believe it simply acts as a rubber stamp for state charter approvals 

Committee of the Whole/State Board Meeting 

Inspiration 

Phenna Petty introduced Mr. Dale Alexander, a benefits broker and strategist for school systems and author of “The Talk,” to present the inspiration. Mr. Alexander’s message focused on the importance of giving and serving. He believes it’s helpful to say aloud one thing you are grateful for every day, especially because others are often grateful for the things you take for granted. 

Actions Taken 

Seven items from the Rules Committee, 39 items from the Budget Committee, and 11 items from the District Flexibility & Charter Schools Committee were placed on the consent agenda and quickly approved by the Board. 

Budget Highlights: 

  • After the Governor instructed GaDOE to disregard the state budget allocation for a bonus for school custodians and instead use federal funds, the State Board approved $8,751,579 in federal funds for a one-time $1,000 bonus for school custodians.  

  • The Governor also directed GaDOE to use federal funds for free/reduced student meals in lieu of the state budget allocation. The State Board approved a grant for $6,333,876 in federal funds to School Food Authorities to reimburse the remaining cost of reduced priced student school breakfast and lunches. 

  • The Board approved a new $6,000,000 contract with The Rollins Center for Language and Literacy to develop and deliver professional development and coaching to support statewide science of reading and literacy efforts. 

  • The Board approved a grant to Local Education Agencies for $3,500,000 in state funds for dyslexia screeners per SB 48 from 2019. 

Three items were pulled for a separate vote.  

  • They included the rule amendment to State Board Rule 160-4-2-.13 Statewide Passing Score, the new SREB contract from the Budget Committee, and a disciplinary decision (2023-37 Polk County) from executive session 

  • The rule amendment and the SREB contract approval passed easily with little discussion.  

  • The recommendation for the disciplinary decision was to affirm the local board’s decision, but with a vote of 5 to 4, the Board instead voted to reverse the local board’s decision. 

Chair’s Report and Superintendent’s Report 

Associate Superintendent of Federal Programs Shaun Owen presented Superintendent Woods’ consolidation of funds initiative. She said Georgia has the highest number of federal programs implemented and LEAs (49) participating. Consolidation of funds allows Title I schools to use one pot of money for schoolwide programs so that they have more flexibility and autonomy to focus on school improvement rather than compliance. Ms. Owen said the law says each state education agency must encourage consolidation of funds. The funds can be used for STEM and arts programs, career pathways, PBIS and MTSS, teacher recruitment/retention, school safety, and remedial and wraparound services. Martha Zoller compared consolidation of funds to past block grants and would like to see it expanded beyond Title I schools to all schools. 

Chief Information Officer/Deputy Superintendent for Technology Services Dr. Keith Osburn highlighted GaDOE recently receiving the Power Learner Potential Organization Award and Silver Learning Impact Award from 1EdTech Consortium for SuitCASE, the digital platform for K-12 academic standards. You can read more about the awards in the press release here. 

Outgoing Georgia Teacher of the Year Michael Kobito individually thanked Board members and reflected on his year as an Ex-Officio. He said the board is different and diverse in terms of backgrounds, beliefs, age, and more and that allows for robust discussions. His time allowed him new perspectives, especially concerning advocacy, outside the classroom. He saw firsthand that the Board must make heavy decisions that are not only interconnected but also have direct consequences. He encouraged the Board to branch out to people they don’t know, reach out to people in new ways, especially for public comment, and ask new questions all while still consulting old friends. 

Leonte Benton introduced Ron Clark from the Ron Clark Academy in Southeast Atlanta. Mr. Clark is the author of The Essential 55 and currently teaches 5th grade math as well as 6th and 7th grade history. He explained the school’s approach to education, which focuses on parental and community involvement, manners, high expectations, innovation, and exciting hands-on learning opportunities. Beyond teaching children, the academy trains teachers in the school’s methods. Mr. Clark invited Superintendent Woods and the Board to visit the school. 

Correction: The original report misstated the chair's tenure. This month was not Chair Jason Downey’s last meeting serving as chair. The chair's term ends on December 31, 2023. Next month, the State Board will meet for one day on July 19th. 

