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Day 20, Session Midpoint: Senate Education Committee Moves on Gender Identity & Social Media Bills, Among Others

The House and Senate convened in floor sessions for Day 20 but did not consider education-related legislation.


Senate Education Committee Moves on Gender Identity and Social Media Bills, Among Others

During a very active meeting, the Senate Education and Youth Committee took action on several bills.


SB 88 by Sen. Carden Summers (R-Cordele) would require each local school district to develop policies providing direction and guidance to school employees regarding parental involvement and child privacy on issues of gender identity by Jan. 1, 2025. The State Board of Education (SBOE) would publish related model policies and guidance. SB 88 also requires that schools obtain parental permission before changing a student’s name, sex, or gender in official school records. The bill states that nothing in it should be construed to negate educator Mandated Reporter obligations.


SB 88 seeks to regulate private school curriculum regarding issues of gender identity, queer theory, gender ideology, or gender transition. These concepts could not be taught unless written consent is provided by the parents of every child participating in such curriculum. Schools operated by religious institutions are exempt from these provisions.


Finally, the bill outlines punishments for violating its requirements. Public schools could lose funding or the ability to participate in athletic associations while private schools could lose qualification to participate in the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program. Violations could also result in certified educators being investigated by the Professional Standards Commission.


Reiterating that SB 88 had already received multiple hearings, Committee Chairman Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett) imposed a testimony time limit. While several people signed up to speak against the bill, only speakers in favor of the bill managed to testify before the time limit was reached. The bill passed along party lines and is on its way to Senate Rules.


SB 351  by Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas) requires local school boards to create a social media policy prohibiting students from accessing social media through school-owned devices or internet service. Students could still access social media if they are authorized to do so for educational purposes. The SBOE is empowered to review these policies and may withhold funding from non-compliant schools and districts. Additionally, local board policies on bullying must now also address cyberbullying and provide information on resources and services related to addressing bullying. SB 351 also places requirements on social media companies to verify user ages, prevent minors from holding social media accounts without parental consent, and provide additional privacy protection for minor account holders. The bills passed and is in Rules.


SB 440 by Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan) establishes the Accelerated Career Diploma Program and provides the requirements for students to receive a high school diploma through this program. The requirements include that the student completes an associate degree in a program included on the High-Demand Career List published by the State Workforce Development Board. The bill also establishes the ACE Grants pilot program to provide for awarding accelerated career education grants to students participating in the Accelerated Career Diploma Program. Finally, SB 440 requires all students to complete at least a half-credit course in the foundations of algebra. This bipartisan bill passed and moves to Rules.


SB 464 by Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett) creates the School Supplies for Teachers Program which would provide financial support to teachers purchasing school supplies online. This assistance would be subject to appropriation by the General Assembly. While presenting the bill, Sen. Dixon discussed the substantial out-of-pocket costs that educators often pay for school supplies. The legislation passed unanimously and is in Senate Rules.


Additionally, the committee heard but took no action on SB 147 by Sen. Shawn Still (R-Norcross), the Boundless Opportunities for Georgia Students Act, which would allow students to cross school district lines to attend virtual programs hosted by public schools for which they are not zoned, if space is available. The most current version of this bill removes the section relating to students carrying a portion of equalization funding. The bill will receive further revisions and be brought back up at a future hearing.


Military Spouse Licensure Bill Passes Subcommittee

The Regulatory Subcommittee of the House Regulated Industries Committee passed HB 880 by Rep. Bethany Ballard (R-Warner Robins), which allows military spouses to use an existing license in good standing from another state to obtain employment in Georgia when stationed here. Ballard said the bill allows a military spouse to immediately gain employment when deployed to Georgia rather than waiting the currently required 90-day waiting period. Ballard mentioned that military spouses currently have an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent in Georgia. Ballard intends for the bill to apply to teachers and an amendment is planned to ensure its applicability for educators.

 

Upcoming Schedule 

 

Thursday, Feb. 15: Legislative Day 21

  • 2 p.m. House Public Health, 403 Cap


Friday, Feb. 16: Legislative Day 22

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