HB 60 Voucher Program Scheduled for Vote in House
Lawmakers in the House will vote on HB 60, which aims to create Georgia’s third private school voucher program, on Friday, March 5. It proposes to establish education savings accounts, a new type of voucher program. With a cut of $383 million in state funds for K-12—which affects every school district but has an outsized impact on rural districts that rely more heavily on state dollars. Any plan to shift state money from public schools to private ones is detrimental to the ability of public schools to best serve students. If you have concerns about HB 60, please contact your House member now. You can locate their contact information here.
In addition to sending state funds to private schools, HB 60 lacks the accountability measures that public schools must follow and does not require certified teachers in participating private schools. In a change made by the Rules Committee on Wednesday, the eligibility criteria has been expanded to include students enrolled in a public school in the lowest quartile on the College Career and Performance Index (CCRPI) and has the same grade for two consecutive years. An analysis of HB 60, which identifies other concerns, is available here, and additional information about private school vouchers is available here.
Superintendents from a Dozen School Districts Discuss Educator Vaccination Plans
The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) convened a dozen school districts of various size in metro, suburban, and rural locations to discuss COVID-19 vaccination plans. PAGE staff attended this virtual meeting. Private and public school educators and school staff are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, March 8. Georgia has designated the entire first shipment, about 83,000 units, of the newly-approved one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for educators. Over the next 24 hours, each Georgia school district is slated to receive official state notification regarding how many doses the district will receive, when next week those doses will be received, and which of the three available vaccines the district will receive. Districts are developing individual plans to vaccinate employees; some districts have been approved to vaccinate staff in-house and others will partner with local health departments or health providers to do so. Educators who want to be vaccinated should watch closely for more communication from their districts over the next few days.
House Committee Moves FY 2022 Budget Forward
The House Appropriations Committee approved HB 81, which outlines the proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. It revises some elements of Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1. The austerity cut of approximately $380 million to the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula for K-12 schools would continue under the proposed budget. (More about Kemp’s budget plan is available from PAGE here.)
The FY 2022 spending plan recommended by House budget writers includes:
Agricultural Education: $589,272 increase for partial restoration of the austerity cut and $425,000 increase for five Young Farmers positions in Baldwin, Fulton, Pickens, Ware, and Worth counties
Charter Schools: $1 million increase for charter facilities grant
Information Technology Services: $75,000 increase for a pilot program to provide access to STEM and AP STEM courses in rural districts
Non-QBE Grants: $530,000 increase for feminine hygiene grants
School Nutrition: $5 million increase
Technology/Career Education: $840,924 in/crease for partial restoration of austerity cut
Testing: $250,000 increase for a pilot program for Computer Science Principles AP exams
The House’s proposed budget also includes “true-ups,” adjustments to programs based on updated data from state agencies. Many of the “true-ups” are due to the decline in student enrollment of about 36,000, leading to reductions in several programs including QBE funds, sparsity grants, Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs), and Preschool Disabilities Services.
Other education-related changes in the House’s proposed FY 2022 budget include:
Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS): $1.6 million increase for an increase in the PSERS multiplier from $15.50 to $15.75 per year of service
Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA): $100,00 increase for the Growing Readers Program and $150,00 increase for the Governor’s School Leadership Academy
Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC): $197,002 increase for Troops to Teachers and $140,720 increase for Ethics and Educator Preparation Divisions
Dual Enrollment: ($7,035,270) reduction due to enrollment decline
The House is expected to vote on HB 81 on Friday, March 5.
FAQs about Upcoming One-Time $1,000 Pay Supplement
GaDOE has released more information about an upcoming $1,000 one-time pay supplement for most Georgia educators and school staff. The pay enhancement is federally funded as part of the pandemic stimulus package and thus does not move through the state legislature. Learn more in the FAQ document here.
Financial Literacy Education Bill Passes Committee
The House Education Committee met briefly and approved HB 681 by Rep. Bill Yearta (R-Sylvester) that requires local school boards to provide personal financial literacy courses for students in 10th or 11th grade. The bill was changed before the meeting to allow the material covered in this course to be included in an existing course. HB 681 now moves to the House Rules Committee.