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Wednesday, April 10 2024
Legislative Session Detailed Summary 

The Georgia General Assembly adjourned Thursday, March 28, 2024, at about one o'clock in the morning.  GAE was there until the end.

Bills that passed both chambers are transmitted to the governor.  The governor has 40 days to sign bills into law or veto them, preventing them from becoming law.
  No bills from this session carry over to the next session and must be re-introduced next year if they are to be considered.

The following bills, in numeric order by chamber of introduction, passed both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate and will soon be on the governor's desk.

HB 51 will allow school systems to use vehicles other than big, yellow school buses, such as mini-vans or SUVs, to transport up to eight students to school-related activities.  The bill is silent as to what qualifications, if any, a driver of such a vehicle would need.

SB 105, a GAE priority bill that allows for future and immediate increases in the state pension plan for school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and maintenance personnel in the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS).  An appropriation in the 2024-2025 budget increases the current multiplier immediately for current and former retirees.

HB 282, legislation that began as a bill to require a minimum course of study in "career readiness" education in grades 6-12, and then got loaded up with content from several other bills.  The bill states such "career readiness" must include "instruction and training experiences focused on employability and career readiness skills" and "problem solving and resiliency, effective communication, time management and efficiency, and collaboration, teamwork, and leadership competencies in the workplace."  HB 282 is one of dozens of examples of the Georgia General Assembly's obsession with micro-managing school curriculum.

Added to HB 282 is language to require school boards give priority to the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts, which the bill defines as "patriotic societies," "in the use of school facilities ... for the purposes of encouraging civic education."  The bill also allows the families of local school board members to qualify for school-provided health insurance.  HB 282 further directs the State Department of Education to develop rules to ensure that "limited-English-proficient" students and their parents and guardians are provided information regarding programs to develop English language proficiency and the availability of interpreters.

The bill includes language requiring 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.  Finally, HB 282, as passed, amended the law pertaining to the "Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Act" to make administrative changes to the private school voucher program for students with medical and learning disabilities.

HB 409, as passed, states: "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."  The bill also increases, from $250 to $1,000, the fine for passing a school bus at a bus stop.  Language pertaining to charter schools was added to the bill that stated:

"[T]he term 'education service provider' means any organization that contracts with new or existing charter schools to provide services including, but not limited to, curriculum design, professional development, student assessments, financial and operational management, facilities management, human resources management, or employee benefits."

"A state charter school may utilize teachers, other instructional staff, and non-instructional staff who are employees of an education service provider only if the governing board of such state charter school retains the authority to select and dismiss such teachers, other instructional staff, and noninstructional staff from service at the state charter school."

HB 874 requires defibrillators in public schools, a related written emergency action plan, two drills a year, and an internal response team of composed of at least five school staff members.  A similar bill in the Senate, SB 395, includes language requiring defibrillators, and proposes schools maintain a supply of opioid antagonists and also passed the General Assembly.

HB 995 requires schools to administer a nationally recognized multiple-aptitude battery assessment that predicts success in the military to certain public school students (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery or ASVAB exam) for students who want to take it.

HB 1010 doubles the paid parental leave that educators and state employees can receive for the birth or adoption of a child or when a child enters a foster home.

HB 1122 provides funding for administrators for charter schools.  An amendment to the bill also requires the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) to establish a ranking of schools, on a scale of 0-100, which would presumably be used to identify the "lowest performing schools" in the state for eligibility in the recently passed private school voucher program, from SB 233.  The bill further allows the children of educators, including para-professionals, who work for at least 20 hours per school week on average measured monthly, to attend the school at which their parent or guardian is employed.

HB 1183 requires local school systems provide information to parents and guardians of students in grades 6 through 12 on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

SB 50 allows school districts to provide instruction in lifeguarding and aquatic safety if they choose.

SB 169 , if signed, will amend state law to state: "The [disciplinary] hearing is held no later than ten school days after the beginning of the suspension unless the school system and parents or guardians mutually agree to an extension, in which case the school system shall set a new date and time of the hearing that shall not occur more than 15 school days after the beginning of the suspension.  The hearing may be held later than 15 school days after the beginning of the suspension upon a written request by a parent or guardian and agreement by the school system."  The bill also requires the school to provide appropriate grade-level instructional materials to any student awaiting completion of the hearing."

SB 233 creates a new private school voucher program.  It passed the Georgia House of Representatives by one vote.

SB 233 has come a long way since its introduction in the state Senate, when it was a "universal" voucher bill, providing state funding for private school tuition to any student in the state.

