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Day 39: Education Bills Move on Penultimate Legislative Day

The House and Senate shifted into high gear Tuesday for the penultimate day of the 2024 legislative session. Tracking legislative action during the 39th day becomes more challenging as policymakers attempt to revive bills that floundered during the committee process or did not cross over by the deadline. Both chambers worked into the night and are expected to work until midnight Thursday for the final legislative day. This report includes education-related action that occurred by 10 p.m., March 26. Actions occurring post-10 p.m. will be included in tomorrow’s report.

 

Senate Signs Off on FY 2025 Budget 

The Senate approved its version of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget. After each chamber insisted on its respective FY 2025 budget proposal, a conference committee was appointed to resolve House and Senate differences. Information about the Senate’s budget proposal is available here, and information about the House spending plan is available here.  

 

House Gives Final Approval to Parental Leave and Alternative Transportation Bills 

The House granted final approval to the following bills, which move to Gov. Brian Kemp for consideration. The governor can sign or veto legislation. If he takes no action, bills become law 40 days after the session concludes.  

 

  • HB 1010 by House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) proposes to increase paid parental leave offered to state employees, including public school educators, from three weeks to six weeks. The Senate version of the bill requires that employers notify employees upon hire and annually that the benefit is available.  According to the House Budget Office, there is no budget line item for implementing HB 1010, as school systems typically do not budget for paid leave.  

  • HB 51 by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn) would allow districts to use vehicles other than school buses to transport students. Currently, districts can only use other vehicles, such as vans, to transport students with an Individualized Education Plan or those experiencing homelessness. HB 51 also has language aimed at addressing a concern raised by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Catula) about the Georgia High School Association (GHSA). According to Robertson, the association did not sponsor the Georgia Independent Schools Association’s (GISA) membership in the National Federation of High School Associations, which is required for GISA’s membership in the federation. Membership in the federation allows schools to participate in out-of-state athletic and literacy events. Robertson claims his language is to “level the playing field” between GHSA and GISA schools.  

 

Literacy Provision on Schools Supplies for Teachers Bill Finalized 

The House took action on SB 464, which creates the School Supplies for Teachers Program and reduces the selection of state-approved literacy screeners. The bill requires the state to adopt a list of five screeners, including the free universal screener required by HB 538, the Georgia Early Literacy Act. The Senate sent the bill back to the House with an amendment creating a five-member executive committee of the Georgia Council on Literacy. During the committee process, legislators intended to move the date by which districts must select a screener from 2024 to 2025. However, because that change was not made, the House made the date change today and sent SB 464 back to the Senate. Later in the evening, the Senate agreed, granting final passage of the bill and sending it to Gov. Kemp.  

 

State Charter School & School Speed Zone Camera Bills Pass 

The House also further amended HB 1122 by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), which updates conflict-of-interest governance board policies regarding state charter schools. The bill authorizes charter schools to earn more funding for more school leaders. State charter schools would also receive funding for a school superintendent under the bill. The bill includes language mandating a single statewide school accountability score, which was amended in the Senate to include the five components used by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) to determine a single accountability score when posting the score on school websites. Hilton did not describe the contents of the amendment, and there was no discussion before the House approved it. Since the House made further changes to HB 1122, it must go back to the Senate.  

 

The House also changed SB 97 by Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), which now includes language from HB 348 by Rep. J. Collins (R-Villa Rica) and would alter components of school speed zone operations, including the use of speed cameras and related penalties and fees. School zone speed cameras could operate one hour before and one hour after the start of school and one hour before and two hours after school dismissal. The bill heads back to the Senate to agree with the change or insist on its position.  

Student Technology Protection Act Approved by Senate 

HB 338 by Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer), chair of the House Education Committee, would create the "Student Technology Protection Act" and update 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 act requires local districts to update internet acceptable use policies, including setting appropriate measures for violation of the guidelines and creating parent complaint processes for alleged breaches of the policies. GaDOE would compile a list of vendors for internet filters in coordination with the Department of Administrative Services to assist districts with selecting appropriate filters. The bill now also includes SB 405, a bill by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett) that lowers the age of eligibility for completion schools from 18 to 16. The bill also directs the State Board of Education (SBOE), in consultation with GOSA, to adopt a policy for the GaDOE to publicly report cohort graduation rates in completion special schools.  

 

The Senate further amended the bill by changing some of the effective dates. A second amendment added language that provided school districts the option to share the costs of healthcare coverage for dependents of local school board members. Since the Senate changed the bill, it now heads back to the House to agree with the addition or insist on its version of the bill.  

 

Senate Passes Controversial Omnibus Education Measure 

The Senate also approved HB 1104 by Rep. Omari Crawford (D-Decatur) which would require schools to make mental health resources available to student-athletes. Contrary to the Crawford’s request when HB 1104 moved through Senate Ed, senators added multiple controversial measures to the bill, including: 


  • SB 365 by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), which requires schools to provide parents with an option to receive an email notification each time their student obtains school library material, and such email notice shall include, as applicable, the title, author, genre, and return date of the school library material.  

  • SB 532 by Sen. Dixon (R- Gwinnett) prohibits sex education in public schools before sixth grade. It further requires that all proposed sex education curricula be made available for public comment before implementation, and students may not receive sex education instruction without making the curriculum available to the student’s parent for review and receiving the parent’s written consent. The bill also states that no school would be required to provide sex education. Instruction on child abuse or menstruation would not be affected by these provisions.  

  • SB 438 by Sen. Carden Summers (R-Cordele) would prohibit student-athletes who are born male but identify as female from participating in any female-only athletics and would prohibit students from using multiple occupancy bathrooms and changing areas designated for the other biological sex.      

Language allowing charter schools to use teachers and staff employed by an education service provider was also added to HB 1104.  

 

During floor debate on HB 1104, Sen. Derek Mallow (D-Savannah) asked Dixon if the bill applies to private schools. Dixon explained that it does not because public schools receive state funding. Mallow then asked if Dixon thought that, since SB 233, a bill creating Georgia’s third private school voucher program that sends public funds to private schools, passed last week, HB 1104 should apply to private schools receiving voucher funds. Dixon said he would only speak to the contents of HB 1104. Mallow referenced this argument several times as Democrats spoke against the various additions to the bill. The bill passed down party lines and returned to the House for consideration.  

 

Upcoming Schedule


Wednesday, March 27 – Committee Workday 

  • 1 p.m. House Higher Education Committee, 606 CLOB 

 

Thursday, March 28 – Legislative Day 40, Sine Die 

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