The House Education Committee met this morning and passed two bills, both of which now move to House Rules for placement on the House voting calendar:
HB 32 by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), PAGE-supported legislation, creates a $3,000 tax credit for teachers who work for specified rural or low-performing schools. The credit would be awarded to veteran and new teachers working at schools identified by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE). While only teachers new to such schools would be eligible, Belton mentioned during today’s hearing that he hopes the program will eventually expand to all teachers at qualifying rural and struggling schools.
HB 287 by Rep. Bonnie Rich (R-Suwanee) adds education on tobacco and vape products to drug and alcohol courses required for students in grades K-12. Rich mentioned during her committee presentation that HB 287 is timely because children who vape are exponentially more detrimentally affected by COVID-19 and more likely to suffer serious consequences from the virus.
State School Superintendent Woods appeared before the committee and reported that despite pandemic challenges most Georgia schools are offering in-person instruction. “Our schools are doing a really good job,” he said, “though that doesn’t mean we haven’t had issues.”
Woods said that Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act (CARES) II federal stimulus funding will be used to deliver one-time $1,000 pay supplements to most Georgia educators and predicted that forthcoming CARES III funding will be used to address student learning loss. The following slides share a few of the points presented by Woods.
The committee also heard from Dana Rickman of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education who presented GPEE’s annual Top Ten Issues to Watch to the committee.
AFY21 Budget Clears the Finish Line
Wrapping up an accelerated approval process, the House and Senate passed the Amended Fiscal Year 2021 budget. Lawmakers added a one-time $1,000 salary supplement for state workers earning less than $80,000. Funding for new school buses got another boost, bringing the total to $40.1 million. This will help districts purchase 520 buses, an overdue need. The spending plan also contains about $5.4 million for Georgia Milestones and $1.2 million to revise testing standards, which had been cut in the Senate’s version of the bill. More on the AFY 2021 budget is available from PAGE here. The budget, outlined in HB 80, now goes to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.
Austerity Cuts Ahead in FY 2022 Budget Proposal
Members of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee got to work on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget with presentations from GaDOE, the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), and the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL). Rusk Roam, chief financial officer for GaDOE, led members through Kemp’s proposed FY 2022 spending plan for public schools, which includes an austerity cut of about $380 million to the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula. This is a welcome reduction of the $950 million cut initially passed in the FY 2021 budget but will strain school districts coping with high pandemic-related costs. Kemp’s proposed budget shrinks cuts in other education programs including agricultural education, Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS), preschool disabilities services, Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs), and technology/career education. More information about the proposed FY 2022 budget is available from PAGE here.
PAGE will keep members up to date as the FY 2022 budget moves through the appropriations process.