June 20, 2020

Legislative Session
Day 34 & Day 35
Report Snapshot

Closer Look at Senate’s Budget Proposal

House Ed Passes Revised Testing Reduction Bill

House and Senate Meet Through the Weekend

Senate Finance Committee Seeks State Revenue Boost
Upcoming Schedule

Monday, June 22 – Legislative Day 36

Senate Education and Youth, Time TBD, 307 CLOB

Tuesday, June 23 – Legislative Day 37

Wednesday, June 24 – Legislative Day 38

Thursday, June 25 – Legislative Day 39

Friday, June 26 – Legislative Day 40 (Sine Die )
Closer Look at Senate’s Budget Proposal

The Senate approved its version of the state budget for Fiscal Year 2021 , which would cut about $2.6 billion from state agencies, with a vote down party lines. As described HERE , the budget proposes a $1 billion cut in state funds for public schools that are distributed through the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula. Cuts to other education programs include:

  • Agricultural Education: $1,156,913 reduction for Area Teacher Program/Extended Day/Year, Young Farmers, and Youth Camps

  • Communities in Schools: $157,091 reduction for local affiliates

  • Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS): $6,851,376 reduction for GNETS grants

  • Non-QBE Formula Grants: $800,000 reduction for feminine hygiene products

  • Pupil Transportation: $14,897,844 reduction for districts

  • Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs): $1,630,766 reduction for RESA services

  • School Improvement: $700,000 reduction, which was to be transferred from the now-shuttered Chief Turnaround Office

  • School Nurses: $103,803 reduction

  • State Schools: $3,371,104 reduction for temporary enrollment decline

  • Technology/Career Education: $1,697,430 reduction for Extended Day/Year, Vocational Supervisors, Industry Certification, and Youth Apprenticeship Program

  • Testing: $2,207,362 reduction for STEM AP exams for students who are not eligible for Free & Reduced Lunch. Exams for students who are eligible will continue to be covered by the state

Funds for GaDOE operations, which includes its information technology, business and finance, and central office divisions, will also be cut.

Dual Enrollment, which is operated by the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC), is set to be cut by $11 million.

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC) will absorb large cuts if the Senate budget is passed. Funding for GOSA will fall 87 percent from FY 2020, a total cut of more than $14 million. GaPSC’s budget would drop by $823,296.

The Senate’s proposed budget adds funding in a few areas. More than $141 million is added for student enrollment growth and training and experience for teachers’ salaries. Approximately $32 million is added to fully fund the equalization program, which provides supplemental funds to districts with low property wealth and limited ability to raise local funds. About one-third of the dollars added to equalization are shifted from GOSA. Sparsity grants, which are directed to very small schools in rural communities, get a boost of more than $1 million. The program is currently funded at 27 percent. The additional funds for sparsity grants outlined in the Senate budget reflect formula calculations.

GOSA Programs on Chopping Block

Slashing GOSA’s funding would eliminate or significantly shrink its programs. The agency fills several roles including collecting and disseminating critical information about public education to educators, parents, legislators, and other stakeholders. This includes:

  • School and district report cards, which are mandated by federal and state law

  • GA AWARDS, the state longitudinal data system

  • Workforce Development Report

  • Single Statewide Accountability System Awards

GOSA operates the Growing Readers Program, the Governor’s Leadership Academy, and the Governor’s Honors Program, which all provide direct service to students or educators. The agency is also charged with academic auditing and managing the Innovation Grant program.

Testing a Relatively Low-Cost Item

Though testing has outsized effects on instructional decisions and classroom practices, its price tag is comparatively small. In FY 2020, the state spent about $26 million on testing out of a total state investment in public schools of approximately $10.5 billion. In the Senate’s proposed FY 2021 budget, funding for testing is reduced to $12.4 million. A portion of this reduction is due to $10 million in credits the state received for not administering Milestones in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Georgia is required to administer Milestones annually under federal law. Though Gov. Brian Kemp and State Superintendent Richard Woods announced they will seek a waiver for 2021 Milestones from the U.S. Education Department (USED), GaDOE must prepare to administer the tests if their request is denied. If the waiver is approved, the General Assembly could reallocate those funds to other areas in the Amended Fiscal Year 2021 budget. 

