Day 37 was a day full of last minute shenanigans with fits and starts when it comes to passing legislation. Unfortunately, SB 233 passed out of the Full House Committee with a voice vote.  Again, some very unfortunate events took place during the Full House Ed committee with objections being raised but the chair of the committee proceeded through the objections and called for a vote and it apparently passed with a majority through a voice vote.  I do know we lost a vote as Rep. Townsend (former superintendent) decided to switch his vote to a yes.  We have several former educators (republicans) on the House Ed Committee all voting for the bill. I used to think that having former educators on this committee would help us stop policies that are slowly contributing to the dismantling K-12 Public Ed (impact will hurt K-12 in years to come) from moving forward but I stand corrected. Even as some language changes were made to SB 233 not all favorable, it somehow changed minds and votes. This was very disappointing. I believe some of these representatives are very sincere in their positions but one of us is sincerely wrong. Over time with this and other bills that have passed in past years and now others that are moving this session are contributing to this trajectory. Yet we remain, to provide perspective and feedback on any and all legislation.

Here are some of the changes:

The student scholarship amount increased from $6000 to $6500. (This will continue in years to come)

The parent or guardian of the student must reside in Georgia for one year prior to eligibility.

This allows Homeschool students to participate with the voucher in part-time college and career academies.

Requires reporting of aggregate data, student level data, amount of money parent has accessed, and graduation rate.

Identifies the lower quartile (25%) of schools performance for student eligibility.

Creates terms of service for the parent review committee to have staggered terms with the President or designee of the Georgia Student Finance Commission serving on the parent review committee.

Each student will participate in the state assessment at the local resident district.

Three amendments passed to shape the bill further:

Number 1 – Administrative development begins July 1, 2023, while  the date of implementation of this voucher bill would be July 1, 2024.

Number 2 –  the student is not a beneficiary of a scholarship, tuition grant, or other benefit from a student scholarship organization, nor should a student or parent seek to receive any scholarship, tuition grant, or other benefit in which the student is participating. Parents agree to provide an education in reading, grammar, math, social studies, and science and that students cannot enroll in any type of public school but can enroll part time in a college and career academy. (Homeschool access)

Number 3 –  This addressed the assessment and enrollment requirements already mentioned above.

Other bills heard in Senate Education and Youth:

HB 51 – Rep. Pirkle – Alternative Transport bill –  Allows for alternate transport of smaller numbers of students in alternate vehicles. Sen Randy Robertson added language to include (GISA) Georgia Independent Schools Association to participate if GHSA was participating in sports and academics.  Bill passed with the new GHSA language added.

HB 81 – Rep. Corbett – Allows low wealth districts to access funding for facilities improvements if they meet certain criteria. There is a provision that sets 10 year qualification time period. Just under 50 schools currently qualify according to today’s testimony.

HB 87 – Rep Erwin – Non Traditional Schools Act – Relates to Foothills, Mountain Ed, and Coastal Plains special schools and addresses attendance zones and funding. Passed.

HB 318 – Rep. Hilton – Moves the Office of Charter Schools from the GADOE to State School Charter Commission while reporting to the State Board of Education.  Passed.

HB 318 – Rep. Erwin – Student Technology Protection Act – Provides filtering on a variety of school/system/student technology and devices. Age appropriate material would still be available to students. Passed

HB 538 – Rep Ballard – Georgia Early Literacy Act – To address literacy with the goal of improving reading by the third grade in Georgia. Still lacks appropriate funding for assessments and screener. Passed.

The FY24 budget (HB 19) will be heard on the Senate Floor Thursday.  The budget reports fully funding of QBE and supports the $2000 raise for teachers.  It should be added to the state salary schedule.

This has been an active day and we will be continuing our battle to represent K-12 Public Education and its future. GSSA will continue our reporting from the Capitol as we slide in to the last 3 days.  The fight continues. Have a good night!

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