05/17 - 2023 Legislative Session Recap

2023 Legislative Session Recap
by Stephanie Tanner on 5/17/2023

GSBA-CWO Header

2023 Legislative Session Recap 

The legislature and the Governor have done their parts. Now it’s down to the implementation phase of legislation passed this session. We will point out a few highlights below, but click for the budget breakdown and a list of bills passed and those leftover. 

The Governor vetoed only one of the bills GSBA followed. HB 193 would have increased the limit on public works contracts subject to the bidding process from $100,00 to $250,000. Gov. Kemp said, “As a general matter, the State must competitively bid on any construction or public works contracts more than $100,000.00. There is no reason competitive bidding requirements for local governments should be more lenient than those for state-issued contracts. 

Homework Assignments 

Please invite state officials to graduations, award ceremonies, and other district events that highlight student and program successes. If they cannot come to your district, communicate with them about these successes. Where are your students going after graduation? What scholarships or other awards did they win? What competitions did your students participate in? Are there any special professional development opportunities for teachers? You get the picture, so please brag about your students and staff. 

Use the upcoming months to thank legislators for budget items and legislation that directly supports your school district’s initiatives and talk about where you disagree. While we know it’s challenging, it is important. It’s hard to work on something if you don’t understand someone’s reasoning. As my favorite podcast says, “Keep it nuanced, y’all.” 

Budget 

It was another good budget year for public education with raises for personnel, increased funding for counselors, and safety grants. On May 5th, Governor Kemp issued his veto messages and signing statements, including non-binding information language to disregard in HB 19, the FY24 budget. The Governor told GaDOE to disregard the information related to the following budget line items: 

  • $8.6 million for $1,000 salary supplement for all custodians through QBE because the Governor says the QBE formula does not authorize funding to school districts for custodians 

  • $6.3 million for the cost of breakfast and lunch for reduced-paying students due to a federal pilot program until the full impact of the pilot can be realized 

  • $1.7 million for charter facility grants because HB 430 from 2017 allows the state board to award facilities grants to state and local charter schools but does not require additional funding 

  • $711,000 for construction industry certification because this funding would expand the programs to grades before high school without the development of curriculum for lower grades 

  • $50,000 for feminine hygiene grants due to the lack of data on program needs 

Revenue Picture 

The revenue reports for the last two months have been down, but FY ’23 is still on track to meet the projected revenue. Do not, however, expect any massive surplus. Income tax refunds and changes to the income tax structure are part of the reason for the decreased revenue. Federal decisions also impact how comfortable consumers feel about spending.  

Legislation 

Some recurring themes this session included literacy (SB 211 and HB 538), school safety (HB 147), creating new guidelines for school accrediting agencies (SB 204), and school choice. The bills noted go into effect July 1st. SB 233, the voucher bill, failed on the floor in the House but a motion to reconsider passed. That put the bill back on the general calendar. The bill was withdrawn from the general calendar and put back in the Rules Committee. We will see it again next January. 

School board members and superintendents should be aware of a last-minute amendment to HB 340 which prohibits school board members from discussing individual personnel matters with the superintendent except in specific circumstances already allowed by law, including in executive session. You may refer matters to the superintendent, just don’t discuss them 

One final note for school boards: remember SB 588 from last year that required you to adopt rules of conduct for those attending your meetings and those making public comments? It also requires that you adopt those rules annually by August 1st, so please remember to do so. 

Thanks for reading and helping in our advocacy efforts. Those emails, calls, and texts help! Have a great summer, remember your homework assignments, and we hope to see many of you in Savannah for the Policy Workshop and summer conference! 

05/12 - May State Board of Education Report

May State Board of Education Report
by Stephanie Tanner on 5/12/2023

May State Board of Education Report

The State Board of Education did not meet in April, which meant there were many items to cover during the CommitteeCommittee of the Whole, and regular State Board meetings. The meetings took place over two days on May 10th and 11th with committee meetings on the first day and the Committee of the Whole and full State Board meeting on the second. To view the complete agendas, click the highlighted links above.