Realizing that taxpayer subsidies for all students in Georgia wouldn't pass the Senate, the sponsor, Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Forsyth County, amended the bill to make only students in the "lowest performing 25% of schools" in Georgia eligible.  As result, the bill robs the poorest students in Georgia's poorest schools of the funding they need to underwrite the private school education of more privileged children.

The final, watered-down version of the bill that passed further limits the number of eligible students to those in the lowest performing schools whose families also make less than 400% of the federal poverty level.

The final bill also includes a sunset, meaning the program will end in ten years unless the legislature passes new legislation to keep it going, and capped the amount the state would spend on the program to $140 million annually, or 1% of QBE.

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 to require age verification procedures to access certain web sites that contain material deemed "harmful to minors" on any device, personal or otherwise.

SB 362, which requires businesses that receive economic development incentives from the state to recognize labor unions only on the basis of a vote by employees conducted by secret ballot.

SB 440 creates the Accelerated Career Diploma Program through courses in the Technical College System of Georgia included in the "High-Demand Career List" published by the State Workforce Development Board.  Grants for the program would be funded by the state Georgia Student Finance Commission. The bill also changes some definitions in the "Georgia Dual Enrollment Act."  For example, traditional dual enrollment students are limited to 30 semester hours paid by the state.  Under SB 440, the limit on semester hours may be waived for students participating in this new program.

SB 464, the "School Supplies for Teachers Program," would provide discounts or state funding on a web site for use by public school teachers but no funding was provided for the program.

he 2024-2025 state budget includes $5.6 million to raise retirement benefits of bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and maintenance personnel who are in the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS).  The budget also includes:

A $2,500 permanent salary step increase for classroom teachers and salary bumps of 4% for custodians, school nurses and bus drivers.

The budget also includes $6.3 million allocated to provide free and reduced breakfast and lunch and a $200 million annual increase in pupil transportation funding.  The budget also provides $1.6 million for Pre-3 literacy screener tests.

Pre-K was a big winner in the budget, receiving funding to reduce class sizes from 22 to 20, increase salaries for Pre-K lead and assistant teachers, and allow state funding for classroom space for public school systems that offer Pre-K programs.
Noteworthy bills that DID NOT pass

HB 148, to provide compensation for student teachers.  GAE will be back next year working for its passage.  Unlike many other states, Georgia provides no financial support for student teachers who are enrolled full-time in college and working full-time in our public schools.

A few years ago, the General Assembly adopted a bill that allows retired educators to return to the classroom full-time while receiving Teachers Retirement System (TRS) benefits in subject areas that school districts find hard to find teachers.  A little more than 300 retired educators have signed up for the program, largely because the House limited the pool of eligible, retired educators.  HB 484 would have expanded from three to six the subject areas of highest need and extended the expiration of the program to 2027.

HB 822 would have modified existing law to require a course of study in sex education and HIV prevention that is age appropriate and medically accurate.

HB 846 would have directed "local school systems to annually notify employees whether Social Security taxes will be withheld from their pay and whether they are eligible to be included in certain other benefits, pension, or retirement plans.  The bill passed the House 160-1 but was never brought to the full Senate.

HB 897 would have banned schools, government entities, and businesses from requiring vaccinations or immunizations for any contagious or infectious diseases and also would have prohibited these entities from requiring the use of masks. Alarmingly, the bill would have prohibited the requirement of vaccinations already required in Georgia, including for whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus (DTaP shot), chickenpox, Hepatitis A and B, Haemophilus influenzae Type B, measles, meningitis, mumps, polio, rubella, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and tetanus.

HB 936 would have required each multiple occupancy restroom or changing area in a public school to be designated for use by either males or females.  The bill would have allowed a parent or guardian to sue the school or school system if they encounter a member of the opposite sex in a multiple occupancy restroom or changing area and that person had received permission from school staff.  The Professional Standards Commission (PSC) would have been authorized to investigate reported non-compliance.

HB 987 would have revised the definition of a qualified local school system school for equalization grants by reducing the minimum required millage rate or equivalent millage rate from 14 mills to 10 mills.

HB 1027 would have required a computer science course as a condition of high school graduation.

HB 1036 would have required a course in pregnancy, health, and human development for grades 9 through 12.

HB 1045 would have required schools to give notice and receive consent prior to providing students with sexual orientation or gender identity instruction.  Notice to parents or guardians was proposed 30 days before instruction is to have begun.  "No school shall be required to provide sexual orientation or gender identity instruction," the bill read.  The bill also declared that written parental permission must be given to change a student's name in school records as well as a "copy of a court order providing for the change in the student's legal name."  The measure also would have prohibited educators from "coerc[ing] a student under the age of 18 years to withhold from his or her parent or legal guardian that his or her perception of his or her gender is inconsistent with his or her sex."

