February 14, 2020

Capitol Report:
Budget Hearing and Committee Report
Report Snapshot

Kemp Presses for Statewide Educator Raises During News Conference at McEachern HS 

Amended Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Moves Forward in the House

Senate Begins Review of Amended Fiscal Year 2020 Budget

House Appropriations Education Subcommittee Examines Educator Retirement 

Senate Education and Youth Committee Hears Coach Safely Act & CAPS Program Bill
Upcoming Schedule

 Tuesday, Feb. 18 – Legislative Day 13 (PAGE Day on the Hill)

Wednesday, Feb. 19 Legislative Day 14

Thursday, Feb. 20 Legislative Day 15
Kemp Presses for Statewide Educator Raises During News Conference at McEachern HS 

PAGE joined State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Cobb County Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, several State Board of Education members, education agency staff and reporters at McEachern High School in Cobb County on Thursday morning to hear from Governor Brian Kemp about his education priorities. Kemp reiterated his budgetary support for students, schools, and educators, citing his proposed $2,000 educator pay raise and full funding of Georgia’s school funding formula. He framed the proposed pay raise as an essential component in boosting teacher recruitment and retention and referenced his plan to reduce standardized testing, reflected in SB 367 . He later toured the school. Kemp’s comments are notable in light of an  ongoing budget disagreement with the House .      

Read the AJC’s coverage, including commentary from PAGE,  HERE .

-Margaret Ciccarelli
Amended Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Moves Forward in the House

The House Education Appropriations Committee approved changes to the  Amended Fiscal Year 2020 (AFY 2020) budget  proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday afternoon. The changes are relatively small and reflect what legislators often call “trueing up the numbers,” meaning making adjustments based on the most current information. Notable changes include:

  • Reducing the increase in funding for the state charter school supplement by about $3.1 million
  • Restoring approximately $150,000 of the funds cut from Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs)
  • Reducing funds for Charter School Commission Administration by approximately $181,000
  • Reducing the increase for the Special Needs Scholarship, a private school voucher program for students with an Individual Education Plan, by about $7.2 million

The full House Appropriations Committee will meet on Tuesday, Feb. 18, to vote on the AFY 2020 budget, which will then move to the Senate. The House version of the AFY 2020 budget will be available online after the committee meeting on Tuesday. 

-Claire Suggs
Senate Begins Review of Amended Fiscal Year 2020 Budget

On Thursday morning, prior to the meeting of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee began its review of the AFY 2020 budget. Committee members heard presentations from the heads of the Professional Standards Commission, the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement as well as from Rusk Roam, the interim Chief Financial Officer for the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE). Their presentations focused primarily on how their agencies are implementing the governor’s directive to cut four percent from their current budgets. The cuts are outlined in Kemp’s proposed  Amended Fiscal Year 2020  (AFY 2020) budget. 

Programs slated to be cut include:
  • Communities in Schools
  • Curriculum Development
  • RESAs
  • School Improvement
  • State Schools
  • Testing

GaDOE's central office, business and finance administration, and information technology units are also in line for cuts. 

The Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula, which distributes state funds to public schools, is exempt from the cut. To match changes in enrollment, QBE funding will increase nearly $114 million if the AFY 2020 budget is approved. Other areas slated for increases are the state charter schools, which will go up by more than $18 million, and about $10 million for the Special Needs Scholarship, a private school voucher program for students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs). 

Agency representatives reported that they are working to ensure their core services are not affected and are seeking spending reductions by leaving positions vacant, eliminating some contracted services, limiting travel and hosted events, and relying more on tools such as webinars when possible. 

The committee’s deliberations will include reviewing the AFY 2020 budget approved by the House. 

The PAGE legislative team prepared a  report  that takes a closer look at the ongoing budget debate, including Kemp’s recommended teacher pay raise, the tax cut some lawmakers are seeking, and the cuts to the education department and other state agencies.

-Claire Suggs
House Appropriations Education Subcommittee Examines Educator Retirement 

On Wednesday, the Education Subcommittee of House Appropriations met to review educator retirement systems. Jim Potvin from the Employees Retirement System of Georgia (ERS) briefly addressed the subcommittee. ERS encompasses the supplemental retirement plan for some classified school staff who are not members of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS). This Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) covers school bus drivers, custodians, maintenance personnel, and food service workers. More on PSERS  HERE

Buster Evans, the executive director of TRS, also presented to the House members gathered. He reported that the TRS Board of Trustees recently reduced the TRS assumed rate of return to 7.25 percent, though TRS year-to-date returns are approximately 9.5 percent.   (The rate of return fluctuates yearly. The 30-year average return rate is 7.5 percent.)  Evans presented new economic impact data indicating that TRS exceeds $80 billion in net asse ts and is ranked in the top third of all pension systems in the U.S. In Fiscal Year 2019, TRS paid $5 billion to Georgia retirees, which supported 66,000 jobs and contributed to a total economic output of $7.42 billion. 

Evans reported that TRS benefits come from three combined sources: employee contributions (12 percent), employer contributions (25 percent), and investment income (63 percent). He received several questions from committee members regarding the asset allocation of equities and bonds within the fund and indicated that 65 percent of TRS is currently invested in equities, while 35 percent is in bonds. Evans mentioned Senate legislation, which seeks to allow up to five percent of TRS to be invested in alternative investments. He was asked several questions about other TRS legislation moving through the legislature including return to work bills and legislation limiting TRS cost of living adjustments. 

At the conclusion of committee discussion, legislators heard public testimony. Angela Palm from the Georgia School Boards Association testified in support of Gov. Kemp’s proposed $2,000 educator pay raise, as  PAGE did during at a previous subcommittee meeting .

-Margaret Ciccarelli
Senate Education and Youth Committee Hears Coach Safely Act & CAPS Program Bill

The Senate Education and Youth Committee met Tuesday. The meeting began with presentations from leadership from the  United Methodist Children’s Home Youth Villages Inner Harbour Campus , and  Devereux , three Georgia residential treatment facilities. These facilities house and provide education for children and youth with serious emotional disturbances.

Next, the committee heard two bills. No vote taken on either bill.

SB 101  by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), the Coach Safely Act, would require volunteer coaches with youth athletic associations to undergo annual training to reduce the likelihood of injuries to youth athletes ages 14 and under engaged in high-risk athletics. Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. Surgeon General and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shared information on his research involving sports-related injuries in the National Football League and his support for the annual training described in the bill. Several committee members expressed concern regarding how funding would be secured to provide the training.

SB 354  by Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) would add participation in a four-year degree program as a state approved activity for the Georgia Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program. Parent announced that she does not plan to move forward with the legislation. DECAL is working to implement this policy through rule change. 

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