Committees

District Flexibility & Charter Schools Committee

Tiffany Taylor, GaDOE Deputy Superintendent of Policy, Flexibility, and External Affairs, presented the 11 agenda items. The agenda consisted of 10 charter system renewals and one State Charter Schools Commission approval for refinancing a facility. Representatives from the charter systems thanked the committee and spoke in support of the work at their schools. There was some discussion around the State Charter Schools Commission approval and why the school did not meet financial qualifications. Representatives said financing for facilities is a common challenge for these charter schools and that they look at whether the financial situation affects students’ academic performance and day-to-day school operations. All agenda items were moved to the consent agenda.

Rules Committee

The agenda consisted of three items, including the new Georgia K-12 English Language Arts (ELA) Standards, qualified dyslexia screening tools, and the 2023-2024 private school list for the Special Needs Scholarship Program. Most of the discussion focused on the new K-12 ELA standards, the process for creating them, and whether GaDOE felt comfortable and ready to move forward with them, especially because of the need to align with the new literacy requirements in HB 538.

Dr. April Aldridge, GaDOE Deputy Superintendent of the Office of Teaching and Learning, outlined how the ELA standards were created based on input from two review committees and a working group of more than 300 ELA educators who drafted recommendations. Dr. Aldridge explained that the standards align with the expectations around foundational literacy, structured literacy, and the science of reading in HB 538. Superintendent Richard Woods said the department is 100 percent ready to move forward with these standards but that professional development will be critical. Nick Ellis, Stan DeJarnett, and Lisa Kinnemore thanked everyone, especially educators, who were involved in creating these standards. Scott Sweeney hopes the state can minimize how many changes need to be made to standards in the future due to the vast number of resources that must be dedicated to training and professional development when implementing them after an overhaul. He said this as a cautionary comment, particularly for legislators. Lisa Kinnemore supports the suggestion from RESAs for annual reviews of standards. The standards were moved for a separate vote.

Funds for qualified dyslexia screening were allocated in the FY24 budget. This item was moved to the consent agenda.

Five schools have applied to be on the 2023-2024 private school list for the Special Needs Scholarship Program. There will be 287 total schools on the list to participate. This item was also moved to the consent agenda.

Budget Committee

The budget committee agenda was a lengthy one with 45 items. Rusk Roam, GaDOE Chief Financial Officer, presented. He highlighted the $2,000 salary increase for certified teachers and personnel, the State Health Benefit Plan PMPM employer contribution increase, funding for dyslexia screening and school counselors, and other school personnel pay raises. The committee moved quickly through the items with some discussion around a few. All items were moved to the consent agenda. See below for a few budget discussion highlights.

Highlights: 

=       The committee discussed contract renewals for Jetdoc and Chandley Communications, Inc., which provide on-demand mental health counseling services and outreach to homeless students to connect them to resources.

=       GaDOE Chief Turnaround Officer Stephanie Johnson presented a new contract for the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL) to provide professional development and other resources centered on leadership skills to school leaders and educators.

=       The committee discussed round 1 recipients of school-based health center planning grants. The grants will be awarded to eight school systems. Mike Royal shared concerns that most of the districts, including Hall, Fulton, and DeKalb, were not rural and had access to large hospital systems.

Audit Committee

Because an incident arose in the district, representatives from Talbot County Schools did not attend the March State Board meeting. Superintendent James “Jack” Catrett answered questions and appealed to the Board, explaining that the primary reason the district has not met financial goals is due to personnel issues. The district does not have enough qualified applicants to correct personnel issues. Dr. Catrett explained that the school system had a 97.6 percent graduation rate before COVID, but recently the district has struggled due to COVID, tornado recovery, high levels of gun violence, and other issues that often plague rural schools. Mike Royal noted a lack of detail, specificity, and urgency in the corrective action plan. Dr. Catrett hopes that new personnel and local board members will help put the district on the right track. GSBA received mention for recently interviewing district representatives about progress made and handling tornado recovery and school safety issues. The superintendent also wants the board to achieve board recognition. Chair Downey said he remains hopeful and looks forward to seeing a positive report in six months. Downey and Royal asked Talbot County Schools to come back for the November State Board Meeting.

