House Passes FY 24 Budget Including Educator Pay Raise
The House approved HB 19, which outlines the proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 and includes the $2,000 pay raise for Pre-K and K-12 teachers, other certified staff, and state employees as proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp. When presenting the budget on the House floor, Appropriations Chair Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) said, “[t]his is the most state funding ever provided to K-12 education.”
Hatchett also highlighted the following education budget additions:
$4.7 million for the cost of breakfast and lunch for students on reduced pay
$1.7 million for charter facility grants
$262,000 for Communities in Schools for additional affiliates
One item in the budget that PAGE missed in its March 8 report is the addition of $8.7 million for one-time $1,000 supplements to school custodians. CLICK HERE to read PAGE’s updated summary of the House’s additions to the FY 24 budget. HB 19 now moves to the Senate, which will suggest changes to the budget.
House Ed Curriculum Subcommittee Amends and Passes Senate Literacy and School Accreditation Initiatives
House Education Curriculum Subcommittee members amended and passed two pieces of legislation, both of which now move to the full House Education Committee for consideration:
SB 211, by Sen. Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro), which seeks to establish the Georgia Council on Literacy to set new school district improvement requirements and oversight mechanisms. The Council would comprise 10 legislators, two teachers, two superintendents, one SBOE representative, two school board members, and two literacy advocates. It would undertake activities in multiple areas including reviewing best practices in literacy instruction from other states and establishing a common metric for literacy scores for kindergarten through 12th grade.
The Council would work in partnership with the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) and the State Board of Education (SBOE) to implement requirements of early literacy requirements as well as research and make recommendations for improving literacy rates among low-income students, minority students, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) students, and students with characteristics of dyslexia. The Council would also:
Review and set annual literacy goals for students in grades three, five, and eight
Review and make recommendations to align teacher certification with evidence-based literacy instruction and education degree program requirements
Review and make recommendations for professional development for teachers in Pre-K – 3rd grade classrooms
When presenting the bill in committee, Hickman said he is tired of hearing references to the expense of education. “We need to think of education as an investment,” he said. He mentioned that he, GOSA, school superintendents, and others, have been working on the legislation since last summer and referenced GOSA reports that 43.49 percent of 3rd graders are not reading on grade level. About literacy problems, Hickman said some superintendents have not been straightforward about the number of students unable to read.
Rep. Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia) mentioned several times during committee discussion that she supports SB 211, but pressed Hickman to find funding for it. Hickman responded that he chairs the Senate Education & Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and plans to do so.
The subcommittee voted to incorporate several small amendments which are reflected in the bill description before sending the bill forward.
SB 204, by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), did not receive the same treatment as Hickman’s literacy initiative. In an unexpected turn, Republicans on the subcommittee voted to strip his bill, which contained criteria for agencies that accredit public schools, including the evaluation components agencies must use when accrediting school districts. In its place, the subcommittee inserted language from HB 506, by Rep. Ginny Ehrhart (R-Marietta), which failed to make Monday’s Crossover Day Deadline. Ehrhart’s legislation provides for:
Consideration of accrediting agencies as reliable authorities on the quality of education offered in Georgia public schools
Accreditation requirements, in which 65 percent of an accreditation assessment is based on student achievement, and 35 percent is based on financial efficiency
Prohibited recognition of certain accrediting agencies
SBOE to establish assessment criteria, procedures, and other requirements for recognized accrediting agencies
Accreditation of public elementary and middle schools exclusively by GaDOE, with appeals to the SBOE
SB 204 moved forward with Ehrhart's language.
Education Policy Subcommittee Passes School Safety and Epilepsy Plan Bills
The House Education Policy Subcommittee met and considered two bills, both of which were held for more work:
SB 32, by Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), “Alyssa’s Law,” which would require school systems to implement a mobile panic alert system that can connect in real-time to local law enforcement.
SB 45, also by Anavitarte, “A.J.’s Law,” which requires creation and implementation of seizure action plans for students with epilepsy.
Senators Examine Proposed Education Budget for FY 2024
Members of the Senate Education & Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee raised questions about several items in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget proposal sent over from the House, including $1 million for a digital literacy program added to GOSA. Joy Hawkins, executive director of GOSA, reported that she had little information about the program, which was added by House budget writers, and described it as an “off-the-shelf” program in use in Utah, Idaho, and Michigan. Senators wanted more information or raised concerns about several other items, including:
Funding for a GaDOE dyslexia coordinator
Raising the statutory cap on the multiplier for the Public Schools Employee Retirement System, currently set at $16.50
The 95 percent factor rate for the HOPE Scholarship proposed by the House, a change from the 100 percent factor rate proposed by Gov. Kemp
The low salary for pre-kindergarten assistant teachers, which will average about $20,000 per year if the $2,000 pay raise for teachers in the FY 2024 budget is approved by the General Assembly
Chair Billy Hickman noted that a portion of funding for Mountain Education and Coastal Plains charter high schools, which had been eliminated in the proposed budget, and Foothills Charter School, which was reduced, would likely be restored. The partial restoration of funds is based on HB 87, which revises the funding and governance structures for the schools and has been approved by the House. HB 87 is now in the Senate Education & Youth Committee, and Hickman spoke favorably about the bill.
Committee members and budget staff will continue to gather information and offer revisions to the budget as the appropriations process continues.
Monday, March 13 - Legislative Day 32
Tuesday, March 14 – Legislative Day 33
**An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that SB 32 and SB 45 passed subcommittee. Both were held for more work. This report was corrected on March 10, 2023.