A Summary of Action on K-12 Legislation during the 2022 Session of the Georgia General Assembly Influenced by looming statewide elections and abundant revenues, the 2022 General Assembly focused its attention on educator pay raises, banning instruction on divisive concepts, Georgia’s teacher pipeline, rights of parents in the education system, and funding for public and private schools. This report highlights education-related legislation that passed the General Assembly, offers an overview of the state’s budget, and identifies notable bills that were not approved. It also provides links to lawmakers’ voting records for several high-profile bills. For more information about specific revisions bills underwent as they moved through the legislative process, as well as more detail on direct PAGE legislative advocacy, please review Days 1-40 of the PAGE Capitol Report by visiting pageinc.org and choosing the legislative tab. Gov. Brian Kemp has 40 days after the final day of the legislative session, which concluded on April 4, to sign or veto passed legislation. Bills that are signed by May 14 become effective on July 1, 2022, unless another date is specified within the legislation. As 2022 was the second and final year of Georgia’s legislative biennium, bills which did not pass are ineligible to pass in 2023, unless reintroduced. Teacher Return to Work HB 385, PAGE-supported legislation allows retired educators to return to work full-time while continuing to draw full Teachers Retirement System (TRS) benefits after a 12-month waiting period. The bill was sponsored on behalf of Gov. Kemp by Rep. Shaw Blackman (R-Bonaire). Employment is restricted to high-needs areas, as determined locally by Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs), and to retired educators who have a minimum of 30 years of creditable service. Unused sick leave can be used to reach the 30-year requirement. The return-to-work program is slated to sunset June 30, 2026.
Divisive Concepts, Parental Rights, and Student Access to Harmful Materials Almost a dozen bills introduced during the 2022 session sought to clarify or augment parents’ rights to review curricular or media material in public school settings. Ultimately, three bills passed, all of which create parent review and objection processes. Throughout the legislative process, PAGE expressed strong support for educational transparency but concern about the legislation, noting the lack of statewide data on the effectiveness of current school curriculum and media practices and the feasibility of the complaint processes created by the bills, several of which construct a complex appellate process.
HB 1084 by Rep. Will Wade (R-Dawsonville) prohibits the teaching of divisive concepts in public schools or educator training programs. The bill sets up a complaint process for alleged violation of the prohibition and allows for the suspension of school district flexibility waivers. “Divisive concepts” are defined as:
one race is inherently superior to another race;
the United States is fundamentally racist;
an individual, by virtue of his or her race, is inherently or consciously racist or oppressive toward individuals of other races;
an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race;
an individual's moral character is inherently determined by his or her race;
an individual, solely by virtue of his or her race, bears individual responsibility for actions committed in the past by other individuals of the same race;
an individual, solely by virtue of his or her race, should feel anguish, guilt, or any other form of psychological distress;
performance-based advancement or the recognition and appreciation of character traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or have been advocated for by individuals of a particular race to oppress individuals of another race;
or, any other form of race scapegoating or race stereotyping.
On the last night of the legislative session, HB 1084 was amended to include language regarding legislative oversight of high school athletic associations, specifically the Georgia High School Association (GHSA). Eleventh-hour changes to the bill also included provisions regarding transgender student athletes, allowing athletic associations to determine whether it is necessary to prohibit “students whose gender is male from participating in athletic events that are designated for students whose gender is female.” More on PAGE objections to 1084 HERE and in our video explainer HERE.
HB 1178, Parents’ Bill of Rights, sponsored on behalf of Gov. Kemp by Rep. Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville), seeks to codify parents’ rights to the following, most of which are already required under current laws and state board rule:
direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training of their children;
review instructional materials intended for use in the classroom;
access and review all records relating to his or her minor child;
access information relating to promotion, retention policies, and graduation requirements;
opt-out of some recordings of their children;
and, opt-out of sex education courses.
HB 1178 codifies parents’ rights to request required information in writing and creates several rounds of appeal at the local school board and state level for alleged violation.
HB 1178 House Voting Record
HB 1178 Senate Voting Record
SB 226 by Sen. Jason Anivitarte (R-Dallas) requires local boards of education to adopt complaint resolution processes to address parent complaints of student access to content harmful to minors. The bill defines harmful materials as descriptions or representations of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse when the material:
taken as a whole, predominantly appeals to the prurient, shameful, or morbid interest of minors;
is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors;
taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors
Mandatory K-5 Recess HB 1283 by Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) requires recess for all students in grades one through five on days they do not have structured activities or physical education classes. The requirement can be waived under school districts strategic waiver and charter district flexibility contracts.
Expansion of Georgia’s Tuition Tax Credit Private School Voucher HB 517 by Rep. John Carson expands the annual cost of the private school voucher program to $120 million. The program currently diverts $100 million from the state general fund to private school tuition each year. The bill requires some additional financial transparency of the tuition tax credit voucher program but strikes a provision in current law that would have lowered the cap on the program to $58 million in 2029.
COVID-19 School Response: Masks & Vaccines SB 514, the Unmask Georgia Students Act, sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Buford) on behalf of the governor, allows parents to opt out of local school mask requirements. It was signed by Gov. Kemp during the last week of the legislative session and became effective immediately. It is slated to sunset in 2027.
