January 28, 2020

Legislative Session
Day 6
Report Snapshot

Senate Passes Revised Dual Enrollment Bill

House Retirement Passes Bill Eliminating University System Payment to TRS; Holds Return to Work Legislation for Edits

Register for PAGE Day on Capitol Hill
Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, Jan 29 - Legislative Day 7

House Higher Education Committee,
1 p.m., 606 CLOB (HB 736, an educator loan forgiveness bill, is on the agenda)

House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, 3 p.m., 606 CLOB

Senate Retirement, 4 p.m., MEZZ 1 CAP

Thursday, Jan 30 - Legislative Day 8
House & Senate Joint Education Committee Meeting, 1 p.m., 606 CLOB

Friday, Jan 31 – Legislative Day 9
Senate Passes Revised Dual Enrollment Bill

The General Assembly moved one step closer to revising the state’s dual enrollment program today when the Senate approved House Bill 444 by a vote of 34 to 18. Key proposed changes include capping credit hours at 30, limiting covered classes to core subjects, and restricting enrollment in university system courses to 11 th and 12 th graders and in technical colleges to 10 th through 12 th graders. 
Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) presented the bill to senators, noting that proposed changes incorporate input from multiple stakeholders including representatives of the Georgia Department of Education, the Georgia Student Finance Commission and the university and technical college systems, as well as district superintendents. Strickland described the proposed changes, which would not affect students currently in the program, as establishing guard rails to preserve the program in the future. He noted the cost of dual enrollment has grown from about $25 million in its first year to a peak of approximately $140 million. It is currently funded at about $100 million according to Strickland.
Responding to questions from senators, Strickland reported that 1,366 students have more than 30 credit hours out of the more than 50,000 students participating in the program. On average students take 17 credit hours. Students would be able to take classes beyond the 30 credit hour cap but would have to cover the cost of the additional classes themselves. Strickland also noted that there are more than 7,000 classes in the university and technical college systems identified as core classes.
Several senators raised concerns about the proposed changes. Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) and Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) noted that a comprehensive evaluation of the program has not been done and called for one before revising the program.
An issue with Increased student loan debt was raised by several senators as a possible consequence of the proposed changes. They expressed concern that this could deter students’ continued enrollment in postsecondary institutions after graduating from high school.
Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale) and Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) described the positive experiences students in their communities have had in the dual enrollment program, enabling some students to complete postsecondary programs in high school and minimizing student loan debt. The senators questioned whether the proposed changes would curtail future student access.
HB 444 now returns to the House, which must approve the amendments the Senate made to the bill. If the House votes in favor of the amendments, the bill will move forward to Gov. Kemp.
House Retirement Passes Bill Eliminating University System Payment to TRS; Holds Return to Work Legislation

The House Retirement Committee met this afternoon to discuss several Teacher Retirement System (TRS) bills. First, Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jackson) presented HB 292 , a bill that would eliminate payment, or remittance, required of the University System of Georgia (USG) to TRS for USG employees who choose to participate in TRS. Read more about the non-payment of the currently required remittance HERE .

When presenting the bill to the committee, Benton reported that he is carrying the bill for House Appropriations Chairman Terry England (R-Auburn), who also spoke to the bill during the meeting. England described a letter sent to USG in the early 2000’s from TRS that allowed USG to stop payment for these employees. TRS determined it was not necessary to meet the financial liabilities of the plan at that time. England said the General Assembly should have changed the law requiring payment by USG at the time the letter was sent. A 2019 audit showed that this requirement was still in law. England explained that repealing the law would not impact TRS as the legislature has funded the state’s contribution to the unfunded liability of the program since its inception.

Claire Suggs, senior education policy analyst for PAGE, provided comments on the bill, cautioning the committee to “ensure the bill doesn’t have a detrimental effect on TRS and that [PAGE] looks forward to continued conversations about this issue.”

The bill passed the committee unanimously and moves on to the Rules Committee which will schedule it for a vote on the House floor.

Next, Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead) presented HB 320 , a bill that would allow retired teachers in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM), to return to work at 100 percent while collecting full retirement benefits. Belton mentioned that he received a letter from an auditing firm that a one-year waiting period for retirees to return to the classroom full-time would eliminate any cost to the state. Without such a waiting period, the bill would cost about $7 million.

Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) presented HB 336 , a bill similar to HB 320, except any retired teacher would be eligible to return to work full time.

Representatives from the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) spoke in favor of the bills, suggesting adding parameters to HB 336 to limit participation to teachers in high-needs categories, including special education teachers, and STEAM teachers.

PAGE Legislative Affairs Specialist Josh Stephens spoke in favor of both bills and supported the inclusion of teachers in high-needs categories, such as special education. Stephens also respectfully requested that the committee not lose focus on the front-end of the teacher pipeline and the need for the state to train new educators to bolster the profession.

The Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) and the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL) also spoke in favor of both bills. The committee did not vote on either bill. Instead, Benton recommended that the authors of each bill work with GaDOE to craft HB 336 into a compromise bill. Benton said he intends to call the bill for a vote in the next week.
Register for PAGE Day on Capitol Hill

PAGE Day on Capitol Hill is Tuesday, Feb. 18. We’re pleased to partner with the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL) and the Georgia Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (GACTE) again this year. Attendees will meet other politically minded educators from across the state and advocate for teachers and students under the Gold Dome. Please make your plans to attend and register HERE.

Claire Suggs
Senior Education Policy Analyst
Josh Stephens
Legislative Affairs Specialist