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Day 40: 2024 Session Adjourns, Sine Die

The House and Senate convened for the final day of the 2024 session and took action on a number of bills.


Senate Approves Addy's Law, Wesley's Law, & Charter School Bill

The Senate took action on the following education bills:


SB 240 by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry), retirement legislation to which an amendment was added opting out some state charter school educators from the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia, was voted down by the Senate. A motion to reconsider it was also defeated.  

 

HB 1122 by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners) 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 score.

 

HB 282 by Rep. Mesha Mainor (R-Atlanta) was heavily revised and now carries the language of several bills. Her initial bill requires districts to offer a course on career readiness. Mainor added language from another of her bills, HB 127, which requires schools to improve IEP interpreter services by adhering to interpreter standards created by the SBOE. The bill also includes language that gives patriotic societies priority in using school facilities during non-instructional time, as defined by federal law. If a local school board denies access to a patriotic society priority, the reason for the denial must be given in writing. Lastly, the bill would modify the founding philosophies and principles coursework to include an interactive taxpayer receipt and budget web applications.  The bill also removes the prohibition on school boards covering the health insurance costs of school board members’ families.

 

HB 409 by Rep. Lauren Daniel (R-McDonough) was stripped and replaced with Daniel's version of "Addy's Law" contained in HB 1284. The bill encourages schools to consider reconfiguring school bus stops. Drivers violating Addy's Law could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined at least $1,000, jailed for at least 12 months, or both. After a second or subsequent violation, the vehicle owner's insurance carrier would be notified.


The bill was amended today to add language allowing the for-profit management companies of some charter schools to make decisions regarding employee hiring and benefits. Unfortunately, this addition was successful.  

 

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. The House Rules Committee amended the bill to include language placing naloxone/Narcan vending machines on college campuses and requiring public government buildings equipped with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to carry naloxone/Narcan where the AEDs are located.

 

House Floor Action - Social Media and PSERS Multiplier Increase Pass

The House approved the following education bills:


SB 351 by Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), known as the Protecting Georgia's Children on Social Media Act of 2024, seeks to require local school boards to create social media policies prohibiting students from accessing social media through school-owned devices or internet services. The State Board of Education (SBOE) is empowered to review these policies and may withhold funding from non-compliant schools and districts. Additionally, existing local board bullying policies must be expanded to address cyberbullying and provide information on resources and services related to addressing bullying. SB 351 requires social media companies to verify user ages, prevent minors from holding social media accounts without parental consent, and provide additional privacy protection for minor account holders. The bill includes HB 910 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), which requires identity and age verification to access pornographic websites. This additional provision also provides penalties for porn providers which fail to make reasonable efforts to verify user age. The bill also includes language from HB 338 by Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer), the Student Technology Protection Act.

 

SB 105 by Sen. Larry Walker III (R-Perry) is a PAGE-supported bill that increases Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) members' monthly benefit multiplier from $16.50 to $17. The bill also sets this amount as the minimum multiplier allowed by law. While permanent or one-time increases in benefits can be funded by legislative appropriations, the monthly PSERS benefit amount could not fall below $17 per year of service. This increase would apply to all current and future PSERS retirees.  

 

General Assembly Approves FY 2025 Budget

After resolving their differences through a conference committee, the House and Senate approved the state Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget, which includes a $2,500 pay raise for certified teachers and staff. Changes made by the conference committee include:


  • $192,000 for two young farmer positions in Barrow and Peach counties

  • $200,000 to upgrade Capital Outlay Program software to integrate public Pre-K classrooms

  • $1 million to Communities in Schools to leverage matching grant funds

  • $1.5 million for a universal literacy screener, which can also serve as a dyslexia screener

  • $6 million to improve literacy, including funds for at least one regional literacy coach at each Regional Education Service Agency (RESA), supplements for 950 school literacy leads, training for local coaches and teachers, and supplemental training for ESOL teachers.

  • $200,000 for a supplemental sparsity grant to school districts with fewer than 200 students and one K-12 school

  • $6.3 million to cover the cost of breakfast and lunch for reduced-paying students

  • $205 million for pupil transportation

  • $109 million for school safety grants

 

Lawmakers also boosted funding for the Pre-K program, including $17.5 million to increase start-up grants for new Pre-K classrooms from $8,000 to $30,000, provide replenishment grants every five years, and increase funding for transportation. They added $44.4 million to provide Pre-K lead and assistant teachers a $2,500 pay raise plus $19 million more to move these teachers to the state salary schedule for K-12 teachers. Legislators added $1 million to expand the APEX program, which provides mental health services in schools, and $750,000 to provide computer science professional development through the University System of Georgia.

 

Thank You from the PAGE Legislative Team

The PAGE Legislative Team proudly served you during the 2024 Legislative Session. It was a pleasure to connect policymakers with the voices and perspectives of Georgia educators. Thank you for reading PAGE reports, for your education advocacy, and for serving Georgia students.

 

A comprehensive 2024 Legislative Session report on the AFY24 and FY25 state budgets and which education bills passed and did not pass will be published in April.

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