AFY 2021 Budget Moves Closer to the Finish Line
The Senate passed HB 80, which is the amended budget for Fiscal Year 2021. Senate budget writers made several tweaks to the version passed by the House.
The most notable changes proposed by the Senate are revisions to funding for testing:
Cuts about $5.4 million from administering Georgia Milestones
Eliminates about $1.2 million allotted to revising testing standards in math and English in accordance with the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Reduces funding for AP and PSAT exams by $354,061
Adds $500,000 for a pilot project on alternative assessments to Georgia Milestones
The Senate also bumps up funding for school bus replacement, adding $1 million to the $38 million proposed by the House.
HB 80 moves back to the House, which can approve the changes proposed by the Senate. If the House disagrees with the Senate’s proposal, the bill goes to a conference committee composed of legislators from both chambers, which will resolve the differences.
House Ed Subcommittee Approves Tax Credit to Attract Teachers to Rural and High Needs Schools
The House Education Academic Innovation Subcommittee approved HB 32 by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), a PAGE-supported bill that would award a $3,000 tax credit for teachers who are newly hired by certain rural schools or schools performing in the lowest five percent, based on Georgia's College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) school accountability system. Teachers hired by these schools would be eligible to receive the tax credit for five years if they remain employed at a qualifying school. GaDOE would be tasked with selecting 100 schools to participate in the program annually, and selected schools would be eligible to participate for at least two years. The program will be limited to 1,000 teachers on an annual basis. Veteran and new teachers would be eligible for the program as long as they are in their first year of service at a participating school.
PAGE Legislative Affairs Specialist Josh Stephens spoke in support of the legislation during the subcommittee hearing. Stephens cited the need for another tool enabling schools to attract teachers, especially for those in very rural areas or high-needs schools.
The subcommittee unanimously passed the bill, which moves forward to the full House Education committee.
Subcommittee Hears Bill Prohibiting Transgender Female Athletes from Participating in Female Athletics & Bill Approving Vaping Education
The House Education Academic Support Subcommittee met to hear HB 276 by Rep. Phillip Singleton (R-Sharpsburg), legislation that would make it unlawful for public or private schools, both K-12 and postsecondary, whose students compete against public schools, to allow transgender female athletes to participate in athletic programs designated for females. When describing his bill, Singleton explained that "gender" with regard to HB 276 refers to the sex assigned to a child at birth. Female students injured by transgender female athletes or denied spots on athletic teams because transgender female athletes were selected instead of them would be entitled to sue schools for damages and injunctive relief. School sovereign immunity would be waived.
During subcommittee discussion, several legislators questioned whether the legislation, if enacted, would violate Title IX, the federal civil rights law prohibiting school sex-based discrimination. In response, Singleton argued that Title IX does not allow students who were identified as male at birth to compete with female students.
A dozen people provided testimony both for and against the legislation. Robin Hines, executive director of the Georgia High School Association, reported that GHSA does not intend to discriminate against anyone, but the organization wants "a level playing field." GHSA currently accepts student gender as identified by students' local school districts. Hines said that the GHSA board of trustees will meet soon and will discuss HB 276.
Subcommittee Chair Will Wade (R-Dawsonville) mentioned that he has several items in the bill which he intends to discuss with Singleton. Wade did not call a vote on the legislation.
Earlier in the meeting, the subcommittee unanimously approved HB 287 by Rep. Bonnie Rich (R-Suwanee) which would include tobacco and vapor products in alcohol and drug courses required each year for all students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade. The bill moves forward to the full House Education Committee.