State Schools Committee

Atlanta Area School for the Deaf Superintendent J. Jack Johnson presented a school update using American Sign Language (ASL). Johnson’s presentation emphasized how the school provides students with total access to language and communication, which increases incidental learning and allows students to feel a sense of belonging.

Dr. Kenney Moore, State Schools Director, said state schools are working on revamping their culture. He then gave a presentation on the Smokey Powell Center, which is managed by the Georgia Foundation for Public Education. The Georgia Academy for the Blind supports 85 local education agencies through the Smokey Powell Center by providing services like mobile ophthalmologists, assistive technology assessments, and equipment loans. Dr. Moore thanked the State Board for recognizing and fulfilling its fiduciary responsibility of managing the funds so students will continue to be served for many years to come.

Committee of the Whole/State Board Meeting

Inspiration

Jack Griffin from FoodFinder presented the inspiration. Mike Royal introduced Mr. Griffin, who he first met as a high school student in Gwinnett County. The mission of FoodFinder is to easily connect families to free food programs with the goal of ensuring students are fed when they’re out of school. The need for free food programs in Georgia and across the country has increased due to COVID and inflation. Since launching the FoodFinder app, families can connect to 50,000 free food programs across all 50 states, and 175,000 Georgians and 2.2 million Americans have been served through the app.

The Board created the consent agenda.

Actions Taken

All 45 Budget Committee items, two Rules Committee items, and 11 District Flexibility and Charter Schools Committee items were placed on the consent agenda and approved.

The Board voted on two legal appeals, case 2023-25 and 2023-27. For case 2023-25 concerning Jeff Davis County Board of Education, the State Board voted to affirm in part and reverse in part. The decision was approved with a vote of 10 to 4. For Case 2023-27 concerning Muscogee County Board of Education, the State Board voted unanimously to reverse the decision of the local board.

The Board took more time to discuss the new K-12 ELA standards before voting. Lisa Kinnemore wants to ensure RESAs, educators, and other groups have had a chance to look over the standards and to confirm alignment with HB 538. Frank Griffin expressed confidence in the development process. Scott Sweeney reiterated that overhauling standards takes a lot of time and money and disrupts teachers’ stability so it’s important to be able to use standards for many years. Teacher of the Year Michael Kobito has not heard concerns about the changes to the standards, but he has heard from other teachers that it’s important to have enough time to be trained to implement them properly. The K-12 ELA standards were approved with a vote of 13 to 1 with Kinnemore as the dissenting vote.

Chair’s Reports

Superintendent Woods did not provide a report this month. Chair Downey introduced Caroline Pedersen, a recent college graduate who will begin teaching special education in the fall. Ms. Pedersen gave information about Georgia Miss Amazing, a national self-esteem movement led by and for girls with disabilities, The organization encourages self-advocacy by building confidence and enhancing leadership and communication skills. 

Joy Hawkins from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) introduced Fran Dundore, the new Director of School Services. Fran is taking over the Governor's Honors Program and academic auditing responsibilities. Director Hawkins and Dr. Dundore gave an overview of the academic auditing process. During the typical process, GOSA looks at four areas for flags: answer change, unusual response pattern, gain score analysis, and response time analysis. Then schools with three or four flags would be audited. Due to COVID, GOSA will use a different process of randomly monitoring 50 schools this year. 

Next month will be Michael Kobito’s last meeting serving as Ex-Officio to the Board. The 2024 Georgia Teacher of the Year will start his/her term in July.

The Board will meet next on June 14th and 15th.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Graduation season is upon us, and now is a wonderful time to invite State Board members, senators, and representatives to graduations, award ceremonies, and other events to highlight successes in your district.

03/30 - Day 40/Sine Die - FY24 Budget Passes; Voucher Bill Fails on House Floor

Day 40/Sine Die - FY24 Budget Passes; Voucher Bill Fails on House Floor
by Justin Pauly on 3/30/2023

GSBA-CWO HeaderDay 40/Sine Die! 

