During the 2019 session, the Georgia General Assembly had a strong focus on an issue that affects 181 school districts, over 2,200 schools, 114,800 teachers and approximately 1.6 million students every day – education legislation. Ensuring that our educators and other certified employees, including support staff, have every resource available to them is a top priority for not only members of the Georgia General Assembly but also our governor.
This is evident through the appropriation of a $3,000 pay raise, which will begin on July 1, 2019, for Georgia's teachers and other certified school personnel including counselors, social workers, psychologists, special education specialists and technology specialists. Along with addressing much needed and deserved pay raises, below is an overview of the several bills that received final passage this year addressing the needs of not only our educators and staff but also our students. Georgia’s children are our future and we must do all we can to provide them with the best resources so they can receive the best education possible. By addressing the needs of our students from the point they enter the education system to when they graduate with their final degree, we can ensure our state continues to have a top rated workforce.
In addition to what was appropriated in the FY20 budget, the legislation below was passed during the 2019 session:
· Senate Bill 15, “Keeping Georgia’s School’s Safe Act,” would require public schools to conduct threat assessments every five years by a third-party agency, consisting of either Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) or a company trained by GEMA. This legislation provides a comprehensive outline for increasing school safety by streamlining communication efforts between schools and all relevant state agencies.
· Senate Bill 48 would instruct the State Board of Education to develop a policy of dyslexia screening for all kindergarten students, referral for students with identified dyslexia characteristics in grades one to three, as well as screening for those who did not attend kindergarten or were not screened in kindergarten. Under SB 48, the Georgia Department of Education would be required to implement guidance and training in all schools regarding the teaching of students with dyslexia and require that all schools submit data to the department regarding students with dyslexia. Additionally, this bill would require that the Professional Standards Commission create a dyslexia endorsement for teachers and include information regarding dyslexia in teacher preparation programs.
· Senate Bill 60, "Jeremy Nelson and Nick Blakely Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act," would require the Department of Education to post guidelines and relevant information on the nature and warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest on its website for students participating in interscholastic athletic activities, their parents or guardians and coaches.
· Senate Bill 83 addresses expanding the content of courses in Georgia public high schools to include Hebrew Scriptures and Old and New Testaments. This would be an option for students, not a requirement. Additionally, this legislation includes the establishment of the Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen (REACH) Scholarship Program. The specific qualifications for the program are outlined in SB 83.
· Senate Bill 108 would require courses in computer science to be provided in middle and high schools through a phase-in process. The specific requirements for middle, high and charter schools are outlined in SB 108.
· House Bill 12 would require public schools, including local and state charter schools, to post a sign containing the toll-free telephone number for the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) of the Department of Human Services to report child abuse or neglect at any time. The sign must be posted in a clearly visible location in a public area of the school.
· House Bill 59 would allow students, who have a military parent or guardian on active duty in the U.S. armed forces who has received military orders to relocate within the state, to enroll in the public school of the attendance zone they will be relocated to prior to establishing physical residency.
· House Bill 83 would require recess to be scheduled for students in grades Kindergarten through fifth, with certain exceptions for weather and other scheduled activities.
· House Bill 530 would require the Georgia Department of Education to provide a declaration of homeschooling to local school districts.
If you have any questions about anything related to education funding or legislation passed this session, please do not hesitate to reach out. I will continue to update you over the course of the next few weeks on the status of bills on the Governor’s desk. The deadline for signing, vetoing or laws becoming effective without signature is May 12, 2019. While session is over, please remember that I am always here to be of assistance and our office door is always open.