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Day 40: Voucher Bill Fails, Teacher Pay Raises & Literacy Bill Pass

Voucher Bill Fails on House Floor

In a dramatic vote, SB 233 by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), failed by four votes on the House floor. PAGE advocated against the bill for reasons outlined in our Week 10 Highlights. PAGE appreciates the bipartisan group of legislators who voted to reject the voucher bill. Many educators responded to action alerts and contacted legislators and requested they vote "No" on this legislation which unfairly labels Georgia schools in the bottom quartile of student achievement as “failing” and redirects public funding to private schools concentrated in metro areas.

Teacher Pay Raise Passed in FY 2024 Budget

Lawmakers approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget, including a $2,000 pay raise for teachers and other certified educators. Funds were also added to provide the $2,000 raise to pre-kindergarten lead teachers and assistant teachers. Budget writers added about $27 million to fund school counselors for special education and gifted students, an increase PAGE has promoted for several years based on member-driven legislative priorities.

State funds will cover the pay raise for certified teachers and other certified staff members who are funded under the QBE formula or other state programs such as agricultural education. The state does not provide funds for a pay raise for certified teachers and staff members whose salaries are covered with local or federal dollars. Districts will have to determine how to provide raises utilizing other funding sources -- based on their particular financial circumstances -- for non-state funded certified staff as well as classified staff.

The FY 2024 budget also adds $1 billion to cover a $635 increase in the employer share of the per member per month (PMPM) cost of the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP). This proposed increase would bring the monthly cost of health insurance under the SHBP to $1,580 for each eligible employee. State funds cover the increase for certified staff. School districts must cover the increase with local funds for non-certified staff. The increase is being phased in over two years.

Highlights from the FY 2024 budget for the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) include:

  • $171,000 increase for 18 new extended day/year programs in agricultural education

  • $288,000 increase for two young farmer positions in Barrow and Hall Counties, and for an oversight position

  • $120,000 increase for a state special school program coordinator at the GaDOE

  • $50,000 increase for a study committee to review the funding formula for the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS)

  • -$60,000 reduction to GaDOE central office

  • $481,786 increase for the AmeriCorps Math Corps and Reading Corps programs

  • $1.7 million increase for charter school facility grants

  • $262,000 increase for Communities in Schools for additional affiliates

  • -$4.9 million reduction for GNETS for enrollment and training and experience decline

  • -$400,000 reduction for GNETS

  • $211,250 increase in Sparsity Grants, which provide supplemental funds to small schools in rural communities, based on enrollment

  • -$152,463 reduction for Residential Treatment Facilities based on attendance

  • $50,000 increase for feminine hygiene grants

  • $3.5 million increase for dyslexia screening

  • $6.3 million increase to cover breakfast and lunch for reduce-paying students

  • $1.6 million increase to cover a 5.1 percent salary increase for school nutrition staff. (The increase applies to the amount the state contributes to the salary of school nutrition staff, not the full salary.)

  • $1.3 million increase for pupil transportation based on formula growth

  • $4.6 million increase for a 5.1 percent salary increase for bus drivers (The increase applies to the amount the state contributes to the salary of bus drivers, not the full salary.)

  • $122 million increase for equalization grants for low-wealth districts

  • $155 million increase for enrollment growth and educator training and experience under the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula

  • $13.3 million increase for formula increase to the State Commission Charter School supplement

  • -$43.9 million reduction in state charter supplement funds for Mountain Education, Coastal Plains, and Foothills Charter high schools.

  • -$27.8 million reduction to Mountain Education and Coastal Plains Charter high schools due to expiration of state charter contracts

  • $296,034 increase for charter system grant

  • $26.9 million to fund school counselor ratio at 1:450 for all student categories

  • $840 million to cover the increase in the employer contribution to the PMPM cost of the State Health Benefit Plan

  • $290 million to cover $2,000 pay raise for certified teachers and certified staff under the QBE formula

  • $49,493 increase for a military counselor in Chattahoochee County

  • $8.6 million increase to provide a $1,000 salary supplement to all custodians

  • $482,496 increase for a 5.1 percent salary increase for certified staff at Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs)

  • $711,000 increase for construction industry certification in Technology/Career Education

  • -$450,000 reduction to testing

Funding for dual enrollment, which is within the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC), is reduced $6.6 million due to lower projections. About $47 million was added to the commission’s budget to bring the HOPE Scholarship factor rate up to 100 percent so that it will cover 100 percent of tuition.

House Agreed to Senate Changes to House Literacy Bill

The House agreed to Senate changes to HB 538 by Rep. Bethany Ballard (R-Warner Robins), which aims to increase the number of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Ballard has described the bill as returning to "tried and true" principles of reading. Components of the bill include a required reading assessment of all K-3 students to be given three times a year, training for all K-3 teachers in the science of reading, and the use of high-quality instructional materials for reading as approved by the State Board of Education. The bill was amended in the Senate to direct the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC) to consider out-of-state teacher certification programs.

Other Education Bills Which Passed

The following bills are also on their way to the governor:

SR 175 by Sen. Matt Brass, creates the Joint Study Committee on Dual Enrollment for Highly Skilled Talent at Younger Ages.

HB 87 by Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer), the Non-Traditional Schools Act regarding alternative high schools.

HB 340 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), providing for daily planning periods for K-12 teachers. Teachers entitled to planning periods could be required to supervise students during planning no more than once a week, except when necessary to ensure the safety of students and staff. The bill was amended this week to add language continuing the public education tax credit, arbitration in school accreditation appeals processes. Also added was SB 98, prohibiting local school board members from discussing individual personnel matters with local school superintendents, school administrators, teachers, or other school personnel except as provided by law. The mere referral of a personnel matter to the local school superintendent is not prohibited.

Thank You from the PAGE Legislative Team

The PAGE Legislative Team was proud to serve you during the 2023 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 2023 Legislative Session report on the AFY23 and FY24 state budgets and which education bills passed and did not pass will be published in April.

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