The House and Senate moved quickly through business before lunch but it still took till past midnight to call it quits on this session. Education bills seemed to be a major sticking point, mostly due to one bill in particular. No education bills were on either floor until late afternoon. Governor Kemp arrived as a “special guest, as is traditional for the Governor just before 9 PM. Any bill left in committee, on the table, or up for reconsideration will be available for them next year. 

SB 233 

The most significant news of the day was the vote on SB 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act” by Sen. Greg Dolezal. After much delay and vote whipping throughout the day, SB 233, the voucher bill, was called to the floor. Earlier in the day, it was recommitted to Rules for two amendments. The first one clarifies that the scholarship amount will be adjusted to reflect any future austerity reductions to QBE. The second one amends lines 344-353 to say the schools in the lowest performing quartile will be determined by the two most recent years instead of one. The bill passed out of Rules as amended. Later in the night, SB 233 was called for a floor vote and failed 85-89. They needed 91 “yes” votes but got only 85 with one Democrat voting yes, 16 Republicans voting no, and 5 Democrats excused. Then there was a motion to reconsider with a vote of 98-73. This means the bill can come back next year, and Speaker Jon Burns indicated it will in his comments to the press late last night 

We sincerely appreciate all the House members who voted “no” for the measure despite intense pressure. Thank you for your steadfast support for public education! Thank you to everyone who called, texted, and emailed legislators to oppose the bill! Your advocacy made such a difference. Please follow up with them, thank them if they voted as you asked, and keep communication lines open with those who did not. 

FY24 Budget 

The FY24 Budget (HB 19) passed both chambers through a conference committee report. It was late in the night before it was presented in the House. The Senate passed it earlier in the day. Below are some of the highlights. To view the budget in full, click here. To view the tracking sheet, click here. The General Assembly presented the largest ever public education budget at $13.1 billion with QBE fully funded, $27 million for school counselors, and a $2 thousand teacher pay raise. A 5.1 percent raise for bus drivers, nutrition workers, and school counselors was also included. Custodians were given a $1000 salary supplement. 

  • Completion State Special School Program Coordinator position in GaDOE, part of HB 87, is funded at $120,000 

  • $50,000 for meetings with House and Senate committees and stakeholders concerning the GNETS funding formula 

  • Cut GNETS funding by $400,000 in addition to the $4.7 million cut due to a decline in enrollment, training, and experience 

  • Cut the testing budget by $450,000 (instead of $873,000) to reflect the testing contract and continue all PSAT and AP testing 

  • Added $50,000 for feminine hygiene grants 

  • Added $3.5 million for dyslexia screening from SB 48 in 2019 

  • Added $6.3 million for the cost of breakfast and lunch for reduced-paying students 

  • Added $711,000 for construction industry certification but did not add any funds for the construction ready pre-apprenticeship program 

  • Added $251,000 for Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) to provide personnel and operations for the Georgia Council on Literacy (SB 211) and $749,000 for them to support the implementation of effective literacy methods, including digital curriculum for grades PreK-5 

Legislation Across the Finish Line 

  • HB 87, “Nontraditional Special Schools Act,” by Rep. Chris Erwin creates special completion schools and attendance zones for schools like Mountain Education, Foothills, and Coastal Plains Charter Schools. The House agreed to the Senate’s changes. 

  • HB 193 by Rep. Victor Anderson increases the dollar values of certain public works construction contracts exempt from bidding requirements. The Senate amended the bill adding a section that gives rapid transit contracts purchasing limits and the House removed the state and federal government so that provision applies only to rapid transit contracts with cities and counties. The Senate agreed to the changes made in the House. It goes to the Governor’s desk. 

