Dropouts and Discipline Data Generate Discussion
High school dropouts and school discipline data were hot topics in the Senate Education & Youth committee meeting Wednesday, Feb. 3, but lawmakers did not take action on either issue. SB 3, authored by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), seeks to raise the compulsory age of attendance from 16 to 17. The bill spurred discussion about why students drop out. Committee members also returned to their discussion of SB 42, sponsored by Sen. Jeff. Mullis (R-Chickamauga), which would remove student discipline data from the School Climate Star Ratings included on the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI).
Sen. Jackson highlighted the need to keep students on track for a high school diploma or a GED to ensure they can find a job with a livable wage and break the school-to-prison pipeline. Committee members voiced support for this goal but questioned the best strategy to reach it, noting the many reasons students drop out. Sen Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) reported that he is developing legislation to create a high school graduation program connected to the technical college system, which he expects to release in about 10 days. Committee members, including Chair Sen. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), expressed interest in continuing to explore the issue.
Committee members discussed revisions to SB 42 proposed by Tippins, which are not yet available electronically. He suggested removing the discipline data from the School Climate Star Rating but clarifying a process to continue collecting and reporting the information. Several legislators expressed reluctance to remove the data from the climate rating, as discipline issues are a significant factor in school climate, and concern that excluding the data diminishes accountability for discipline practices. Community advocates noted that parents, concerned about the school-to-prison pipeline, requested the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) include discipline data. They also explained that the school climate metric is a validated system and removing discipline data will affect other elements of it.
Senate Retirement Committee Discusses Employee Retirement System
The Senate Retirement Committee met for the first time Wednesday. Chairman Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) welcomed the committee and introduced Jim Potvin, the executive director of the Employee Retirement System (ERS). Potvin described ERS and answered committee member questions. Sen. Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro) asked Potvin to provide more information about why ERS employees have not received a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for many years.
Potvin explained that, through statute, the ERS board is given broad authority and discretion regarding how to administer COLAs. In the early years of the system, ERS was able to provide regular COLAs as the number of active members in the system was higher than the number of retirees. As market conditions worsened due to the dot-com crash and the Great Recession, the ERS board decided to stop awarding COLAs. Presently, three percent COLAs, the amount given to retirees in the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), would cost ERS approximately $400 million. Potvin reported that three percent COLAs could be achievable if the system were 100 percent funded. However, the system has a 75 percent funded ratio, and the ERS board has chosen not to award COLAs due to the cost. In contrast, during its early years, the Teachers Retirement System included COLAs in its calculations and liabilities and has been able to provide three percent COLAs consistently.
Virtual PAGE Day on Capitol Hill Registration
PAGE Day on Capitol Hill 2021 will be held virtually this year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual attendees will hear from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who has confirmed his participation, along with House Education Committee Chairman Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville), Senate Education Committee Chairman Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), Senate Retirement Chair Randy Roberston (R-Cataula), and other key state legislators regarding their 2021 education priorities. As part of this informative event, PAGE will provide an update on major education legislation and share tips on effective advocacy during a unique legislative session.
CLICK HERE to register for PAGE Day on Capitol Hill.