Senate Ed Committee Approves 'Divisive Concepts' Bill; Postpones Hearing on Creation of Third Private School Voucher Program
The Senate Education & Youth Committee approved a substitute version of SB 377 by Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia), one of four bills under consideration in the Georgia legislature seeking to prohibit teaching of "divisive concepts" in school settings. Hatchett mentioned changes to the bill since the last hearing include removal of higher education provisions and changes to the penalty for violation of the divisive concepts prohibition. The previous iteration of his legislation cut 10 percent of a violating district's Quality Basic Education funding; the penalty included in the newest version of SB 377 is loss of district flexibility waivers. The bill is now very similar to HB 1084, which passed the House last week. The substitute version of SB 377 is not yet available online as of publication of this report. More information on SB 377 is available from PAGE here. It now moves to Senate Rules, which is expected to schedule SB 377 for a Senate floor vote.
The committee postponed a hearing on SB 588 at the request of Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), the bill's sponsor. The bill would require all school board meetings be open to the public. SB 601, a bill that would create Georgia’s third voucher program in the form of a $6,000 education savings account, was also postponed. The bill is similar to the program that House legislation, HB 60, seeks to create. The committee has both bills on its agenda for a meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, March 8).
The committee also approved the following bills, which move on to the Senate Rules Committee:
SB 328, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), would create a new nonprofit organization to govern high school athletics. Mullis and several members of the committee engaged in a long debate with Dr. Robin Hines, the executive director of the Georgia High School Association, about issues their constituents have reported regarding GHSA, the nonprofit entity governing most Georgia high school athletics and some other extracurricular activities. Mullis contended that an oversight committee consisting of members of the House and Senate created by the legislature in recent years does not have ample influence on GHSA action.
SB 575, by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), would require local boards of education to review the financial status of the local school districts quarterly, rather than monthly. The bill was requested by Cobb County Schools.
SB 545, by Sen. Sonya Halpern (D-Atlanta), would require schools to provide first aid instruction as part of their required student CPR and AED training programs.
SB 603, by Sen. Sheikh Rahman (D-Lawrenceville), would create a pilot program to develop outdoor learning spaces in public schools with the intention to scale the program statewide.
SB 498 by Sen. Tippins would require Georgia accrediting agencies to meet certain criteria, including placing more accreditation emphasis on school and district academic achievement. The bill seeks to mandate more transparency regarding accrediting agency findings. Tippins explained that Cognia, the agency responsible for most accreditation reviews in Georgia, focuses primarily on school board governance and “how adults act,” rather than student academic performance. Cobb County Schools is currently under review by Cognia.
Tuesday, March 8: Legislative Day 25
House Higher Education Committee, 406 CLOB, 8 a.m.
House Motor Vehicles Committee, 606 CLOB, 8 a.m.
Senate Education & Youth Committee, 307 CLOB, 9 a.m.
House Retirement Committee, 406 CLOB, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, March 9: Legislative Day 26
Senate Education & Youth Committee, 307 CLOB, 2 p.m.
Senate Retirement Committee, 310 CLOB, 2 p.m.