  • HB 340 by Rep. John Corbett allows for daily duty-free planning for K-12 teachers. Two amendments were added in the Senate. Senator Greg Dolezal added an amendment as cleanup language from the Governor that replaced “mediation” with “arbitration” in SB 204 regarding school accrediting agencies. Senator Jason Anavitarte added an amendment with language from SB 98 to try to limit school board members’ discussions of individual personnel. Sen. Anavitarte didn’t explain the amendment but said it was “pro-teacher” and that he wouldn’t let teachers be bullied and that he will not be bullied by other elected officials, including school board members. Sen. Anavitarte’s amendment passed the Senate 32-17, and then the overall bill passed 49-1. The House agreed to the changes in the Senate but added another amendment with the public education foundation tax credit sunset provision. The Senate agreed to the House changes, and it goes to the Governor’s desk. 

  • HB 538, “Georgia Early Literacy Act,” by Rep. Bethany Ballard regarding high-quality reading curriculum, screening, teacher preparation, and training passed the Senate on Monday with an amendment that asks the Professional Standards Commission (PSC) to consider out-of-state teacher certification programs that meet the state’s requirements. The House agreed to the Senate’s changes yesterday, and it goes to the Governor’s desk. 

  • HB 607 by Rep. Clay Pirkle revises the definition of Zell Miller Scholarship Scholar by changing ACT score requirement for certain students. The bill passed the Senate 50-0, and it goes to the Governor’s desk. 

  • SB 56 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler requires the state revenue commissioner to contract with the board of the Employee Retirement System of Georgia (ERS) to offer certain county tax commissioners the option to participate in the state-administered deferred compensation plan. The House added language from HB 170 to allow certain digital products and services to be taxed. The Senate agreed to the House changes, and it goes to the Governor’s desk. 

  • SR 175 by Sen. Matt Brass creates the Joint Study Committee on Dual Enrollment for Highly Skilled Talent at Younger Ages. The Senate agreed to the House changes, and it goes to the Governor’s desk. 

Legislation Stalled for Now 

  • HB 51 by Rep. Clay Pirkle allows school boards to approve vehicles other than school buses to transport students. The bill was changed in committee in the Senate with language that said if the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) participates in athletic or academic events, then the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) must also be allowed to participate as well. This bill did not receive a vote and will go back to a committee in the Senate. 

  • HB 144 was stripped to include language from HB 30 by Rep. John Carson. This bill requires schools to follow and enforce the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of “antisemitism” and its examples. This bill did not receive a vote and will go back to a committee in the Senate. 

  • HB 269 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon allows workforce development boards to meet via teleconference. This bill did not receive a vote and will go back to a committee in the Senate. 

  • HB 318 by Rep. Scott Hilton reestablishes the Office of Charter School Compliance under the State Charter Schools Commission. It was amended in the Senate to allow schools to enter into performance contracts for energy saving (HB 306) and to allow eligibility for capital outlay grants for low-wealth school systems (HB 81). The bill passed the Senate as amended 50-3, but the House never agreed to the Senate’s changes. 

  • HB 338, “Student Technology Protection Act,” by Rep. Chris Erwin requires filtering on school networks and devices. The bill did not receive a vote and will go back to a committee in the Senate. 

  • SB 13 by Sen. John Albers was stripped in the House to include language from HB 36 revising language required in current assessment notices. The House and Senate never reached an agreement via a conference committee report. 

  • SB 32, Alyssa’s Law,” requiring certain mobile panic alert systems in schools by Sen. Jason Anavitarte, did not receive a House vote. 

  • SB 217 by Sen. John Albers was amended in the House to include some language from HB 301 and HB 348 regarding speed cameras in school zones and fees/fines for speeding in a school zone or passing a school bus. The Senate never agreed to the House changes. 

  • SB 240 by Sen. Larry Walker regarding surveys of school districts to determine if they offer either Social Security or a qualified retirement plan as part of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). The House amended the bill to allow some charter school employees to opt into the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) or a 401K. The Senate agreed to the House changes but made another amendment with language from SB 266. It went back to the House who disagreed. An agreement was never reached in the Senate or House. 

  • SR 144 by Sen. Jason Esteves creates the Senate Expanding Early Childhood Education Study Committee. The resolution did not receive a vote and will go back to a committee in the Senate. 

We will send out a complete wrap-up of the session in the coming days. The Governor has 40 days to act on bills. 

Thanks again for all your hard work this session! We couldn’t do it without you. 

