March 5, 2020

Legislative Session
Day 25
Report Snapshot

Teacher Evaluation Review, REACH Scholarship Reductions, and Homeschool Legislation Pass House Ed

S enate Ed Passes College Entrance Exam, and College and Career Academy Bills

House Begins Conference Committee Process for Amended Fiscal Year Budget; Approves Bill Expediting IEP Review for Foster Care Students

Senate Approves Bill Defining 'On-Time' Graduation Rate

Senate Committee Approves Career Academy Bill
Upcoming Schedule

Monday, March 9 – Legislative Day 26

House Appropriations, 8 a.m., 606 CLOB (The AFY 21 budget will be heard.)

Tuesday, March 10 – Legislative Day 27

Wednesday, March 11 – Committee Work Day

Thursday, March 12 – Legislative Day 28/Crossover Day
Teacher Evaluation Review, REACH Scholarship Limitations, and Homeschool Legislation Pass House Ed

Highlight:

  • House committee passes teacher evaluation review bill, REACH Scholarship limitations, and legislation allowing homeschoolers to participate in public school extracurriculars.

The House Education Committee passed the following bills this afternoon. All now move to House Rules. Updated versions of the bills are not yet available on the state site, but PAGE has linked to the newest versions of the bills below.   

HB 86 , sponsored by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), requires school districts to create a complaint review policy that allows teachers with a summative evaluation rating of unsatisfactory, ineffective, or needs development to receive an evaluation review by an independent third party administrator or administrator designated by local administrators.  

HB 1026 by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella) scales back Georgia’s need-based REACH scholarship program, which is funded by contributions by the state and local school districts. The number of scholarships in large districts will be cut from 12 to eight, and the number of scholarships in small districts will be cut from seven to five.

HB 1055 , sponsored by House Education Chair Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), chair of the House Education Committee, would give homeschooled students the right to participate in extracurricular activities including athletics, band, chorus and other musical and theater activities as well as school clubs and organizations at the public schools to which they are zoned. To be eligible, homeschooled students must complete an online course in a core subject area facilitated by their resident school district prior to participating in an extracurricular activity and must continue enrollment in an online course for the duration of the activity. An amendment proposed today by Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer) sought to allow school districts to choose whether homeschooled students can participate. That amendment failed. The bill passed the committee by a two-vote margin.

A planned House Education subcommittee slated to consider a teacher evaluation bill before the full committee convened was cancelled.
-Margaret Ciccarelli
Senate Ed Passes College Entrance Exam, and College and Career Academy Bills

Highlights:

  • Senate Education and Youth Committee passes bill to allow schools to administer college entrance exams during schools hours.
  • Bill also passes to allow private school and homeschool students to attend public college and career academies.
  • Committee approves bill to require menstrual products be made available to students in all middle and high schools.

The Senate Education and Youth Committee passed the following bills:

SB 486 by Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville) would allow schools to provide a college entrance exam to junior and senior high school students during normal school hours. The bill originally specified the exams that schools would be allowed to offer but was changed to allow the college entrance exam of the school’s choice. The bill was also changed from mandating that students take a college entrance exam during school time. Now, students may choose to participate if they wish. Representatives from Achieve Atlanta testified in support of the legislation. If passed by the General Assembly, the bill would only take effect if funding for the exams is appropriated in the state budget. The bill passed by a 4-3 vote with Martin breaking a tie. 

SB 430 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) would allow home school or private school students to enroll in College and Career Academies (CCA), as space allows. When presenting the bill, Ligon said he was approached by a CCA in his district that requested the legislation. After suggestions from committee members, Ligon changed the bill to give local school systems the choice to allow these students to participate in CCA courses rather than issuing a mandate. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

SB 404 and SR 776 , both sponsored by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), constitute a package of companion bills, including a proposed constitutional amendment allowing voters to decide whether local boards of education can levy development impact fees. SB 404 would only apply to several high-growth school districts such as Forsyth County, which Dolezal represents, and Buford City Schools. SB 404 passed the committee by a vote of five to four with Martin again exercising his right to break a tie. SR 776 passed by a vote of five to three. SR 776, if taken up by the full Senate, must pass by a constitutional majority of three fourths of the Senate for approval.

