Education: Week Three and Four Legislative Update

Legislative Report

February 4, 2014

House Appropriations Hearing

The House appropriations committee met with various education related agencies today.  Below is a summary of each agency’s comments:

Professional Standards Commission: All teacher preparations in the state of Georgia will be reviewed and evaluated under a new program evaluation program initiated by the PSC.  This means programs such as GATAPP and Teach for America teacher preparation programs will now be evaluated in the same manner as traditional teacher preparation programs.

The Department of Early Care and Learning:  This agency received an additional $2 million dollars, which they plan to use for providing additional compensation for teachers.  Specifically, they plan to address equity in compensation.

Teachers Retirement System:  Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) dollars were fully funded within the FY15 budget for those who are eligible.  This applies for all former employees that retired under the old city of Atlanta retirement system.  This was the only item in the TRS budget that was addressed at the hearing.  This retirement system is currently at $62.1 billion, which makes it a very well-funded system.

Hot Bills

House Bill 897 (Dudgeon)

This is the new Title 20 bill.  This bill incorporates various statute changes that legislators would like to make in the current code for education in Georgia.  You may recall that this is one of the top initiatives Representative Brooks Coleman, chair of the House education committee seeks to get passed this session.  I will provide a full summary of this bill in the weekly legislative report.

NoteSection 43 of this bill includes a provision that would require local school systems to offer unused facilities to charter schools.  The definition of underutilized facility would be revised to include any district facility that utilizes less than forty percent of the square footage of the facility for direct instruction.  The definition of an unused facility would be changed to include any excess or unused district owned facility that could be used for school use.  This bill has a high likelihood of passing, therefore, it is a priority to advocate for language favorable to the district’s legislative agenda.

Legislative Action

House Resolution 689 (Drenner) PASS House Academic Support Subcommittee

This is an urging resolution to encourage school systems to use renewable energy sources to improve energy efficiency and cost savings.  Thirteen cents is the average cost per square foot for energy cost in Atlanta Public Schools.  This information was based on a pilot study (not named).

Mike Rolland (GADOE Facilities Department) spoke on this bill.  He argued that the upfront costs are significant and the return on investment is difficult to manage.

House Resolution 486 (Taylor) PASS House Academic Support Subcommittee

This is a Constitutional Amendment to allow new municipalities to develop their own school systems in the metro Atlanta area.  Since 1946, the creation of new school systems have been prohibited in Georgia.  Instead, districts have been encouraged to consolidate.  This would require a two-thirds affirmative vote in both the House and the Senate.  It would then be placed on a ballot as a referendum question statewide.  Historically, it is difficult to get this type of legislation passed.

Each new school system would have to introduce enabling legislation that would create a charter to initiate the formation of the new school system.

The bill’s sponsor, who represents DeKalb County, argues that this will allow communities to proactively deal with emerging issues and have more local control.  It allows the new school systems to cross county lines to cooperate to create one school system, with the consent of both jurisdictions.  There are currently 180 school systems in Georgia.

Those is opposition argued that the tax base would affect the amount of resources available to the newly created school system.  The sponsor used a proposed Dunwoody school system would run a surplus of $30 million if created.

One parent group had multiple speakers in favor of this resolution.  They argued that the optimal size for a school system is under 10,000 students.

Cita Cook, Atlanta Public Schools community advocate, spoke against this measure. She pointed to the issues surrounding a possible transition as an argument against this bill.

February 7, 2014

Legislative Action

Senate Bill 301 (Millar) Passed Senate Education and Youth committee

The bill reverses the prohibition to use wood in the construction of school buildings. The bill does not mandate the use of wood in school construction; it merely gives the choice to do so. The Department of Education is not in support of this bill. 

HB 766 (Lumsden) Passed House Education committee

This bill amends the current Youth Apprenticeship Program and renames it the Work Based Learning Program.  The intent is to update and modernize this program to be better suited for the twenty- first century work force. Public school students who are at least 16 years-old can participate in the program.  They may also gain a minimum of one unit of relatable secondary credit along with employability skill development, cooperative education, internships, and youth apprenticeships from a business or organization that is certified by the Professional Standards Commission.

The bill allows for younger students to be introduced to the work environment through this program.

House Bill 766 (Lumsden) Passed the House

The bill unifies the workplace readiness of Career and Technical Education programs for funding purposes.

