June 17, 2020

Legislative Session
Day 32
Report Snapshot

Budget Cuts Loom as Districts Work to Safely Reopen Schools

Standardized Testing Bill Stalls in House Education Committee

Charter School Clean-Up Bill Advances in Senate
Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, June 18 – Legislative Day 33

Public Finance & Policy Subcommittee, House Ways & Means, 12 p.m., 506 CLOB

Senate Finance, 2:15 p.m., 450 CAP

Friday, June 19 - Legislative Day 34

House Education, TBA
Budget Cuts Loom as Districts Work to Safely Reopen Schools


  • State revenue expected to decline $2.6 billion in Fiscal Year 2021.

  • $1 billion cut proposed for K-12 funding formula.

  • Proposed salary increases for educators and state employees eliminated.

  • Existing pre-kindergarten slots retained but planned expansion stopped.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved spending cuts of more than $2 billion to the state budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY 2021), which are outlined in House Bill 793 . The cuts reflect an anticipated decline of $2.6 billion in state revenue for FY 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic shutdown. Funding for the state’s K-12 Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula is slated for cut of $1 billion. State funding for the equalization formula is set to go up $32 million. Other programs funded through the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) are cut under the Senate’s proposed spending plan. The proposed cuts come at a time when districts are grappling with how to best support student learning and well-being in the wake of the ongoing pandemic as well as additional anticipated health and safety costs in the 2020-2021 school year.

QBE Cut but Equalization Preserved

QBE is the primary source of state funds for Georgia’s public school districts and makes up more than 90 percent of state dollars allocated to the GaDOE. The senate’s proposed budget includes $141 million for student enrollment growth as well as training and experience dollars for educators’ salaries, which are included in the QBE category. However, the QBE formula is cut by $1.04 billion. The Senate budget eliminates a nearly $25 million increase for school counselors approved by the House as well as the teacher salary increases proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp and the House.

All districts will be affected by the QBE cuts, but those that rely more heavily on state funds will likely face greater challenges coping with the funding loss. On average, state funds make up about 56 percent of districts’ total revenue. Twenty-five districts get 70 percent or more of their funds from the state. State money makes up 60 to 69 percent of total revenue in another 63 districts. With their greater reliance on state funds, these districts may experience more furlough days, position elimination and other spending reductions. Each district will determine how best to implement the cut based on its particular needs and circumstances.

Funding for the equalization program, which provides supplemental funds to districts with low property wealth, gets a $32 million increase in the Senate’s proposed budget. This increase is based on formula calculations.

Other education programs funded through the GaDOE are also cut under the Senate’s proposed budget. They include Agricultural Education, Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs), school improvement, state schools, testing, and technology/career education. Funding for the Professional Standards Commission (PSC) and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) will also be cut.

Pre-K Student Slots Protected

Funding for 84,000 existing pre-K student slots across the state is preserved in the Senate’s suggested spending plan. As in the K-12 budget, proposed salary increases for lead and assistant teachers are eliminated. Other additions offered by the House in its pre-pandemic budget proposal—such as raising the number of slots to 85,500 and adding behavioral support specialists—have also been rolled back.

The pre-k program is funded with lottery revenue, which also funds the HOPE financial aid programs. Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, noted that lottery revenue has not declined though he cautioned that pre-k and HOPE costs are rising quickly.

Impact of Cuts

PAGE members provided feedback on the impact of proposed budget cuts in a recent survey . Though much uncertainty remains, most survey respondents expect furlough days and the elimination of vacant positions as their districts cope with the cuts. They flagged lost student learning, lack of access to school meals and increased financial hardship for educators as common effects of furloughs.

Next Steps in Budget Process

HB 793 now moves to the full Senate for a vote. Once approved, it will return to the House, which will review the Senate’s proposal and likely make adjustments. The Senate must agree to any changes the House seeks. The General Assembly must pass the FY 2021 budget by June 30. 
-Claire Suggs
Standardized Testing Bill Stalls in House Education Committee


  • House Ed holds standardized testing reduction bill. Changes to be discussed Friday.

  • Committee passes bill allowing home school students to enroll in College & Career Academies.

  • Office of College & Career Transitions bill and alternative graduation rate definition also pass.

The House Education Committee met this afternoon and considered the following legislation:

SB 367 by Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Duluth) seeks to reduce standardized testing and bring Georgia’s assessment program closer to the federally required testing minimum. PAGE analysis of the current version of SB 367 is available HERE . Committee discussion today focused on whether the bill’s proposed elimination of norm-referenced questions within Georgia’s testing program impede comparability with students in other states, whether educators and students would be accountable for student learning if the emphasis on testing were diminished, and the role of local school districts in administering assessments in addition to those required by state and federal rules. PAGE Director of Legislative Services Margaret Ciccarelli spoke in favor of the legislation, pointing to the waiver of standardized assessments during the COVID-19 school shutdown and asserting the crisis demonstrates that educators have never been more accountable and committed to their students. The committee did not vote on the legislation. Jasperse indicated that changes to the bill would be made before House Education meets again on Friday, June 19.

SB 416 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) would change the name of the “Office of College and Career Transitions” to the “Office of College and Career Transitions Academies.” The office is within the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and coordinates efforts by the State Board of Education, the University System of Georgia, TCSG, and other postsecondary institutions in the professional development, curriculum support, and establishment of college and career academies. SB 416 directs TCSG to collaborate with the Workforce Development Board and the Department of Economic Development to support the efforts of College and Career Academies and local economic development partners. The legislation passed the committee and is on its way to the House Rules Committee, which is expected to schedule it for a floor vote.

SB 431 by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) seeks to define "on-time graduation rate" as the graduation rate of the four-year cohort of students that 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 and graduate on or before that regular date of graduation. This graduation rate defined in SB 431 would not supersede other definitions of graduations promulgated by other federal, state, or locals laws or regulations. The bill passed and is also on its way to Rules.

SB 430 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) would allow home schooled students to enroll in Career and College Academies if space is available. This bill was also approved by the committee and heads to House Rules.

-Margaret Ciccarelli
Charter School Clean-Up Bill Advances in Senate

  • Bills to tweak charter regulations and increase their financial transparency discussed

  • Proposed reduction in REACH scholars questioned

The Senate Education and Youth Committee unanimously passed HB 957 authored by Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton) at its Wednesday meeting. The bill’s provisions include clarification that educators working in charter schools can participate in the State Health Benefit Plan and allows charter school student residency requirements to be met when students apply or enroll. More information is available from PAGE HERE . HB 957 now moves to the full Senate for a vote.

Committee members expressed concern about the reduction in REACH scholarships outlined in HB 1026 . This bill would reduce the number of scholarships to eight from 12 for larger districts and to five from seven for smaller districts. Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella), the bill’s author, said the proposed reductions reflect current financial circumstances and would enable the program to continue expanding to unserved districts. Sen. Martin, the committee chair, suggested continued discussion and possible revisions, which could be reviewed at the committee’s next meeting. More information about HB 1026 is available from PAGE HERE .

Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead) presented HB 755 , which would require school districts to provide locally approved charter schools with annual allotment sheets itemizing state, local, and federal allocations for the upcoming school year. The committee did not vote on the bill as it was a hearing only.

-Claire Suggs

Claire Suggs
Senior Education Policy Analyst
Josh Stephens
Legislative Affairs Specialist
Margaret Ciccarelli
Director of Legislative Services