03/27 - Day 39- Literacy Bills & Voucher Waiting

Day 39- Literacy Bills & Voucher Waiting
by Justin Pauly on 3/27/2023

GSBA-CWO Header

Day 39 

We are getting down to the end of the session and we are burning the candle at both ends. The Senate adjourned just after 9 PM, and the House kept going late into the evening. 

There is still public education legislation hanging out there. HB 538, the Georgia Early Literacy Act, passed the Senate but with an amendment and will have to go back to the House for an agreement. More on this below. SB 211, which creates the Georgia Council on Literacy, passed the House unanimously and was agreed to in Senate 

Finally, we are still in a waiting pattern on the House side for SB 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship voucher bill. The word is that votes are still being whipped up to pass the bill. Time is rapidly running out. 

Thanks for your advocacy on this, keep it up.  Those in support of this are not letting up! 

Joint House & Senate Appropriations Conference Committee 

The House and Senate have not agreed on HB 19, the FY24 Budget. They are in a Conference Committee to work through their differences and come to agreement to pass a budget, which is the only constitutional responsibility of the General Assembly. Wednesday is the last day of the legislative session. Therefore we should see a final version and passage by then. 

House & Senate Chambers 

Senate 

Agree/Disagree 

SB 211 by Sen. Billy Hickman creates the “Georgia Council on Literacy.” The bill passed the House tonight but with an amendment, and Senator Billy Hickman agreed to the change. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature. 

Bills 

HB 538 by Rep. Bethany Ballard requires the State Board of Education to approve high-quality literacy instructional materials and screeners as well as evidence-based literacy certification courses and training for teachers. Some of the language from SB 96, which requires the Professional Standards Commission (PSC) to consider out-of-state teacher certification programs that meet the academic accreditation and certification requirements, was added to the bill. The bill passed as amended 48-1. It will go back to House for agreement. 

House  

Bills 

SB 56, which required the state revenue commissioner to contract with the board of the Employees' Retirement System of Georgia to offer certain county tax commissioners the option to participate in a state administered deferred compensation plan, became a Christmas tree of tax bills including HB 170, which would allow sales tax to be collected on certain digital products. The amended bill passed 168-1. It will now go back to the Senate for agreement. 

SB 211 by Sen. Billy Hickman creates the “Georgia Council on Literacy.” The bill passed 175-0. 

SB 240 by Sen. Larry Walker, requires a survey of school districts to see what kind of retirement plan schools are offering non-certified school employees with the goal of getting school districts to offer a qualified retirement plan or Social Security to these employees. The bill passed as amended 165-1. It will now go back to the Senate for agreement. 

SR 175 by Sen. Matt Brass creates the Joint Study Committee on Dual Enrollment for Highly Skilled Talent at Younger Ages. The resolution passed via substitute 167-0. It now goes back to the Senate for agreement. 

SB 217 by Sen. John Albers was subbed with some  language from HB 348 and HB 301. HB 348 changes the requirements for cameras in school zones. HB 301 caps the penalty fines and fees for violations of improperly passing a school bus or speeding in a school zone. The bill passed 110-59. It now goes back to the Senate agreement. 

New Bills 

HB 822 by Rep. Kasey Carpenter regarding sex education and HIV prevention courses being age appropriate and medically accurate. 

SR 403 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick supports the Joint Teacher Recruitment and Retention Initiative of the Cobb County School District and Coweta County School System.

Schedule 

Tuesday, March 28th 

Committee Workday 

Wednesday, March 29th – Sine Die 

House & Senate convene 

03/23 - Contact Your House Member NOW Please

Contact Your House Member NOW Please
by Angela Palm on 3/23/2023

GSBA-CWO Header

Supporters of SB 233, the voucher bill, are working hard to get it to the House floor for a vote as soon as possible which could be this afternoon.  Call/text/email your House member as soon as possible to ask them to vote NO on SB 233.  The Georgia Student Finance Commission would be administering the program not the Department of Education, so it is apparently considered to be a finance bill not an education one. You have heard the reasons to oppose the bill before. Here are a few passages from the bill you and the House members need to be aware of:

