Senate Committee Signs Off on Changes to School Speed Zones
The Senate Public Safety Committee approved HB 348 from Rep. J Collins (R-Villa Rica), which would change components of school speed zones operations, including the use of speed cameras and related penalties and fees. A substitute to the bill was introduced in the committee meeting, which revised the time cameras that monitor speed can operate: 60 minutes before and 30 minutes after the start of school, and 30 minutes before and 60 minutes after the end of school. According to Chair John Albers (R-Roswell), the bill was also revised to establish that municipal or county governments, which are responsible for the roads, install and use the cameras. The substitute bill is not yet available online and moves to Senate Rules.
Senate Recommends Changes to the FY 2024 Budget Proposal
The Senate Appropriations Committee signed off on Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed $2,000 pay raise for teachers and other certified staff members when it approved its version of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget at its meeting. They also supported a phased approach to the $645 increase to the per member per month cost for the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) for non-certified staff. The SHBP increase for non-certified staff members is covered by districts with local funds, while the state is covering the increase for certified staff. Senate budget writers also made changes to several education items in the FY 2024 budget proposal sent over from the House, including:
$5 million for dyslexia screening
$114,000 for 12 new extended day/year programs in agricultural education
$96,000 for an oversight position for young farmers programs
$120,000 for a state special school program coordinator at the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE)
$481,786 for AmeriCorps Math Corps and Reading Corps
$100,000 for study and committee meetings related to the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) formula
$60,000 reduction for GaDOE central office
$200,000 reduction for life science industry certification for rural school districts
$3 million reduction for statewide rollout of Plasma Games
$262,000 reduction in funds to increase the number of Communities in Schools affiliates
$904,903 reduction in GNETS funds
$200,000 reduction in funds to increase feminine hygiene grants for schools
$711,000 reduction in funds to increase construction industry certification
$873,215 reduction in funds for testing
Committee members also added $1 million to the budget for the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement: $251,108 is for the Georgia Council on Literacy, which would be established by SB 211, and $750,000 for the implementation of effective methods including a digital learning based curriculum for pre-k through grade 5.
The bill now goes to the Rules Committee.
House Education Subcommittees Hear Bus Monitor, Braille Literacy, and HPV Vaccine Notification Bills
The House Education Policy and Curriculum subcommittees met this afternoon but took no action on several bills, all of which may be considered during the 2024 session:
HB 238 by Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta), seeking to create a school bus monitor pilot program. Several elementary and middle school students spoke in favor of the bill, referencing crowded and sometimes dangerous conditions on school buses. Their testimony prompted a number of committee questions about transportation funding, student fights, and student use of mobile phones.
SB 4 by Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro), the “Blind Person’s Braille Literacy Rights and Education Act,” which would require evaluation of blind or visually impaired students to determine their need for Braille instruction. It also requires Braille instruction in the individualized education program of a blind or visually impaired student, if necessary. Several blind and visually impaired Georgians attended the hearing and expressed concern that Georgia schools no longer teach Braille, leaving students at significant disadvantage.
HB 174 by Rep. Patty Bentley (R-Butler), requiring schools to provide information to the parents and guardians of sixth graders about the availability of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer. Bentley stressed that the bill was not a vaccine mandate and mentioned high rates of cervical cancer among African American women in her rural Georgia area.
Senate Committee Does Not Discuss Tabled Private School Voucher Expansion
Though the bill appeared on the meeting agenda, the Senate Finance Committee did not discuss HB 101 by Rep. Clint Crowe (R-Jackson). The legislation would expand the cap on Georgia’s existing tuition tax credit private school voucher from $120 million to $130 million, annually. Committee Chair Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) announced that today’s meeting was likely the committee’s last for the 2023 session.
Thursday, March 23 – Legislative Day 38
Monday, March 27 - Legislative Day 39
Wednesday, March 29 - Legislative Day 40/Sine Die