House to reconsider education SPLOST

  The House will reconsider a Constitutional amendment concerning a county and city school district calling and distributing a SPLOST after it was defeated Tuesday. SR 95, sponsored by Sen. Ellis Black, lost by a resounding 74-101 margin, although no one really spoke out in opposition during the hearing on the House floor.  Rep. Randy Nix, who is carrying the resolution in the House, immediately asked for reconsideration. The opposition wasn’t split along party lines this time, but was split equally among the two parties. House Speaker Pro-Tem Jan Jones reminded members of the House that this was the fourth time this issue has come up for vote in the 14 years.  “This body has voted on this issue three times in the 14 years I have been here, and the first time it originated with me in 2003,” said Jones. “We have approved it and sent it to the Senate three times. This time it is originated in the Senate.” SR 95 has moved around in committee this session. In February, the legislation was withdrawn from the committee on Finance and sent to the committee on Education and Youth in Senate. Two weeks later it was withdrawn from Education and recommitted to Ways and Means Legislation states that the proceeds will be distributed on a per student basis among all the school systems unless an agreement is reached for a different distribution. Sen. Ellis Black, sponsor of the amendment, served fourteen years in the House before moving to the...

Deal – backed education bill passes House

  The future of Georgia’s children took center stage Wednesday, as members of the Georgia House of Representatives pushed party lines aside and approved legislation aimed at turning around the state’s low-performing schools. House Bill 338, authored by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), passed by a vote of 138-37, with support from Republicans and Democrats. “We’re talking about the future of our children,” said Minority leader Stacey Abrams, (D-Atlanta) who encouraged  members of the House to support the bill. Abrams has been working with Tanner on the bill throughout the process, and even named several key members of the Democratic caucus to work on the legislation with Tanner. Shortly after the vote, Gov. Nathan Deal praised the House members on passage of the bill. “I applaud the members of the House of Representatives who demonstrated their commitment to improving education outcomes for Georgia’s most vulnerable students,” said Deal. “Rep. Kevin Tanner worked tirelessly with House and Senate leadership, education committee chairmen and other stakeholders to produce this critical and bipartisan legislation. I’m grateful for their cooperation and collaboration on behalf of Georgia students. This is a critical step forward for improving Georgia’s education system for current and future students, families and communities. I look forward to its passage in the Senate and signing HB 338 into law.” The bill now moves to the Senate Youth and Education committee. “I think it’s been built across party lines,” said Tanner, who worked on the bill after voters turned down a referendum in November to establish an Opportunity School District. House Bill 338 still allow schools to be removed from district control and...

Controversial “Sanctuary campus” bill passes House

  A bill aimed at stripping state funds from “sanctuary colleges” in Georgia made it through the State House of Representatives Wednesday, and is headed for the Senate. The new bill would apply to any private colleges or university in Georgia that blocks enforcement of immigration laws on their campuses. Opponents of HB 37 spoke out against passage in Wednesday afternoon’s hearing, stating that no Georgia college or university has actually adopted “safe sanctuary” policies. However, bill sponsor Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) and other proponents  reminded House members before the vote that students and faculty at Emory University sent a petition to the college’s administration asking the campus to become a “sanctuary campus” following the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. House members approved the bill by a 112-57 margin — and the vote was mainly along party lines. Democrats have argued that withholding state dollars would punish United States citizens who depend on scholarships and state grants to attend college. This would impact HOPE scholarship funds. Alabama, Indiana and Pennsylvania have introduced similar bills.    ...

Low-Performing School Bill Being Reworked

  Only minutes after members of the House Education Committee got their first in-depth look at HB 338, the plan for addressing the lowest performing schools, State School Superintendent Richard Woods presented a substitute bill, and expressed concerns over “creating a new bureaucracy within an existing bureaucracy.” Woods’ red-line version of HB 338 would bring the proposed Chief Turnaround Officer into the current organization structure of the Department of Education, under the State Superintendent, instead of serving under the direction of the State Board of Education. This is necessary, Woods said, to avoid creating silos in the Department of Education, something he said he has “worked to bring down since taking office.” “The question here is how can fully support this issue, all of the Department of Education, not one person,” said Woods. “Everyone at the Department of Education needs to work in collaboration so we can be successful. Yes, something must be done, but with the realization that the right thing must be done.” Woods was one of nearly 20 speakers to address the House Education Committee on the bill last Thursday. Representatives from education advocacy groups such as the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, Georgia School Boards Association, and others praised the work of bill author Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), but suggested that the bill could be improved by changing supervision of the Chief Turnaround Officer from the appointed State Board of Education to the elected State School Superintendent. Several speakers also asked for clarity on how the schools chosen for state intervention would be identified, and how the intervention would be funded. Mike Royal, Chairman of...

New House bill pushes for state takeover of failing schools

  After much anticipation, Plan B — an alternative to the Governor’s Proposed Opportunity School District — made its debut late Friday when Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) published HB 338.The new legislation is designed to create an intervention plan for chronically failing schools after voters turned down Amendment 1 (OSD legislation) last November. HB 338 would allow for a state takeover of struggling schools, and like the OSD legislation, would create a new position for a state official to oversee these schools. However, under HB 338, there would be no state appointed Superintendent who would report to the Governor. Instead, a Chief Turnaround Officer (CTO) would be appointed by the State Board and report directly to them. Under HB 338, the CTO should be an employee of the Department of Education, although this person will report directly to the State Board and will serve at the pleasure of the State Board. Legislation also outlines qualifications of the CTO, including: holding the position of principal or higher in a public school system for a minimum of three years; and “extensive experience in turning around failing schools.” The authorities of the CTO are outlined in the 12-page document, including the CTO’s responsibility to recommend personnel to serve as turnaround coaches for State Board approval. The coaches would assist schools identified as in the greatest need of help with ongoing assistance and input, and the coaches could be assigned to one or more school schools. Legislation also states that turnaround coaches “shall assist in creating local collaborations to address personal and community conditions, which shall include the needs, issues, and problems within...

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