  • Lines 182-184: "The commission shall not require a participating school or service provider to alter such school's or provider's creed, practices, admissions policies, employemnt policies, or curricula in order to receive funds under the program."  They get taxpayer dollars but no quality control is allowed?
  • Lines 262-267: "The commission shall develop and utilize a compliance form for completion by participating schools and service providers....Participating schools and service providers shall be required to complete such forms and certify their accuracy." Compare that to all the forms and information you have to provide and post to be accountable and transparent with your use of taxpayer dollars.
  • Line 271: "The commission shall have the authority to conduct or contract for the auditing of accounts and shall, at a minimum, conduct random audits on an annual basis." Should there not at some point be a required audit of an account that is receiving $6500 every year?  Yes, the amount has been increased from $6000 per student to $6500.  Just imagine if you got $6500 from the state for each of your students! 

31% of households in Georgia have children according to the U.S. Census.  We all have a financial and community stake in the future of the children in our state. The bill does not create any system that would help parents compare schools and pick the best one for their children. The taxpayers and children deserve better than this. 

Thank you for your advocacy efforts! 

03/23 - Day 38 - Vouchers Debated & Tabled; FY24 Budget in Conference Committee

Day 38 - Vouchers Debated & Tabled; FY24 Budget in Conference Committee
by Justin Pauly on 3/23/2023

GSBA-CWO Header Day 38  

It was quite the day under the Gold Dome. The FY ’24 budget made it through the Senate and into a Conference Committee. See below for details. The voucher bill took a roller coaster ride through the legislative process and here are the details: 

SB 233 

First of all, thank you, thank you to all who responded to our alert by contacting your Representative. Your efforts matter, and we are not done. The House held four Rules Committee meetings today. Chairman Richard Smith had indicated the committee would only meet once this morning and once this afternoon, but they met late this afternoon just to add SB 233, the voucher bill, by Sen. Greg Dolezal. The bill was rushed to the floor and debated for one hour. There was a Rules Committee substitute that had three changes: 

  • Participating students can take the statewide assessment OR a norm-referenced national assessment. 

  • Homeschool students who are not participants in the program do not have to meet any criteria or follow any regulations set forth in the bill. 

  • “Socioeconomic status” and “English proficiency” have been added to the categories of the aggregate data collected for reporting. 

Thank you to Representatives Doreen Carter, Spencer Frye, Ruwa Romman, Segun Adeyina, Phil Olaleye, Miriam Paris, Karlton Howard, David Wilkerson, Lisa Campbell, and Becky Evans for your strong comments in support of public education and in opposition to SB 233. 

Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Floor Leader Will Wade, Representatives Todd Jones, Mesha Mainor, Scott Hilton, and Reynaldo “Rey” Martinez spoke in support of SB 233. In Floor Leader Wade’s comments, he indicated that Governor Kemp supports passing this voucher bill. GSBA provided feedback on the bill as we always do, and while some of the changes that were made address shortcomings of the bill, we have been clear at every step of the way that our members oppose voucher programs and this bill.  

Right before a floor vote could be held, Speaker Pro Tem Jones made a motion to table SB 233. The bill is currently on the table, but we expect it to come back Monday and must stay vigilant. If you have yet to contact your state representative, please see our Call to Action and do so! If you do not know who your Representative is, check the My Voter page, click on the tab for your elected officials, and then click on your House district. That will take you to the page with contact information for your Representative. 

House & Senate Chambers 

House 

Today the House had the following education-related bills on the floor: 

  • SB 45 by Sen. Jason Anavitarte requires schools to have advanced care action plans for students with epilepsy or seizure orders. It passed 167-0 and now goes to the Governor. 

  • SB 86 by Sen. Matt Brass allows eligible students participating in dual enrollment to access HOPE career grant funds for certain CTAE courses even if they have met the cap for dual enrollment courses. It passed 167-0, and the Senate agreed to changes made in the House. It will now go to the Governor. 

  • SB 204 by Sen. Greg Dolezal recognizes and provides