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Committee Workday: Voucher Bill in Committee Tomorrow—Contact Legislators Now, Literacy Screener Bill Expanded & Other Committee Action

House Education Committee to Hear Bill Creating Third Private School Voucher Program

Please contact House members now, using PAGE best practices on personal electronic devices and email addresses, and ask them to vote NO on SB 233. This bill is harmful voucher legislation expected to redirect significant state resources away from public education, public safety, and other public services.


SB 233 is scheduled to be considered by the House Education Committee tomorrow (March 13) at 1 pm. Find your House member’s contact information using your home address here. Prioritize positive communication with legislators that conveys your concern about expanding private school vouchers while demonstrating your commitment to the students you serve.   


House Higher Education Approves High-Demand Apprenticeship Program

SB 497 by Sen. Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro) expands and re-designates the High-Demand Initiatives Program as the High-Demand Apprenticeship Program. The public service apprenticeship program prioritizes students ages 15-21 and is administered by the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). It reduces the apprenticeship award to apprentice employers from $10,000 to $5,000.  


The bill was amended to clarify that this program would only be available to those who can legally work in Georgia.


The bill was passed unanimously by the committee and moves to Rules.


House Education Curriculum Subcommittee Passes School Supplies for Teachers Program and Modifies Language Relating to Universal Literacy Screener


SB 464 by Sen. Dixon creates the School Supplies for Teachers Program which would provide financial support to educators purchasing school supplies online. This assistance would be subject to appropriation by the General Assembly, which is not provided in the FY 2025 budget. Sen. Hickman amended the bill on Legislative Day 28 to mandate use of a single statewide universal literacy screener. 


Sen. Hickman presented the bill in subcommittee as Sen. Dixon could not attend the meeting.  During the subcommittee hearing, the bill was further changed to allow schools to choose from five approved universal screeners, including the free screener under development by the GaDOE vendor. Rep. Bethany Ballard (R-Warner Robins) framed this language as a way to ensure high-quality, comparable data while also preserving some flexibility for districts.


Rep. Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia) voiced concern that limiting the list of allowed screeners would impede the local control of districts to choose screeners. She also reiterated that no funding was provided to help schools implement the literacy requirements of HB 538


PAGE Legislative Services Specialist Josh Stephens testified on the bill. He thanked Sen. Dixon for bringing forward the School Supplies for Teachers Program. Stephens referenced PAGE survey data indicating that though a majority of teachers responding to PAGE’S fall survey did not express concern about the Georgia Literacy Act, it is important to maintain teacher buy-in during the implementation process.

 

Claire Buck with the Georgia Association of Curriculum and Instructional Supervisors (GACIS) testified that school districts have already spent considerable time selecting, training, and using the results of certain screeners. She also stated that members have spoken in support of the initiatives of HB 538 and want the focus to be on literacy results and not inputs like screeners.


Matt Cardoza with the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) provided background on the process of how GaDOE arrived at its current screener list. He reminded the subcommittee that districts that currently use screeners may have to use multiple screeners if their current one is not one of the five selected for use. He also stated that GaDOE has held field tests and plans to hold summer training events for the free screener currently being developed with DRC.


Scott Johnson, chair of the Georgia Literacy Council, said the state needs proven, tested screeners to be made available before it becomes noncompliant with the requirements of HB 538.


Expressing concern that more time was needed to discuss the screeners issue, Rep. Carter moved to strike the language regarding universal screeners from the bill. The amendment failed in a contested vote. The bill, including the modified screener language, was passed to the full committee and is scheduled for a full committee vote tomorrow (March 13).


The text of the most current version of HB 464 can be found below and downloaded HERE.




 

House Education Policy Subcommittee Gives Approval to Alyssa’s Law

SB 32, "Alyssa's Law" by Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), would require school districts to implement a mobile panic alert system capable of connecting in real time to local law enforcement. In a prior subcommittee meeting, implementation dates in the bill were pushed forward one year. During this hearing, the bill was further amended to move these dates out one more year. Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), who presented the bill, said this change gives emergency support staff enough time for proper implementation. An additional change clarifies that the new systems will be integrated with current technology.


James Stallings, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security (GEMA), stated that moving the dates forward helps address the agency’s concerns about meeting the bill's requirements and hopefully addresses funding concerns. GEMA expressed support for the bill.


The bill passed to the full committee.


House Public Safety Subcommittee Holds School Mapping Bill for Further Work

A subcommittee of the House Public Safety Committee heard SB 406 by Sen. Dixon, which would create standards for a floor plan mapping system in Georgia schools. The bill is intended to provide more detailed and up-to-date maps for first responders during emergencies using an app-based program. It will be integrated into public safety platforms. The cost averages $3,500 per school and purchasing the system would be optional.


Committee members expressed concerns about privacy and security and whether nefarious parties could access the mapping data. No action was taken on the bill so that further improvements can be made.


Upcoming Schedule 

 

Wednesday, March 13 – Legislative Day 34 

  • 1 p.m. House Education, 506 CLOB

  • 2 p.m. House Retirement, 341 Cap

  • 4 p.m. Senate Education & Youth Subcommittee, 310 CLOB

  • 4 p.m. Senate Finance, Mezz 1 Cap


Thursday, March 14 – Legislative Day 35 

 

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