The budget now moves to a conference committee comprised of House and Senate members and led by Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The conference committee will work out differences between the FY 2021 budgets proposed by each chamber. 

-Claire Suggs
House Ed Passes Revised Testing Reduction Bill


  • House version of SB 367 still reduces standardized testing.

  • New version strongly encourages local implementation of K-5 reading and math programs and requires GaDOE to publish annual report regarding norm referenced data.
After initially cancelling Friday afternoon’s planned meeting and sending notice that the committee would meet on Monday, the House Education Committee then announced a 4 p.m. meeting less than 10 minutes before the start. T he committee met to discuss SB 367 , a PAGE-supported testing reduction bill backed by Gov. Kemp.

Chair Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) walked those members who were present though several changes made to the bill, which is sponsored by the Senate Education and Youth Committee Chair P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville). Most key provisions of the bill were unchanged in the House version, though some language was softened. Read PAGE’s analysis of an earlier version of the legislation HERE . Notably, the new version of SB 367 strongly encourages local school districts to implement reading and math programs in grades K-5 and requires GaDOE to publish an annual report of aggregated norm-referenced question data, allowing for comparison of students within Georgia and in other states.   

Many thanks to educators who contacted the House Education Committee in support of SB 367. It passed the committee with no dissenting votes and now moves to the House Rules Committee, which will decide if and when to schedule it for a vote on the House floor. 
-Margaret Ciccarelli
House and Senate Meet Through the Weekend

The General Assembly was in session for legislative day 34 on Friday, June 19, and legislative day 35 on Saturday, June 20. More on the education-related bills passed during floor session is below. 

The Senate passed HB 957 by Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton) providing clarification that educators working in charter schools can participate in the State Health Benefit Plan and allowing charter school student residency requirements to be met when students apply or enroll. More information is available from PAGE HERE .

The House passed the following education bills:

SB 430 by Sen. Bill Ligon (R-Brunswick) would allow home schooled students to enroll in Career and College Academies if space is available.

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.

-Josh Stephens
Senate Finance Committee Seeks State Revenue Boost


  • Committee pursues rollback on tax breaks and cigarette tax increase to raise additional state revenue for Fiscal Year 2021.

  • Tax break rollback could generate $227 million in additional state revenue.

  • Proposed cigarette tax could add millions more. 

On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee passed HB 1035 to generate additional revenue to offset the steep cuts to education and other critical state agencies including the Department of Early Care and Learning, Department of Community Health and the Georgia State Patrol . In its current form, the bill eliminates or reduces tax credits, deductions, rebates or other tax expenditures and would generate about $227 million. More information is available HERE .

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), the committee chair, said he expects the tax expenditures identified in the bill will be reviewed and possibly changed as the bill moves forward. Many align with gaps in the budget.

On Friday, the committee approved a plan to raise the state’s tax on cigarettes to $1.35 per pack from $0.37, which is the third lowest in the nation. House Bill 882 , as amended by the committee, would also tax vaping products. The increase would leave Georgia’s cigarette tax well below the national average, which Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) said is $1.79 per pack. Sen. Robertson spoke in favor of the cigarette tax increase while presenting a bill he authored, Senate Resolution 435 , which calls for raising the cigarette tax to the national average. Robertson said raising the tax to the national average would generate $500 million in additional revenue for the state, which is facing a $2.6 billion shortfall in FY 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown. Other estimates indicate the revenue increase could reach $600 million. More information about the proposed increase is available HERE .

Committee members also spoke of the need to raise state revenue to limit the deep cuts outlined in the Senate’s proposed FY 2021 budget, including $1 billion cut to funding for public schools. Hufstetler said about 28,000 fewer Georgians would die from smoking-related illnesses due to a cigarette tax increase. He also noted that an increase would reduce the $650 million the state spends on Medicaid costs due to smoking-related illnesses . Several committee members described the state’s cost for covering this healthcare as subsidies for cigarette users. Hufstetler said about 18 percent of Georgians smoke.

HB 1035 and HB 882 now move to the Senate Rules Committee, which will determine if the full Senate will vote on the bill. If the Senate approves the bill, it will return to the House, which must approve the changes. 

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