Senate Signs Off on AFY 2023 Budget
The Senate approved its version of the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY 2023) budget. Senate lawmakers opted to stick with several of Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed education budget items instead of revisions made by the House. The Senate kept one-time safety grants for every school at $50,000 as originally proposed by the governor instead of $60,000 as sought by the House. Senators also restored $25 million in learning loss grants recommended by Kemp, though they seek to distribute the grants based on the percentage of students performing at or above grade level rather than those below grade level, as initially outlined.
The AFY 2023 budget now heads back to the House, which will likely seek a conference committee made up of lawmakers from both chambers to resolve their differences.
Senate Bill Aims to Create Georgia’s Third Private School Voucher Program
Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming) introduced SB 233, which would establish a new private school voucher program, the Georgia Promise Scholarship program. If approved, the program would join the state’s two existing voucher programs, which carry a combined price tag of about $150 million annually.
As currently written, SB 233 would provide $6,000 a year to families of participating students, which could be used for private school tuition or other education-related expenses including tutoring, curriculum materials, physician or therapist-provided services, computer hardware and tuition at a postsecondary institution. Students would be eligible if they:
Are eligible for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, or first grade, or
Were enrolled in and attended a public school for six weeks if in grade two or higher.
The eligibility requirements would be waived for students who:
Would be assigned to a public school identified as low-performing
Have a documented case of school-based physical violence or student-related verbal abuse
Were enrolled in a home-school program in the year immediately before receiving a voucher
SB 233 does not limit the number of eligible students who could receive the voucher.
The PAGE legislative team continues to analyze SB 233 and will provide additional information when its review is complete.
House Ed Passes Student Technology Protection Act & Bills on Alternative Transportation, Aquatics Education, and Charter Schools
In a productive meeting before the House and Senate floor sessions convened, the House Education Committee passed four bills, all of which now move to House Rules, which is expected to schedule them for a floor vote, on or before Crossover Day, March 6. Crossover Day is the day by which all legislation must pass one chamber in order to remain viable. The four bills are:
HB 338, by Chris Erwin (R-Homer), the Student Technology Protection Act, which updates definitions of child pornography, content harmful to minors, obscene materials, and technology protection measures. The legislation aims to filter, in an age-appropriate manner, content accessible to students on publicly-funded laptops and devices distributed to students. The bill requires local districts to update internet acceptable use policies, including setting appropriate measures for violation of the policies as well as creation of parent complaint processes for alleged violation of the policies. GaDOE will compile a list of vendors for internet filters in coordination with the Department of Administrative Services to assist districts with selecting the appropriate filters.
HB 51, sponsored by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn), allows school districts to transport students in vehicles other than school buses. Currently, this transportation option is open only to students experiencing homelessness and special education students. The State Board of Education would be responsible for setting the minimum standards for vehicles and drivers.
HB 402, by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), which requires school districts to provide parents or guardians with information on the importance of water safety education courses and swimming lessons annually. Students who are 18 years or older will be provided the information directly. The bill was amended in subcommittee to include a requirement that schools also include information about available swim instruction in the area.
HB 318, by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), would rename the Charter Advisory Committee, the office responsible for supporting charter schools, the "Office of District Flexibility" and move the office to the State Charter Schools Commission (SCSC). Administrative staff would report to the State Board of Education. When presenting the bill in committee, Hilton reported Georgia has 90 locally and state approved charter schools, which serve about 60,000 students, and there are 17,000 students on charter school wait lists. Hilton said the intent of his bill is to move charter school responsibility to an agency “laser focused” on charter schools.
House Committee Approves Changes to School Safety Zone Cameras & Administrative Fines
The House Motor Vehicles Committee approved HB 348 from Rep. J. Collins (R-Villa Rica), which seeks to change several of the regulations related to speeding in school zones including:
Reduce the time period speed limits in school zones can be camera-enforced to 30 minutes before and after the start and dismissal of school, down from one hour currently.
Require flashing lights on signs announcing the reduced speed limit in school zones.
Cap administrative fees often added to financial penalty imposed for violating the speed limit.
Revoke car registration as consequence for failure to pay speeding penalty.
Committee members eliminated a provision in the bill that would have shifted responsibility for applying for approval of a speed-monitoring camera from districts to the governing board of the county or municipality responsible for enforcing traffic regulations.
Monday, Feb. 27 – Legislative Day 24
House Retirement, 2 p.m., 506 CLOB
Tuesday, Feb. 28 – Legislative Day 25
Senate Education & Youth, 2:30 p.m., 450 CAP
Senate Retirement, 3 p.m., Mezz 1 CAP
Wednesday, Feb. 29 - Legislative Day 26
Senate Education & Youth, 10 a.m., 307 CLOB