Sen. Freddie Powell Sims (D-Dawson) presented SB 349 by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta). The bill would require local boards of education to provide menstrual products in all middle and high school restrooms to students at no charge. The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) received $1 million in state funds in Fiscal Year 2020 for grants to local school systems to provide these products in a central location at each school. The funds also are included in the FY 2021 budget. Some members of the committee expressed concern about the cost that the state or districts may incur by providing a dispenser and products for each restroom in middle and high schools. In response, the bill was amended to require that each school have period products available to students in a central location determined by the school. The bill passed unanimously. 

The committee heard SB 440 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White). Thompson was not present at the meeting, but Al Stewart with Goodwill industries presented the bill. The bill would allow nontraditional students age 21 to 35 to attend a state charter school approved for educating older students. Current law prevents students over the age of 18 from earning a high school diploma. Goodwill operates schools in other states to help these students graduate with a high school diploma and help them enter the workforce. Sen. Martin explained that the fiscal note that was requested on the bill estimates the schools would cost the state approximately $25 million. However, Stewart disagreed with the cost estimate, as Goodwill is willing to cover most of the costs of the schools. Martin suggested that Stewart work with committee members in order to continue the discussion on the concept with the potential to explore legislation in 2021.

-Josh Stephens
House Begins Conference Committee Process for Amended Fiscal Year Budget; Approves Bill Expediting IEP Review for Foster Care Students

Highlights:

  • House disagreed to the Senate’s version of the AFY 20 budget, beginning the conference committee process.
  • HB 855, a bill that would allow for the immediate assessment of students that enter foster care to determine if they qualify for an IEP, passes House.

The House disagreed with the Senate’s version of the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 budget, which triggers the creation of a conference committee made up of three representatives of both chambers who will develop a final version of the budget. The Fiscal Year 2021 budget will be considered by the House Appropriations Committee Monday, March 9, at 7 a.m. The $2,000 proposed educator pay raise is included in Gov. Brian Kemp's proposed FY 2021 budget, but the House may adjust the raise in its version of the budget. CLICK HERE to read more about the current budget situation.

The House also approved HB 855 by Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), a bill allowing for the immediate assessment of students who enter foster care to determine if they qualify for an individualized education program (IEP). The students would continue to be required to qualify for IEPs to receive services, but the process would begin more quickly. Wiedower cited increased transiency rates for foster care students as the need for the bill. The bill passed the House unanimously and now moves on to the Senate.

-Josh Stephens
Senate Approves Bill Defining 'On-Time' Graduation Rate

Highlight:

  • Senate approves SB 431, a bill that provides for the definition of “on-time graduation rate.”

The Senate passed SB 431 by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa), a bill that provides for the definition of “on-time graduation rate” as the graduation rate of the four-year cohort of students who attend a school continuously from Oct. 1 of the calendar year four years prior to the calendar year of the regular date of graduation of that cohort. More information about SB 431 is available here .
-Josh Stephens

Senate Committee Approves Career Academy Bill

Highlight:

  • Senate Higher Education Committee passed SB 416, which aims to enhance alignment between career academies and technical colleges.

The Senate Higher Education Committee voted unanimously to approve SB 416, authored by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga). The bill seeks to better align the efforts of technical colleges to recruit new and expand existing industries with programs offered by career academies. More information about the bill is available here . SB 416 now moves to the Senate Rules Committee.

-Claire Suggs

Claire Suggs
Senior Education Policy Analyst
csuggs@pageinc.org
Josh Stephens
Legislative Affairs Specialist
jstephens@pageinc.org
Margaret Ciccarelli
Director of Legislative Services
mciccarelli@pageinc.org