Student Technology Protection Act & Teacher Evaluation Pilot Approved
The House Education Committee passed several bills today.
HB 1217 by Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer), the “Student Technology Protection Act,” updates definitions of child pornography, content harmful to minors, obscene materials, and technology protection measures. It applies to school internet networks and devices. The bill requires local districts to update internet acceptable use policies, including setting measures for violation of the policies as well as creation of parent complaint processes for alleged violation of the policies. Click HERE to review PAGE’s summary of the bill.
HB 1295 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), related to the Teacher Keys Evaluation System (TKES). The bill removes “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. The bill also directs the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) to create an alternative teacher evaluation system pilot. No more than 10 school districts would be selected to participate in the pilot, with a requirement that those chosen include one urban school district, two suburban school districts, and three rural school districts. The alternative evaluation system must provide embedded supports and professional development for teachers who need it, while recognizing and providing advancement opportunities for highly effective teachers.
During a subcommittee hearing preceding full committee consideration of the bill, PAGE Legislative Services Specialist Josh Stephens (photo) spoke in support of HB 1295 and encouraged the subcommittee to consider removing penalties linking teacher evaluations to loss of certification. Stephens commended creation of the evaluation pilot.
HR 650 by Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville) creates a House study committee on literacy instruction. Dr. Amy Sharma, executive director of Science for Georgia, helped Gambill present the resolution and invited former University of Georgia football player Malcom Mitchell to share his life story about the impact literacy. The bill was amended by the committee to include PAGE’s recommendation that a classroom teacher specializing in literacy be added to the list of study committee members.
HB 1215 by Rep. Brad Thomas (R-Holly Springs), related to charter schools, was approved by the committee. Committee Chair Rep. Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville) apologized prior to presentation of the bill, explaining he submitted the incorrect bill in place of HB 1215. In an unusual process, the committee approved a substitute version of HB 1215, then added a lengthy amendment containing language from the bill that was apparently intended to be filed. PAGE will report on the content of the bill when it is available.
Senate Retirement Committee Considers Return to Work Bill
The Senate Retirement Committee discussed several Teachers Retirement System (TRS) bills today. Committee Chair Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) indicated some of the bills considered today would receive a vote at the committee’s next meeting Wed., Feb. 23.
HB 385, sponsored by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), allows retired educators to return to work full-time while continuing to draw full TRS benefits after a 12-month waiting period following retirement. Employment is restricted to high-needs areas in each region as determined by Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs), and to retired educators who have a minimum of 30 years of experience. Unused sick leave can be used to reach the 30-year requirement. HB 385 is part of Gov. Brian Kemp’s teacher pipeline initiative. Though public testimony was not taken in today’s hearing, which meant PAGE was not able to provide public comment, TRS Executive Director Buster Evans addressed the committee, characterizing HB 385 as a “win/win” for students, teachers, parents, and school leaders. Reminder: educators should not base retirement decisions on pending legislation.
The committee also discussed SB 267 by Sen. Sheikh Rahman (D-Lawrenceville), allowing TRS retirees to change beneficiaries once every three years, provided that the retirement benefit of a retiree utilizing this option will be recalculated to ensure the cost to TRS is equivalent to the retirement allowance before the retiree’s election to change beneficiaries. During committee discussion, both Legislative Counsel and Evans mentioned the proposal’s high cost, as estimated by a 2021 actuarial study.
Thursday, Feb. 17 – Legislative Day 18
Tuesday, Feb. 22 – Legislative Day 19/PAGE Day on Capitol Hill, Register HERE