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Day 33: House Approves Aquatic Safety Bill; Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Discusses Teacher Retention & Literacy

Senate Budget Writers Discuss Teacher Retention & Literacy 

Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee members explored several topics, including teacher retention, literacy screeners, and literacy coaches. Sen. Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro), the committee’s chairman, kicked off the discussion about teacher retention by sharing factors that influence teacher recruitment and retention, including: 

  • Low salary 

  • Unrealistic expectations 

  • Lack of opportunities for advancement 

  • Behavior management issues 

  • Mental health concerns 

  • Inadequate classroom support 


Tiffany Taylor, deputy superintendent for policy, flexibility, and external affairs at the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), described the department’s redesigned evaluation system, currently in development, which will provide additional support to new teachers and more pathways for experienced teachers. She also noted the mentorship program for new teachers, which the department will launch if funded by lawmakers.  

Committee members also discussed the Senate proposal to require districts to use one literacy screener, which would be free, to measure student literacy in grades K-3. Amy Denty, director of literacy at GaDOE, noted that literacy screeners are a progress monitoring tool that helps educators identify students needing extra support. According to Denty, the department can use data from different screeners to assist districts.  

Denty also described GaDOE’s tiered plan to provide 32 regional literacy coaches. The literacy coaches will work with districts’ literacy leads to provide guidance and support on structured literacy to districts. The coaches will collaborate with RESA literacy specialists to develop a regional approach to supporting literacy.  

Amy Jacobs, commissioner of the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), described the Summer Transition Program, which has two components. The first is Rising Kindergarten, which provides time and instruction for students who need extra help to be prepared for kindergarten. This program serves about 4,500 students across the state. The second is Rising Pre-Kindergarten which provides extra help to about 840 Pre-K students who are English-language learners. Committee members expressed frustration that many counties do not offer either program, particularly in South Georgia. Jacobs explained that Pre-K providers must apply for the program, and there are insufficient resources to fund all the programs that apply.  

House Education Committee Approves Narcan/Naloxone, Disciplinary Tribunal, & Accelerated Career Diploma Program Bills 

The House Education Committee approved the following bills, which all move forward to the Rules Committee for consideration: 

SB 440 by Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan) establishes the Accelerated Career Diploma Program. It outlines requirements for students to receive a related high school diploma, including requiring them to complete 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 program to award 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. 

SB 169 by Sen. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton) makes several changes to Georgia’s student disciplinary tribunal process, such as limiting the extension of hearing dates for student tribunals and requiring that suspended students receive appropriate instructional materials. 

SB 395 by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett), “Wesley’s Law,” is named in memory of a family member of Dixon’s who died of a fentanyl overdose. It requires schools to make a "reasonable effort" to maintain a supply of naloxone/Narcan, an opioid antagonist. The legislation allows teachers to carry and keep the drug in classrooms. The bill protects anyone who uses or chooses not to use naloxone in a school from liability and shields school districts and staff from civil liability. SB 395 initially allowed students to carry naloxone, but this provision was removed when the bill moved through a subcommittee. 

Lifeguarding and Aquatic Safety Course Approved by House 

The House approved SB 50 by Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvester), allowing schools to provide lifeguarding and aquatic safety instruction for students in grades nine through 12. The bill does not mandate that schools offer the program. The course would count as a half credit for students who complete the program. 

The bill returns to the Senate for the body to agree to the House’s changes.  

Upcoming Schedule  


Tuesday, March 12 – Committee Workday

  • 10 a.m. House Education Curriculum Subcommittee, 506 CLOB

  • 10:30 a.m. House Education Policy Subcommittee, 506 CLOB 

Wednesday, March 13 – Legislative Day 34 

  • 2 p.m. House Retirement, 341 Cap

Thursday, March 14 – Legislative Day 35 



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