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Tuesday, March 14, 2023 - Day 33
Seven legislative days remain in 2023 session

GAE Call to Action - Stop SB 233
A radical and massive voucher bill

Senate Education Committee passes bill protecting teacher planning periods

The Senate Education Committee passed legislation this afternoon, HB 340, to ensure teachers, K-12, will have one period of planning time each day.  The bill is sponsored by Rep. John Corbett, R-Lowndes County.

HB 340 is an important step in recognizing the rights and needs of educators and draws attention to some of the reasons why educators today feel such stress and burnout.  The protection of daily planning time was one of the recommendations of a Georgia Department of Education study on teacher burnout.  According to that report, issued this past summer, "Teachers' planning and instructional time must be treated as sacred."

"Planning period" is described in HB 340 as: "A block of time when a teacher is not responsible for the direct supervision of student safety or conduct or for providing instruction to students."

The bill also states: "No local board of education shall increase the number of hours to be worked by an employee as a result of such employee's being granted a planning period ..." and "planning period[s] shall not be calculated under any circumstances as a part of any daily lunch period or other non-instructional time."

The bill now goes to the Senate Rules Committee to be added to the calendar of legislation to be considered by the 56 members of the Senate.

During the discussion about HB 340, several Senators expressed concern about whether or not the bill could be waived by school systems.  Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, told committee members that it was time to study waivers and whether or not they provide any benefit to students.  School districts in Georgia can, and do, waive many laws in Title 20, the section of Georgia law governing public education.  School districts - in fact all but two - waive state laws setting class size maximums, for example.  Others waive health and physical education requirements, duty-free lunch laws, fair dismissal, and others.  Sen. Nabilah Islam, D-Gwinnett, filed legislation this session to eliminate waivers in several key areas.  Her bill number is SB 268.

The Senate committee also gave its approval to HB 87, entitled the "Non-Traditional Special Schools Act."  The bill, sponsored by the Chair of the House Education Committee, Rep. Chris Erwin, R-Banks County, proposes changes to the charters of Coastal Plains Education Charter High School, Foothills Education Charter High School, and Mountain Education Charter High School, and the funding for these schools.

These schools offer individualized, self-paced, accredited evening high school for students who would have otherwise dropped out of school.  In remarks before a House Education subcommittee earlier this session, representatives of each of these schools expressed support for the legislation, which passed House 170-0 on February 15.

Having gained the support of the Senate Education Committee, the bill can be debated and voted on before the full Senate in the remaining seven legislative days.

Time ran out before a third bill, HB 538, the "Georgia Early Literacy Act," could be heard by the Committee.  As passed by the Georgia House of Representatives, the bill would direct the State Department of Education "provide a universal reading screener that ... shall be made available for use free of charge to public schools and local school systems" and which would be implemented three-times-a-year.  The bill also tasks the State Board of Education with the approval of high-quality instructional materials to be used for teaching students to read in grades K-3.  The bill passed the House on March 6, 174-0.

The bill also requires the Department - in consultation with the University System of Georgia (USG), the Professional Standards Commission (PSC), the Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), Georgia's Regional Education Service Agencies (RESA), and literacy experts - to develop one or more training programs for K-3 teachers on the science of reading, structured literacy, and foundational literacy skills that enable students to develop reading skills required to meet state standards in literacy.

Committee Chair Clint Dixon, R-Gwinnett, indicated the bill would either be heard this Thursday or on Tuesday of next week, though no specific date or time has been set.  There will likely be amendments to the bill in committee.



If you have not yet, please take a moment tonight to contact members of the House Education Committee in opposition to SB 233, a radical and massive voucher bill, that will likely be the subject of a hearing next week.  Use GAE's "two-click" process.  A sample letter is provided to guide you.  Remember, the most effective communications to legislators are personalized.

4 bills up tomorrow in House Ed Committee

The House Education Committee has four bills on its agenda for tomorrow morning at 8:30, in Room 515 of the Coverdell Building.  The meeting will be live-streamed at https://vimeo.com/showcase/8988920?autoplay=1.  The bills are:

SB 32, which would require school systems to develop "mobile panic alert systems" to ensure real-time coordination between local and state law enforcement and first responder agencies during a time of a school emergency.

SB 45
provides for the creation of a "seizure action plan" to be followed by a school for a student with epilepsy or other seizure disorders.

SB 204, regulating school system accrediting agencies, would limit accreditation reviews to student achievement measures and financial efficacy only.

SB 211 establishes the Georgia Council on Literacy and charges it with conducting comprehensive reviews of birth-to-postsecondary literacy programs.  The Council would make recommendations as to the status of the professional development needed by current teachers for the improvement in literacy instruction, pre-K thru 3th grade.  The bill also creates a statewide "Georgia Literacy Coach" within the Governor's Office of Scholastic Achievement (GOSA) to work with the Georgia Alliance of Education Agency department heads on other recommendations.
House Retirement Committee meeting canceled

A meeting scheduled for today by the House Retirement Committee was canceled.  GAE was hopeful that SB 240, by Sen. Larry Walker, R-Perry, would have been called.

The bill requires a study and report of school systems in Georgia that are not participating in the Social Security System for ESPs in the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS).

Ban on gender-affirming surgeries passes House committee

In a tense and lengthy meeting this afternoon, the House Public Health Committee passed SB 140, a bill to ban gender-affirming surgery and hormone replacement therapy for individuals under 18 years of age.  The vote of the committee was 12-10.

The legislation states: "No sex reassignment surgeries, or any other surgical procedures, that are performed for the purpose of altering primary or secondary sexual characteristics shall be performed on a minor for the treatment of gender dysphoria …"

The bill was amended in committee to allow civil and criminal charges against doctors who violate the provisions of the measure.
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