OTHER PASSING LEGISLATION HB 65 | requires that local school districts and charter schools hold two open meetings regarding their proposed budgets and post their budgets electronically. GAE Position: Supported Status: Signed by Governor May 3, 2016 HB 614 | permits the Department of Education to establish a pilot program for video cameras in special education classrooms. GAE Position: Supported Status: Signed by Governor May 3, 2016 HB 659 | requires school systems, school boards, and schools to provide transparency of financial information to the greatest extent practicable, including school level budget and expenditure data, and to provide certain information on their websites. It also includes a requirement that state officials and agencies notify the General Assembly’s Education Committees when applying for a competitive grant of $20 million or more. GAE Position: Supported Status: Vetoed by Governor 5/3/16 HB 739 | makes state approval of school instructional material and content optional. GAE Position: Opposed Status: Signed by Governor May 3, 2016 HB 777 | allows school bus drivers to use a cell phone like a twoway radio for communication with school or public safety officials. GAE Position: Neutral Status: Signed by Governor April 26, 2016 HB 879 | allows for a seal of bi-literacy on high-school diplomas. GAE Position: Supported Status: Signed by Governor May 3, 2016 HB 959 | was this year’s “Title 20 Cleanup Bill” and addresses a variety of issues. It includes a provision regarding school board members’ First Amendment rights. It also exempts students scoring above a certain level on AP, IB, and in dual enrollment courses from corresponding End of Course Tests. It contains provisions regarding career academies and dual enrollment. In addition, it authorizes data sharing for certain program evaluation purposes and allows the Georgia Department of Education to create unique identifiers to track children of military families for purposes of data disaggregation. Finally, it eliminates a current restriction on the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement’s authority to establish a nonprofit corporation. GAE Position: Neutral Status: Vetoed by Governor May 3, 2016 18 | KNOW • Volume 14 Issue 2 HR 1342 | requests more recess time for school children. Because this is only an “urging resolution” (as opposed to a constitutional amendment), it needs no further approval. GAE Position: Supported Status: Passed. No further action needed SB 309 | states that high schools receiving state funding cannot participate in an athletic association which prohibits religious expression on the clothing of student athletes or which prohibits member schools from organizing and playing scrimmage matches, games, or other athletic competitions with nonmember schools. GAE Position: Neutral Status: Signed by Governor May 3, 2016 WHAT FAILED? The 2016 Session marked the end of a biennial legislative cycle, so bills that did not pass this session are totally “dead.” Certainly, these bills may be reintroduced in an upcoming session, but they have to start at the beginning of the legislative process. For that reason, it is important to note what did not pass this year. Because education spending accounts for more than half of the state budget, proposals to cut income taxes pose real threats to public education. This year, two such proposals were introduced but defeated, in large part due to coordinated advocacy efforts by stakeholders including GAE. These were HB 238 and SR 756. Two voucher bills were introduced this session. HB 865 attempted to create a voucher for low-income students through the use of a tax credit for corporate donors. Like income tax cuts, tax credits threaten the public coffers and, thus, funding for public education. School choice opponents rallied in opposition to HB 865 and this bill did not make it out of committee. This session also saw the introduction of SR 388, an attempt to amend the constitution to allow for vouchers. Working together, education advocates including GAE were able to amend this resolution to specifically prohibit vouchers for public education. Ultimately, the resolution did not make it out of committee. WHAT’S NEXT? Finally, Governor Deal’s Education Reform Commission presented a slate of recommendations for changes to public education and many expected to see corresponding legislation in the 2016 session. Governor Deal postponed these efforts until 2017 and, at this point, specifics of the strategy and legislation are unknown. Stay tuned for legislative updates by email. Contact your GAE representatives to join our advocacy efforts. Your voice makes a difference in the fight for the students who are served by public education.
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