House Bill 875 (Jasperse) Passed the Safety Committee. Currently in Rules

This is the new version of the gun bill.  This did not pass last year because it allowed each higher education institution to decide whether they would permit guns on their campus.

House Resolution 1186 (Taylor) Passed House Education committee

This Constitutional amendment would allow for newly created municipalities, to create their own school systems and consolidate with other municipalities or counties in during the creation of the new school district.  The ability to cross county lines already exists to create independent school systems (Atlanta was used as an example).  According to the bill’s sponsor, North Fulton and North DeKalb Counties would be the areas affected by this bill.  The sponsor did not provide enabling legislation for this bill which would provide details on the operational details (e.g. attendance and enrollment zones and school choice options) of any independent school systems created by this resolution.  The missing language in the enabling legislation would also need to consider whether this decision would be decided by a local act or a referendum.  A local act would be voted on by members of the delegation from the affected area.  A referendum item would go to the voting public from the affected area.  Per the bill’s author, the facilities would be incorporated into the new municipality/school system.  However, it appears any outstanding bonds for those facilities would remain with the old school system.

House Resolution 1109 (Welch)   Passed Subcommittee (Academic Achievement)

This bill will not be heard by the full committee for another week to allow additional feedback from school systems and other stakeholders.

This is a Constitutional amendment that would allow for an amendment to the current ESPLOST statute. It would allow for an additional use of up to fifty percent of this revenue for specific educational resources and programs.  It specifically disallows the use of funds for personnel expenditures. This bill would allow for increased flexibility in the use of SPLOST funds.  The enabling legislation for this bill (HB 802) provides for the specific allowable uses for these funds. These allowable uses include: security and personnel and equipment, faculty personnel, technology, software and website management, arts and music, counseling programs: career counseling, student counseling, lab equipment, textbooks, afterschool programs, remedial education programs and summer school, general operation and maintenance. Gwinnett and Butts County spoke in support of this bill at a subcommittee meeting this afternoon.   APS parent Janet Kishbaugh also spoke in support, but raised the question of whether this may cause more disparities between wealthier and less affluent districts.

Senate Bill 288 Passed the Senate

The bill requires the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) to divulge all of its financial information.  It also revives a GHSA oversight committee.

Budget

The AY14 Budget amended in the Senate. It now goes back to the House for agreement.  Only minor changes occurred from the Governor’s version and the General Assembly’s version.  Most of these changes reflect an adjustment based on actual costs (LFMS, Charter Systems and Student Scholarship Program).

House Appropriations Hearing for FY15

The House appropriations committee met with various education related agencies this week.  Below is a summary of each agency’s comments:

Professional Standards Commission: All teacher preparations in the state of Georgia will be reviewed and evaluated under a new program evaluation program initiated by the PSC.  This means programs such as GATAPP and Teach for America teacher preparation programs will now be evaluated in the same manner as traditional teacher preparation programs.

The Department of Early Care and Learning:  This agency received an additional $2 million dollars, which they plan to use for providing additional compensation for teachers.  Specifically, they plan to address equity in compensation.

Teachers Retirement System:  Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) dollars were fully funded within the FY15 budget for those who are eligible.  This applies to all former employees that retired under the old city of Atlanta retirement system.  This was the only item in the TRS budget that was addressed at the hearing.  This retirement system maintains a balance of $62.1 billion, which makes it a very well-funded system.

New Bills

House Bill 927 (Stevens)

The bill seeks to expand the concept of enterprise zones.  This would allow for exemptions and abatements for companies of over twenty four employees.  The local governing body would have the authority to decide who would get the exemption.

House Bill 932 (Welch)

The bill mandates that government entities have with a service contract should contain a termination clause based on poor performance.

House Bill 897 (Dudgeon) Hearing on Monday at 2:00 p.m. (Room 415 CLOB-across the street from the Capitol)

This is the new Title 20 bill.  This bill incorporates various statute changes that legislators would like to make in the current code for education in Georgia.  You may recall that this is one of the top initiatives for Representative Brooks Coleman, chair of the House Education committee.

Atlanta Public Schools has completed a preliminary analysis of the sections of this lengthy bill related to charter schools that are of concern:

Please see my preliminary analysis below:

Section 42:  This section of the bill relates to charter school funding.

