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KNOW Summer 2014

8 | KNOW • Volume 12 Issue 2 Victory #1: The Governor restored 29% of public education austerity cuts. This occurred after several meetings with GAE urging him to designate any funding increase to restore furlough days to ensure Georgia’s children have 180 days of instruction. On January 13, in his budget presentation at the State of the State, the Governor targeted the reduction of furlough days for teachers. The House and Senate made some changes to the Governor’s budget recommendations that had an effect on individual program items, but overall $318 million went back into QBE, a 29% restoration of austerity cuts. Victory #2: The Defeat of the Anti-Common Core Bill. GAE worked with a broad coalition of education, community and business organizations to support Common Core in Georgia. The Better Standards Coalition worked the entire session and successfully defeated SB 167. Our work must continue, as more people will attempt to derail the full implementation of Common Core in Georgia. GAE WORKED AS THE ONLY PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION IN THE COALITION TO DEFEAT THIS BILL. For the first time in a long time the House Education Committee had overflow rooms for a hearing on SB 167, the anti-common core bill. Educators, business people and parents stood up for Common Core and of 68 people testifying, 4/5ths supported Common Core. Victory #3: The Defeat of HB 897. This 42-page bill from its inception was fraught with problems based on our analysis. GAE was the only education organization to actively and openly work against this legislation, and as a result of our work, successfully secured its defeat. HB 897 would have expanded funding to virtual schools at the expense of local districts; expanded charter schools without parity and/or oversight; would have expanded online learning programs without DOE oversight – leaving that work to local school systems already drowning in unfunded directives; and would have created a fourth 501(c)3 for private dollars that would impact public education policy without transparency. On this legislation, GAE went to the mat. It passed the House, was successfully gutted in the Senate Education Committee of all but one of the provisions we opposed, but did not pass on the final day of session. Yes, that’s a GAE VICTORY. NO OTHER EDUCATION ASSOCIATION WORKED TO DEFEAT THIS LEGISLATION. GAE STOOD ALONE and WON. Other education organizations said nothing and did nothing. Victory #4: Georgia’s State Health Benefit Plan. In October of 2013, when the Department of Community Health (DCH) voted to implement the single provider of the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP), GAE immediately took action by contacting the Governor, DCH and the media and we have not stopped. In January, when the new plan took effect, it became abundantly clear that something had to be done about the SHBP as its impact on educators as well as other state workers was increased out-of-pocket costs and decreased coverage and access. We never stopped our efforts, and combined with the strong activism of Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes (TRAGIC), state leaders were moved to make changes to SHBP. With several attempts at a legislative fix failing, the Governor directed DCH for the 2015 plan year to offer more providers. In addition, GAE negotiated with the Governor’s office to have a teacher be a part of the insurance plan design team. With the pace of the 2014 Legislative Session at a clip, as legislators had the May 20 Primary date nipping at their heels, it was a very intense 40 days. The bad news - there was very little time to truly evaluate the impact of legislation on the public and have full throated discussions. The good news – less time for onerous things to happen. So after years of significant full-scale changes, this year we had fewer pieces of education legislation compared to recent years. This year, Medicaid protesters stole the show by performing a wave in the Senate gallery with banners and shirts. Moral Mondays had its initial development each Monday of the legislative session. The response from elected officials included increased state trooper presence to manage the activities. GAE Day at the Capitol culminated in eight legislators, State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge, TRS Executive Director Jeff Ezell, DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese and Georgia’s Governor all meeting with GAE members and addressing each of the issues we worked on. To follow is a review of other 2014 legislation and outcomes.


KNOW Summer 2014
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