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The Legislature revisited student evaluations this year. Sponsored by
the Senate Education and Youth Committee Chair, Lindsey Tippins,
SB 211 seeks to maximize flexibility in the use of state mandated
testing. A comparability study will be undertaken to check national
assessments (like SAT and ACT) against Georgia standards in order
to determine if those national tests can be used instead of state tests.
The bill does not currently reduce or increase the number of
assessments but Chairman Tippins hopes it will ultimately streamline
the assessment process. SB 211 also mandates that local districts
must consider dual enrollment students for valedictorian and
salutatorian status unless they transferred after their sophomore
year and have taken no courses on campus.
In 2015 the Governor’s Education Reform Commission presented
a slate of recommendations for changes to public education. As
of the 2017 Session, the only legislation to come out of these
recommendations is HB 430 implementing certain changes
regarding charter schools. GAE is supportive of that portion of this
legislation that establishes authorizing standards for charter schools
and provides more transparency in the process. However, there are
concerns with the bill’s impact on local districts’ utilization of district
facilities and access to federal funding. GAE was vocal in addressing
these concerns and will continually monitor the implementation.
OTHER BILLS OF NOTE THAT PASSED
THIS SESSION ARE:
The FY2018 budget bill included a 2% increase in the salary
schedule for teachers, school nurses, bus drivers and school nutrition
personnel. GAE will continue to advocate for this increase in schools
that have waived the salary schedule. The budget also included
$1.5 million for the Public School Employees Retirement System
to increase the benefit multiplier from $14.75 to $15.00 per year
HB 139, which promotes transparency in local system and school
budgeting by requiring the DOE to include specific school system
and school site budget information on its website.
HB 224, which allows students of military families living in military
housing to attend any school in the local system that has capacity.
SB 149, which states that “best practice” is for school resource
officers to complete a 40-hour training course, and requires such
to be provided by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards &
SB 186, which provides that students who earned a high school
diploma through dual credit coursework are eligible for HOPE grants.
And, finally, HR 686, which creates a House study committee on
equitable local education funding.
BILLS THAT ARE STILL “ALIVE”
FOR NEXT YEAR
Although these bills did not pass both chambers this year, they
may be considered for passage again next year under the same
The most troubling of these bills is HB 217 which seeks, yet again,
to increase the annual cap on private school tax credits. Currently
Georgia’s Private School Tax Credit law allows eligible private
citizens and corporations to receive tax credits for donations to private
organizations which in turn provide scholarships for students to attend
private schools. Currently the cap on this program is $58 million
annually. HB 217 sought to increase the annual cap to $100 million.
GAE joined all public education advocates in vocal opposition to this
increase because it diverts needed revenues from the state budget.
Every tax dollar which goes to this voucher program is diverted from
the state budget and thus represents dollars lost to the funding
of public education. To date this program has diverted more than
$458 million in state tax dollars from the state treasury to private
organizations in order to send students to private schools. The
program lacks transparency and accountability. GAE will be watching
this bill closely next year and issuing Calls to Action as necessary.
As discussion at the Capitol centered on assisting struggling schools,
SB 30, which promotes the Community Schools model, garnered
wide-spread support. This bill would provide a grant program to
fund implementation of Community School programs. Recognizing
the proven impact of the Community Schools model on student
achievement, GAE supported this bill and provided crucial testimony
during several committee hearings. We remain hopeful that it will
pass during the 2018 Legislative Session.
Two other pieces of legislation that GAE will be
watching next year are:
HB 273, which would provide for a scheduled daily recess in grades K-5.
SB 3, known as the CONNECT Act, seeks to increase the number of
students graduating with credentials that prepare them to go to work
A MAJOR BILL WAS DEFEATED
GAE was closely following SB 68, one of this year’s voucher bills.
Vouchers can be implemented in numerous ways, such as through tax
credits (see HB 217 above) or through what is known as “Education
Savings Accounts (ESA).” SB 68 was an ESA voucher bill and
was strongly opposed by GAE. The Senate Education and Youth
Committee did not take a vote on this bill so it “died” in committee.
Undoubtedly we will see a new and perhaps different form of voucher
bill next session. As always, GAE will keep its members informed of
this threat to public education.
AT THE CAPITOL
February 22, 2018
list of Georgia Education