SB 345, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R- Chickamauga), prohibits public employers, including school districts, from requiring that employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
School Board Meetings SB 588, by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), requires local school boards to provide a public comment period during regular monthly meetings. Boards are required to post notice of monthly meetings in a prominent location and must establish and publish rules of conduct regarding what may necessitate removing disruptive people from meetings. Boards cannot force the removal of a member of the public for their political viewpoints unless he or she is being disruptive.
Other Successful Education Legislation HB 1215, by Rep. Brad Thomas (R-Holly Springs), updates several provisions in state law related to charter schools including governance, student enrollment, and funding. HB 1292, by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), prohibits school districts from counting students as absent when participating in school-sponsored 4-H programs. HB 1303, by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella), makes permanent an agricultural education pilot program for elementary students. The bill does not require schools to implement the program. HB 1435, by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), creates a needs-based financial aid program that would provide last-gap funding to postsecondary students, including students enrolled in teacher preparation programs. Students who have completed at least 80 percent of their degree or program requirements would be eligible for awards of up to $2,500. HR 650, by Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville), creates a House Study Committee on Literacy Instruction, which includes a classroom teacher specializing in literacy, as well as policymakers and education agency representatives. HR 881 by Rep. Mack Jackson (D-Sandersville) encourages each Georgia public school to study the Civil Rights Era and related subjects and to affirm the commitment of the free peoples of this state to reject bigotry, champion equal protection under the law as a foundational principle, and act in opposition to injustice wherever it may occur.
SB 220, The Georgia Civics Renewal Act, by Sen. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton) requires creation of the Georgia Commission for Civics Education. The 17-member commission will periodically review civics education in Georgia schools. That review will include career, technical, and agricultural education (CTAE) instruction for the government and public administration and the law, public safety, corrections, and security pathways. The commission is tasked with annually reporting to the General Assembly. On the final day of the legislative session, financial literacy provisions were added to the bill. The amendment requires local boards of education to implement a program of study in personal financial literacy developed by the State Board of Education. The program could be incorporated into existing courses for 11th and 12th graders and directs the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC) to ensure educators meet requirements to teach financial literacy. SB 397, by Sen. Russ Goodman (R-Cogdell), updates Georgia code by replacing references to General Educational Development (GED) with High School Equivalency (HSE). The bill enables eligible students to receive a $500 voucher to cover costs associated with the HSE exam administered by the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). Budget Highlights & Senate Study of Public School Funding Lawmakers approved additional funds for educator salaries in the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) 2022 budget, which covers the current school year, and the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget, which provides funding for the 2022-2023 school year. They also boosted funding in several other key areas in both budgets. Funds added to the AFY 2022 budget include:
$322 million for one-time salary supplement of $2,000 for instructional staff, school nurses, bus drivers, custodians, and school nutrition staff
$382 million to restore funds cut from the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula for public schools
$93 million for enrollment growth through the QBE
$14.6 million for State Commission Charter School supplement
$188 million to replace 1,747 buses
$4.2 million for agricultural education equipment and facilities
$3.2 million for the Special Needs Scholarship, a private school voucher
Highlights of the FY 2023 budget include:
$287 million for a $2,000 pay raise for certified staff funded through the QBE
$382 million to restore funds cut from the QBE
$43.5 million for enrollment growth and training and experience supplement for educators through the QBE
$27 million for the State Commission Charter School supplement
$142 million decrease in funds for the Local 5 Mill Share, which reflects increasing local revenues due to rising property values
$167 million reduction in formula funds for QBE Equalization Grants for low-wealth districts
$7.6 million for a 5.4 percent salary increase for school nurses, bus drivers, and nutrition staff
More information about the one-time salary supplement and the pay raise is available from PAGE HERE. Senate lawmakers also signed off on SR 650 sponsored by Sen. Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton), which creates a study committee to look at how the state funds public schools. PAGE has highlighted the importance of adequate investments in public schools and the students they serve including:
Funding school counselors for all students, including special education and gifted students in accordance with HB 283, which the General Assembly passed in 2013.
Funding school counselors at the recommended ratio of 1 counselor per 250 students instead of the current 1 to 450 ratio.
Increasing funding for substitute teachers, which has not been updated since 1985, to reflect inflation.
Covering 50 percent of student transportation costs as the state did in the 1990s, instead of the current 14 percent.
