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Tuesday, February 20, 2024 - Day 23
Prior Legislative Updates for this Year

GAE President Lisa Morgan speaks to the House Education's Subcommittee on Policy on HB 846.
House Education Committee heard five bills today
Thirty-five committees met today in a rush to get bills out of committee before next week's Crossover Day.

Crossover Day is the deadline for a bill to be passed in the chamber of its introduction to be eligible for  consideration in the other chamber in the final twelve days of the session.  This year, Crossover Day is February 29.

An incredible six committees heard education-related pieces of legislation in a span of three hours.

The House Education Committee's Subcommittee on Policy was first, taking up three bills:

HB 846, a GAE-backed bill to require local school systems to notify employees at the time of hire whether social security taxes will be withheld from their pay, if they are eligible to be included in a plan with coverage for the benefits of Title II of the Social Security Act, and if the employee is eligible to be included in any other pension or retirement plan.  Additional notification is required every five years.

GAE President and kindergarten teacher Lisa Morgan testified before the committee giving GAE's support for the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Rob Leverett of Elberton.  Morgan suggested the committee amend the bill to include another notification at the time the employee ends their employment with the district.  The author accepted Morgan's idea as a friendly amendment and the bill was amended with her suggestion.  HB 846 passed the subcommittee unanimously and now goes to the full House Education Committee, perhaps later this week.

Next on the agenda was a bill, HB 1221, by Rep. Tyler Paul Smith, R-Bremen, which would allow students to transfer to another public school district if the receiving district wishes to accept the student.
  There was no vote on the bill today.

The third bill in House Education Committee's Policy Subcommittee was HB 1122, a bill authored by Rep. Scott Milton, R-Peachtree Corners, that would increase funding for administrators in charter schools.  The bill passed committee.

At the conclusion of the House Education Committee's Subcommittee on Policy, the Subcommittee on Curriculum considered two bills:

HB 1027, a bill to mandate, as a condition of graduation, a full credit computer science course by the 2026-2027 school year.  Computer science is defined in state law as meaning "the study of computers, algorithmic processes, coding, and critical thinking, including computer principles, their hardware and software designs, their implementation, and their impact on society."  The bill passed the subcommittee and could be brought up in the full House Education Committee later this week.

HB 822, Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Gainesville, make changes to the curriculum of sex education and HIV prevention that the sponsor says are "age appropriate" and "medically accurate."  The bill has bi-partisan support reflected in the sponsors of the bill.  The bill passed unanimously.

Senate Education debates eight bills
While the House Education Committee was concluding, the Senate Education Committee was just coming to order with five bills on its agenda:

SB 147, like HB 1221, deals with student transfers from one public school district to another.  At one point, the bill required that equalization grants in the resident district be transferred to the enrolling districts.  That concept has since been stripped from the bill.  The vote on the bill was tied, four legislators for and four against.  Chair Dixon then broke the tie, and the bill passed.

SB 459 was offered by Senate Education Committee Chair Clint Dixon, which he calls the "Civics Education and Portraits in Patriotism Act."  The bill states: "The State Board of Education shall, by the start of the 2025-2026 school year, develop a comprehensive civics education program for students in kindergarten through grade 12."

Democrats on the Committee objected to this part of the bill: "Such program shall aid students in developing ... An understanding of the civic-minded expectations of an upright and desirable citizenry that recognizes and accepts responsibility for preserving and defending the blessings of liberty inherited from prior generations and secured by the United States Constitution."

They argued the language was ambiguous and subjective, some pointing to a day not long ago when African-Americans were considered neither upright nor desirable.  An amendment to strike that sentence from the bill failed, and the bill subsequently passed 5-4.

SB 492 by Sen. Rick Williams, R-Milledgeville, would require school systems to "ensure that any stop at which a student is required to enter or exit the school bus is located upon the same side of the roadway as the door to the bus."

Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Forsyth County, argued that the bill would actually put more children in harm since they would perhaps cross busy roads without bus signal stops signs and flashing lights to warn drivers.

Another Republican, Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said the cost to school systems would be enormous having to drive up and back over the same roads to ensure the school bus door was always on the side of the road.  He also stated that because of the increase bus miles, school bus drivers would have to pick up children as early as 4:30 a.m. to get students to school on time.

The bill is called "Addy's Law," named for 8-year-old Adalynn Pierce, who was killed at a bus stop.  A driver drove around the bus and hit her.
  There was no vote on the bill today.  It was suggested at the hearing that a study committee might be formed instead of passage of the bill.

A similar bill in the House, HB 1284, also called "Addy's Law," by Rep. Lauren Daniel, R-Locust Grove, differs in its approach, stating: "In establishing routes for school buses, a public school system shall consider routes that do not have stops requiring a student entering the school bus to cross a roadway with a speed limit of 40 miles per hour or greater."

SB 365, by Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Forsyth County, would require schools to notify parents and legal guardians of the right to receive email notification each time their child obtains school library materials.  The bill also requires "any written or electronic materials made available to students in a public school, including classroom materials, school library materials, or any materials made available to a public school student as part of an extracurricular activity offered or supervised by the public school" be included in the school system's compliant resolution policy for material that is "harmful to minors."  The bill passed the Committee on a narrow 5-4 vote.

A second bill by Sen. Dolezal, SB 154, was referred to a Senate Education Committee subcommittee for further action.  The bill amends the Georgia Criminal Code, Title 16, "Crimes and Offenses," "Offenses Against Public Health and Morals," and "Obscenity and Related Offenses."  If the bill passes as is, it could result in criminal charges against school librarians, media specialists, teachers, and teacher assistants.

Four bills were sent to subcommittee:

The aforementioned SB 154, and:

SB 438, a bill to segregate school restrooms based on gender identified at birth.

SB 423, by Sen. Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta, regarding defibrillators
and the creation of a cardiac emergency response plan in schools, was passed out of subcommittee.

SB 432, by Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, requires recess in grades K-8
also passed the subcommittee.

House Retirement Hears Bill to Expand the Law
that Allows Retired Educators to Return to the Classroom
Two years ago, the General Assembly passed and the governor signed into law a bill, HB 385, that allows retired educators to return to the classroom at salary-schedule pay while drawing TRS benefits.

The program is an excellent idea to address a shortage of teachers in subject areas of greatest need.  Qualifying educators must have been retired for 12 months.  Two years ago, however, the bill was so watered down and qualifications for eligibility so narrow that only about 300 retired educators have signed up for the program.

Last year, Rep. Doreen Carter, D-Lithonia, proposed a bill, HB 484, to expand from three to six the subject areas of highest need.  Today, the House Retirement Committee brought the bill up but took no vote on it.  GAE President Lisa Morgan testified in support of the legislation.
  The bill also extends the expiration of the program, which would occur in 2026, to 2027.
Register for the tomorrow's Legislative Contact Team (LCT)
meeting in preparation for GAE Day at the Capitol.
Click on the graphic above.
Next Legislative Update will be Wednesday, February 21
Early, in-person voting has begun for the Presidential Primaries in Georgia
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