  • The language related to the funding sources available to charters is very broad. 
    • The existing language has been changed to state that local charters will receive state funds from the district.  Previously, the statute stated they would receive QBE formula funds, applicable QBE grants and applicable non-QBE Grants.
    • It appears this change would allow the charters to receive all funding sources the district receives.
      • Other funding sources would include:  tuition, transportation, rental income, pre-K funds, locally earned grant funds, nutrition and SPLOST funds.
      • The language does not clearly require charters to offer services even though they would receive funding for particular services.
        • As a result, funds that go to traditional public schools would be reduced. The reduction in funds would also affect the level of service the district is able to actually provide to students who receive particular services.
        • For example, the district may receive funds for adult education programs that a charter school would not provide.  Nevertheless, the charter would receive its proportional funding from this for this program.
        • The reduction in funds would also affect the level of service the district is able to actually provide to these students.
        • Local school systems would be mandated to send charter funding based on the average in total revenues (Lines 1142 to 1145).  This creates a discrepancy in how the district receives funds versus allocates funds.  The state sends funds to APS through a weighted formula yet is requiring that funds be distributed to charters based on an average. [Source:  Chuck Burbridge].
        • It appears that APS would have to distribute funds to charters before Local Five Mill Share is deducted from the district’s earnings.  The language says earnings rather than collections (Line 1143).  Further, reference to local earnings and how Local Five Mill Share will be calculated for this purpose have been eliminated in the revision to the statute (lines 1148 to 1153).
          • The Local Five Mill share reduction for Atlanta Public Schools is over $100 million.  If charter school funding is calculated without accounting for this reduction, it would create a tremendous funding discrepancy between traditional and charter schools within the district.

Section 43:  This section includes language that would require local school systems to offer unused and underutilized facilities to charter schools.

  • The definition of underutilized facility would be revised to include any district facility that utilizes less than forty percent of the square footage of the facility for direct instruction or critical administration purposes.  This definition is too broad. 
    • Typically, 25-30% of the square footage in any school building is accounted for in the hallways and mechanical rooms.  The critical mass of 40% may be met with just a few empty classrooms.
    • The mandate that charters must be offered such facilities negatively impacts the districts long-term planning efforts.
      • Urban districts such as Atlanta have significant population shifts and available land use for schools can be limited and costly.
      • The district may choose to hold a property because it sees a possible need in the short term.
      • Charter schools that are not authorized by the district would have first right of refusal for district properties and could purchase at below market value (Line 1215).
        • This has a negative financial impact on the district.
        • The district would possibly take a financial hit to allow a school it did not authorize to take one of its buildings.
        • This impedes local control by dictating how a local school board manages the sale of its own property.
        • The timeframe of 12 months for the district to have a planned reuse of the property is too short (Line 1218).
          • Construction contingencies and other foreseen issues are common.  A period of at least 18 months is more realistic.
          • Districts must be allowed to use a five year projections/analysis of the facility needs in order to “reserve” a building for potential future growth.  Preferably, a district would be permitted a ten year time frame for such projections.

House Bill 914 (Wilkerson)

Any adult must make a report of alleged child abuse if they are school personnel.  The intent is to ensure that the government agency (i.e. DFACS) has confirmed the reporting of an incident.  They must disclose whether the agency’s investigation is ongoing or completed and whether the abuse is confirmed or unconfirmed.  This limits what the agency may say regarding the details of the abuse allegations.

House Bill 935 (Benton)

The bill adds public pension records to the exemption list for the Open Records Act.

House Bill 948 (Stevens)

The bill would allow local legislation to determine if the graduation age would be raised from 16 to 17.

House Bill 946 (Mosby)

The bill would provide an opportunity for high school graduates who graduated prior to 1983 to receive HOPE grant funds.

Senate Bill 357 (McKoon)

The bill would allow the State to reimburse LBOE for the cost of the election of local officers, such as school board members.

Senate Resolution 875 (Hill)

The bill creates a ten-member joint study committee on education related property tax digest issues such as reporting, economic development and abatements.

1 comment

Add Yours
  1. Janet

    Why is this “Update” being sent out now? The information in it is almost 3 weeks old. It analyzes versions of bills that no longer exist.
    THE MOST important service you can provide with legislative updates is that they be CURRENT and accurate. This is neither.

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