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Monday, March 18, 2024 - Day 36
Four days left in session!


A bill to create a massive new private school voucher program, which passed the Georgia House of Representatives last Thursday by one vote, is expected before the full Senate as early as Wednesday.  The bill is SB 233.

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Talking points on SB 233

SB 233 robs the poorest students in Georgia's poorest schools of the funding they need.  That funding is siphoned off to pay for the private school education of more privileged children.

SB 233 gives false hope to working families. The amount of the voucher, $6,500, isn’t nearly enough to pay for most private schools, for which tuition may be as high as $50,000.  As one writer stated: "To poor families confronted with such prices, a voucher isn’t a lifeline, it’s a taunt."

In states that have private schools vouchers, a large majority of students utilizing the program were already enrolled in private school.  In Arizona, 80% of the students using a private school voucher have never been enrolled in a public school.  In New Hampshire, 89% have never attended a public school.

Vouchers are not a lifeline for working families, they are a handout to upper class parents paid for by the working class.
Where vouchers have been enacted, fraud follows. An Arizona audit showed $1 billion in fraudulent misuse of voucher dollars spent on "educational expenses," like horseback-riding and tennis lessons, home gyms, and museum tours in Europe.

"There is no transparency or accountability in the bill.  A group of parents whose children benefit from the voucher get to determine for themselves which 'education expenses' are okay."

All protections against discrimination of students based on religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, sex and disability disappear in private schools.  Further, private schools have no obligation to enroll any student. The choice belongs to the school ... not the parent or child.

Vouchers are not popular in Georgia.  A poll conducted by the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs earlier this year found that 2/3rd of Georgians said they oppose using taxpayer funds to pay for private schooling.

SB 233 is wrong for Georgia'
s students and working families.
House Retirement Committee
to hear ESP pension bill tomorrow
A bill to eliminate the current freeze on retirement benefits for school bus drivers, nutrition workers, custodians, and maintenance personnel will be the subject of a hearing tomorrow at 3 p.m.  Current laws prohibits any increases in their pension benefits.  The formula for determining benefits for members of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) is $16.50 multiplied by years of experience.

SB 105 eliminates that $16.50 multiplier, allowing future calculations to increase.

The average monthly pension amount for current retirees is $290.

The House Education Committee met today and passed two bills by state Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Paulding County.

SB 32 would require each public school district to implement a mobile panic alert system capable of connecting emergency services in real-time between schools and local and state law enforcement and first responders.

SB 351, the "Protecting Georgia's Children on Social Media Act of 2024," modifies "character curriculum" to include "methods of promoting responsible digital citizenship and the safe and appropriate use of technology, the internet, and social media."

The bill also requires schools to "prohibit students from accessing social media platforms through the use of computer equipment, communications services, or internet access that is operated, owned, leased, and made available to students by the local governing body, the school system, or a public school."

SB 351 would further amend state laws on "bullying" to include "cyberbullying."  Cyberbullying is defined to mean "bullying that involves the use of electronic communication, including, but not limited to, communication devices and services, including ... cellular telephones, cameras, computers, social media platforms, text messages, chat platforms, and internet sites."  The bill passed the subcommittee.

In committee, language was added from HB 910, by Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, that requires age verification procedures to access certain web sites that contain material deemed "harmful to minors."

The Senate Education and Youth Committee has scheduled two meetings tomorrow, however, no agenda has been posted for either.
The next GAE Legislative Update will be Wednesday, March 20.
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