May 6, 2020

2020 Capitol Report - Legislative and Budget Update, CARES Act Grants
State Funding Cuts Anticipated for FY 2021

School districts’ budgets are likely to be squeezed in the 2020-2021 school year. On May 1, Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), chair of House Appropriations, Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), chair of Senate Appropriations and Kelly Farr, director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, directed state agency heads to set their Fiscal Year 2021 (FY 2021) budgets by cutting 14 percent from agencies’ 2020 budgets. The cuts come in the wake of falling state revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic. Agency directors must submit proposed budgets by May 20. No agency is exempt from the cuts.
 
Over 90 percent of state funding for the Georgia Department of Education is directed to the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula, the state’s funding formula for K-12 schools, and the Equalization Program, which provides supplemental funding for districts with low-property wealth. QBE and Equalization fund district core operations. State funding comprises, on average, about 56 percent of districts’ revenues with some Georgia districts relying on the state for over 70 percent of funding.

Claire Suggs
Preliminary Estimate of Cuts to FY 2021 Budget
Some of the anticipated cuts will be partially offset with $457 million in federal CARES Act funding as described below.
 
Although the 2020 legislative session has not re-started, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) has indicated that House committees can hold virtual meetings beginning May 4. His directive allows in-person committee meetings starting May 19. The House Appropriations Committee will meet virtually on May 7. Committees may discuss legislation but cannot vote on it until the session reconvenes, which is tentatively set for June 11.
 
The PAGE legislative team is closely monitoring developments related to state and federal funding for schools. The PAGE team will encourage lawmakers to develop strategies intended to safely open schools for the full calendar year, to provide resources students need for academic growth, and to support the health and positive development of all students.

Claire Suggs
SBOE Approves $457 Million CARES Act Funds for Local School Districts

The State Board of Education (SBOE) approved receipt of approximately $457 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds at a called meeting on Monday, May 4. The funds are intended to support schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The SBOE also approved the distribution of more than $411 million, or 90 percent, of these funds to local school districts as required by the CARES Act. The amounts awarded to districts reflect the proportion of Title I funds each received for the 2019-2020 school year. The funds may be used to cover COVID-19-related expenses incurred between March 15, 2020, and September 30, 2022. The Georgia Department of Education is reserving the remaining 10 percent of the funds to cover future unexpected costs that districts may incur related to COVID-19.
CLICK HERE for in-depth guidance on the CARES education grants. CLICK HERE for more information from PAGE on the CARES Act.
 
SBOE Chair Scott Sweeney also flagged the 14 percent cut to state agencies for FY 2021, which will be discussed in greater detail at the board’s May meeting. State Superintendent Richard Woods noted that some programs may be better poised to absorb cuts as their funding had already been reduced under the department’s previous proposed FY 2021 budget while others, including state schools, may find the cuts more difficult.

Josh Stephens
Farewell to Sen. Jack Hill, a Friend to Public Education

Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), the long-serving chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, died unexpectedly on April 6, 2020 . As appropriations chair, Sen. Hill had a critical role in guiding the development of the state budget each year. Sen. Hill was a supporter of public education, and his tenure in the Georgia Senate included serving as chair of both K-12 and higher education committees. He was always open to discussing issues of concern to Georgia educators. He will be missed under the Gold Dome.
 
For more information about Sen. Hill, his biography is available here .

Claire Suggs
Sen. Tillery Named Appropriations Chair

Sen. Blake Tillery has assumed the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He served as the committee’s vice-chair under Sen. Hill and is a floor leader for Gov. Brian Kemp. Tillery was first elected in 2016 after serving in multiple leadership roles in his community. More information about Tillery is available in his biography . The PAGE legislative team looks forward to working with Tillery in his new role to support public school students and educators.

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