HB 1082 to permit students and educators to engage in privately initiated religious speech and activities during school hours.

HB 1097 would have eliminated the option of virtual driver's education courses, requiring all driver's ed classes to be in person.

HB 1104, as amended in the Senate, would have:

•  Proposed that parents and guardians "opt-in" rather "opt-out" students for sex education classes and mandated that no sex education may be conducted before the sixth grade.  School systems themselves could opt-out of offering sex education classes,

•  Resurrected SB 365, which would have required that public school libraries notify parents and guardians of any material checked out by their child,

•  Required students use the restrooms or locker rooms associated with the gender determined at birth and prohibits "any person whose gender is male but whose gender identity is female to participate in any interscholastic athletics designated for females," and

•  Expanded the "Parents Bill of Rights" (HB 1178) that passed a few years ago to create a new parental complaint process to challenge "instructional material."  The amended HB 1104 would have expanded the law to cover "any written or electronic materials made available to students in a public school."

HB 1128, the so-called "Georgia Women's Bill of Rights," attempted to define the terms "men,"  "women," and "sex."

The term 'sex' meant, according to the bill, "the biological state of being male or female, in the context of reproductive potential or capacity, based on the individual's sex organs, chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones, gonads, and unambiguous internal and external genitalia present at birth, including secondary sex characteristics."

The bill further stated: "An individual's sex can be observed or clinically verified at or before birth and in no case is an individual's sex determined by stipulation or self-identification."

The bill also proposed to define the word 'female' as such: "... an individual who has, had, will have, or would have, but for a developmental or genetic anomaly or historical accident, the reproductive system that at some point produces, transports, and utilizes eggs for fertilization."  HB 1128 defines the word 'male' as "an individual who has, had, will have, or would have, but for a developmental or genetic anomaly or historical accident, the reproductive system that at some point produces, transports, and utilizes sperm for fertilization."

HB 1170, which would have prohibited students under the age of 18 from using so-called "puberty blockers," also died on the final day of the session, 23-30, having previously passed the state Senate by a 32-19 vote.

HB 1171 was a proposal to bring back a "back-to-school" sales tax holidaySB 527 had the same intention.

HB 1221 pertained to inter-school system student transfers.  The bill stated that the amount of tuition charged by the enrolling system could not exceed total revenues, less federal revenues, less state revenues per full-time equivalent student for the local unit of administration that enrolls such student," unless the enrolling students were enrolled in a school that "received an individual school rating" placing it in the lowest 25% of performing schools.  Parts of this bill were added to SB 233, the private school voucher legislation.

HB 1226 would require public schools to allow students one-hour of excused, off-campus, religious moral instruction.  The bill stated, "Each local education agency may adopt a policy that awards academic credit" for the class.

HB 1262 would have allowed students and parents to sue their school system for failing to provide an "adequate" education.

HB 1351 would have provided additional funding for school districts with a high number of "students living in poverty."  "Students living in poverty" was defined as families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, homeless students, foster care students, or migrant students."  HB 1328, also by Rep. Glaize, proposed a specific Quality Basic Education (QBE) weight of 1.75 for students living in poverty.  By comparison, QBE basic weights for high school students is 1.00, for middle school students, 1.1218, and for kindergarten students, 1.6601.  SB 284, by Sen. Jason Esteves, was a similar bill in the Senate.  A fourth bill, HB 3, by Rep. Sandra Scott, was filed earlier in the session.

HB 1381 would have authorized the Professional Standards Commission (PSC) to establish a Georgia Literacy Coach Certification Program.

HB 1384 proposed to increase from three to five the number of "days of any accumulated sick leave for the purpose of absenting themselves from their duties for personal or professional reasons if prior approval of their absence is given by the local school superintendent." 

SB 88 would have defined "gender identity" as "a person's self-perceived, asserted, or claimed gender regardless of the person's sex."  Other parts of the bill stated:

"Gender ideology or queer theory means and includes the beliefs that sex is fluid and changing, that the male-female sex binary does not capture the complexity of the human species ..."

"Sex means the organization of the body parts and gametes for reproduction in human beings and other organisms.  In human beings, there are exactly two sexes, male and female, with two corresponding types of gametes.  The sexes are determined by the biological and genetic indication of male or female, including sex chromosomes, naturally occurring sex chromosomes, gonads, and non-ambiguous internal and external genitalia present at birth, without regard to an individual's psychological, behavioral, social, chosen, or subjective experience of gender."