These and other fiscal issues—including health insurance costs for non-certified staff and instructional technology—require legislative attention. PAGE will monitor the work of the study committee, which must submit findings and recommendations by Dec. 1. Education Bills that Did Not Pass in 2022 Bills that did not win passage are an important part of the story of every General Assembly. 2022 was the second year of the Georgia legislative biennium, so lawmakers must reintroduce bills that did not pass in subsequent legislative sessions if they wish to pursue them. Private school vouchers remained a top education policy issue for some legislators during the 2022 legislative session, with several voucher bills in play from the 2021 session and new ones introduced in 2022. Though lawmakers voted to increase the cap on Georgia’s existing tuition tax credit voucher program, several attempts to create an expensive third Georgia voucher program were unsuccessful. The following bills failed to clear both chambers successfully:
Vouchers & School Choice HB 60 and HB 999, by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), and SB 601 by Sen. Miller, sought to create a new private school voucher program called an education savings account (ESA). While each bill had slightly different language, each would have come with a high price tag. In the case of HB 60, personal accounts for voucher students would have been funded with an estimated $422 million in state funds intended for public schools. Families participating in the program could have used the accounts for private school tuition and other educational services. More information on HB 60 is available HERE. SB 601 failed on the Senate floor. Several rural Republican senators joined their Democratic colleagues in voting against the bill. More information on SB 601 is available HERE. PAGE and other Capitol watchers anticipate lawmakers who support vouchers will continue to push for ESA creation. Cantrell is not running for re-election in 2022. Miller is running for lieutenant governor. Teacher Evaluation HB 1295, by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), is PAGE-supported legislation that would have removed “needs improvement” as an evaluation rating that could lead to a teacher losing certification if he or she receives the rating two times within a five-year period. High School Sports While the GHSA and transgender student athlete bills outlined below did not pass, provisions related to both were attached to HB 1084, the divisive concepts bill. This omnibus legislation is described earlier in the report. SB 328, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), proposed creation of a new nonprofit organization governing high school athletics. HB 1513, by Rep. Meisha Mainor (D-Atlanta), sought to make the same change to GHSA outlined in SB 328. SB 266, by Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone), the Save Girls Sports Act, would have prohibited male students from participating in interscholastic or intramural athletics designated for females and outlined a complaint process for violations. SB 435 by Sen. Harbin sought to prohibit public schools and private schools that compete against public schools from permitting male students to participate in interscholastic or intramural athletic programs for female students and similarly prohibit female students from participating in such programs designated for male students. The bill outlined a violation complaint process.
Technology HB 1217 by Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer), the Student Technology Protection Act, proposed an update to definitions of child pornography, content harmful to minors, obscene materials, and technology protection measures. It would have required local districts to update internet acceptable use policies, including setting appropriate measures for violation of the policies as well as creation of parent complaint processes for alleged violation of the policies. The bill also incorporated the promotion of safe and appropriate use of technology and responsible digital citizenship into student character education programs. School District Governance HB 1482, also by Erwin, would have revised eligibility criteria for project-specific capital outlay grants for low-wealth school systems. HR 496 by Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) sought to create a state constitutional amendment allowing communities to vote to hold elections for local school superintendents. Boards of education would have been responsible for setting salary, qualifications, and duties for the elected position. HR 630 by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) would have created a joint study committee to examine the consolidation of school district and county governments. Military Students HB 885 by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead) would have allowed military students who enroll in public schools to complete the school year, regardless of any change of residence of students' parents. SB 357 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) would have allowed students in active-duty military families to attend any public school in the state, provided space is available. A student's family would have been responsible for transportation. School District Accreditation Cognia, the organization that accredits most of Georgia’s public school districts, was the target of two bills that ultimately were not approved. Both bills were introduced by legislators representing Cobb County Schools, which was under special review by Cognia. SB 498 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) sought to allow accreditation of K-8 schools by any accreditation agency that meets Georgia criteria and would have required accrediting agencies to place more emphasis on school and district academic achievement. The bill also sought to mandate more transparency regarding accrediting agency findings. HR 1048 by Rep. Ginny Ehrhart (R-Marietta) would have created the House Study on Education Accreditation in Georgia. When presenting her resolution in committee, Ehrhart expressed concern that accrediting agencies are held to an inadequate level of accountability and reported that Cobb County has experienced unfortunate repercussions, as a result.
Other Education-Related Bills that Did Not Pass
SB 231, by Sen. Anavitarte, sought to create a charter school pilot program for adults ages 21-35 who have not completed high school
SB 603, by Sen. Sheikh Rahman (D-Lawrenceville), would have enabled the Georgia Department of Education to launch and evaluate an outdoor learning spaces pilot program.
HB 1184, by Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway), would have allowed students to take SAT and ACT college entrance exams in school up to three times. Schools would have had to opt-in to providing the tests, and students were not required to participate. SB 452 by Sen. Shelia McNeil (R-Brunswick), which also did not pass, contained similar requirements.
HB 1005, by Rep. Mainor, would have required school districts to conduct suicide screenings on all students aged 8 through 18.
HB 1357 by Rep. Tyler Paul Smith (R-Bremen) sought to require the GaPSC to consider any out-of-state teacher certification program that meets the requirements of the GaPSC.
HB 1387 by Rep. J. Collins (R-Villa Rica) would have strengthened punishment for failing to promptly pay fines for passing a school bus in a school zone.
HR 629 by Rep. Taylor would have created a House study committee to examine the State Health Benefit Plan (SBHP). According to Taylor, issues regarding the SHBP emerged during the work of the House Rural Development Council. The council’s 2021 recommendations noted that House members received reports from constituents that providers contracted with SHBP have not delivered and paid for benefits outlined in the plan.