GA PTA/Legislative Forum for the DeKalb Council of PTAs hosted a very informative meeting last week. What follows are some notes collected from those in attendance.
Ruth Primm was in charge. If you subtracted the legislators present (about 20 -- no Ron Ramsey -- it seemed like most of the Reps/Senators from DeKalb were there, including new ones) -- and the Ga Council of PTA folks -- there were relatively few people there (30-50 -- Nancy Jester went and Ernest Brown and no one else with "school board ties").
Marcia Coward did an intro -- Ruth did an overview of the legislature -- we have 3 branches of government -- a governor/state house and state senator and judiciary -- the senators and house members serve for 2 years each -- there are 180 house members and 56 senators -- they meet for 40 legislative days in the session -- these are not calendar days -- this is not a full time job -- they get paid about $18k per year -- they get some per diem - they spend a lot of time.
She discussed the GA PTA "platform" -- no money to private school -- all to public school. Total educational budget has been reduced over the past few years even though it is about 41% of the overall budget (and 56% if you include everything) - she mentioned that since 2003-04 the budget has been reduced by $75 billion -- GA PTA wants to restore these funds -- at the same time, population has increased (e.g. due to Katrina kids), there have been problems with the adequacy of the funding cuts; priority on health and safety. She encouraged everyone to let legislators know how you feel.
Then Fran Millar (currently Rep, soon to be Sen) spoke about the BRIDGE bill (the subject of the AJC article)-- it's to get guidance counselors to address the students we're losing because they get no guidance - primarily in middle school -- mandatory -- trying to minimize the drop out rate -- especially for black males. He gave Martha Reichrath's phone 404/656-2804 as a point person for questions. The BRIDGE bill acknowledges that not everyone is college-bound and that we need an educated work force. He stated that, "math is currently not working" (it is changing). The question was asked if they plan to conform the diploma choices and "rigor" to this bill and he said "yes".
Otha Thorton, GA PTA Legis. Chair spoke -- big GA state wide priorities are to support adequate funding and race to the top money.
We then divided up into groups based on our senate district. We had about 25 people in our room and we addressed all sorts of issues important to us -- ranging from educating illegal immigrants to math to vouchers to the need for the state to step in to investigate and take over -- to do we need the county at all -- to why do we not have a consistent building plan (why do we always start from scratch with buildings) -- to splitting the district -- to the toothless ethics policy -- to needing help to get the board changed over. We took a straw poll on how big the school board should be on Mary Margaret Oliver's now pending bill: 7? No votes -- 5? All hands up ... then 0? Everyone in favor... it was funny actually.... someone plead to remove the "I" from the ballot -- issue raised about investigating internal affairs -- thanks for removing the CRCT from 1st and 2nd grade --- debate over how "representative the board" is -- who can remove them and any way to do something about criminal behavior.
Regarding Fran Millar's BRIDGE bill.
The AJC article on this new legislation is called, New bridge to a brighter future, is written by Brad Bryant and Fran Millar and explains that this "Legislation is now being put in place in Georgia high schools that focuses on students receiving quality career advisement and links the high school course work with their future college and career goals."
It further informs us that "The implementation of the BRIDGE (Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy) Act — House Bill 400 — will become an integral part of a student’s educational plan this year. The BRIDGE Act will help students and parents work together to enhance their child’s education to reach their goals and dream career.
The most critical part of this recently signed law is the requirement for all students in middle and high school to receive annual career guidance and advisement to choose a career area, create an Individual Graduation Plan and graduate high school prepared to go to college or enter the work force.
The new rigorous performance standards and graduation requirements found in our Georgia secondary schools better prepare our students to enter life after high school graduation.
A qualified work force will attract strong, stable companies and industries to Georgia."
This was from the January, 2010 Georgia PTA Legislative report
HB 400: BRIDGE, Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy Act. Department of Education is to develop programs so a student can get courses at the home school, a technical college, a two or four year college, a work site as an apprentice, and other approved settings. Middle grades advisement shall provide counseling, advisement, career awareness, career interest inventories to evaluate each student’s academic skills and career interests. In grade 8, students shall select a preferred focused program and study and develop an individual graduation plan (IGP) with parents. High school students shall have annual reviews of the IGP which are to include academic core subjects and course work in math and science OR humanities, fine arts, and foreign language, OR sequenced career pathway courses; include IEP components if applicable. Senate amends: Individual Graduation Program is for all students. The Individual Graduation Plan will be a lot of work but may be very beneficial in tracking every student’s achievement in attaining graduation credits. This bill was VETOED in 2009 when it was attached to SB 178 and is back as a stand alone bill. PASSED House PASSED S. Education & Youth