Using these definitions, and others, the bill stated:

"No person¹ standing in loco parentis nor the private school which employs him or her shall implement any curriculum or instruction addressing issues of gender identity queer theory, gender ideology, or gender transition, without first providing notice of such curriculum or instruction to and obtaining the express written permission from each parent of each child who will participate in such curriculum or instruction."

is defined in Georgia law as a "natural person, firm, co-partnership, association, or corporation."

Local school boards were to be directed to develop policies regarding gender identity and gender transition that would have included:

•   Policies for incorporating appropriate parental involvement when a student approaches school personnel with questions or concerns about the student's gender identity;

•   Policies regarding parental notification of any discussion of gender identity or gender transition initiated by school personnel;

•   Policies for when school personnel should refer students with gender identity or gender transition questions to a designated school administrator, school counselor, school social worker, or other professional for further discussion.

Schools that failed to adopt such policies risk would have risked state funding and could have been barred from GHSA sports.  Private schools operated by a religious institution were to have exemptions "to the extent that requirements of this Code section would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the institution."  Violations by an educator would have triggered an investigation by the Professional Standards Commission (PSC).

SB 147 passed the Senate but failed to receive a vote in the House.  The bill proposed to enroll students from other school districts across the state, taking state funding from the students' home-resident system.  Similar language was included in final version of SB 233, the private school voucher bill.

SB 154 was a bill that could have subjected librarians and other educators to jail time for providing material to students that was considered obscene or harmful to minors.

SB 202 stated: "The Department of Education is authorized to establish a pilot program, beginning in the 2024-2025 school year, to provide for the development and study of outdoor learning spaces on elementary and secondary school property." The bill passed the Senate 51-0.  The bill never received a vote in the House.

SB 208, the "Georgia Development Impact Fee Act," and its corresponding proposed Constitutional amendment, SR 189 , proposed impact fees for public education, and died in the House on sine die.

SB 240, originally a bill to require a study of school districts to determine which are and are not contributing to Social Security on behalf of members of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), was amended to allow charter school teachers to opt-out of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS).  The bill raised questions about the potential financial impact the bill could have on the TRS.  Further, the bill appeared only to benefit one specific charter school.

SB 268, a GAE-supported bill to eliminate certain school district waivers, will be back next year.  Waivers are requested by school systems to avoid compliance with state public education laws.  School districts have waivers such that they do not have to follow the state teacher salary minimums and class sizes, for example.

SB 379, the "School Chaplains Act," would have allowed public schools to retain volunteer "school chaplains" "in lieu of employing school counselors to perform the duties required of a school counselor."  There were no qualifications proposed in the bill for these "chaplains" requiring, for instance, formal training, education experience, or background checks.

SB 386 would have legalized betting on sporting events, administered by the Georgia Lottery, and for the benefit of pre-K and the HOPE Scholarship.

SB 390 would have prohibited the use of state funding to purchase or utilize any product or service of the American Library Association (ALA), including accreditation.  Reasons given by the backers of the bill for its justification were that the president of the ALA is a "lesbian Marxist."

SB 394 was tied to the state statutory definition of "harmful to minors."  It also pertained to "instructional material," which is defined in Georgia law, and "sexual material."  SB 394 proposed to create the Orwellian-sounding "Georgia Council of Library Material Standards," a board to be populated by unelected members, that would rate the content of books in school libraries.

SB 432 would have required recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through eight.  The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously but was never brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

SB 476, to allow certain non-citizens to qualify for in-state tuition in Georgia's technical college system, if the student:

1) Obtained a high school diploma or state approved high school equivalency (HSE) diploma in this state;

(2) Attended a high school in this state for three years before obtaining a high school diploma or state approved high school equivalency (HSE) diploma in this state;

(3) Is legally authorized to work in this state; and

(4) Has not been convicted of a felony, a high and aggravated misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety."

SB 492 would require school systems to "ensure that any [bus] 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.

SB 501 to encourage any public school teacher or administrator to read or post in a public school building or classroom" the Ten Commandments."

B 556, by Sen. Sonya Halpern, was a bill that would create a three-year pilot program for robotics, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for students in public schools that performed in the lowest 50 percent of all public schools based on the cumulative individual school ratings prepared by the Office of Student Achievement (GOSA).  Up to ten schools could have qualified. 

A proposed Constitutional amendment (SR 575) that would have allowed up to 15% of E-SPLOST funds to be used for "the procurement of materials, supplies, and instructional supports to be used for educational purposes in the classroom."  Currently E-SPLOST (Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) revenue is limited in use for capital projects and to reduce debts.
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