Sunday, March 29, 2009

Georgia PTA’s weekly update on legislative activity

The General Assembly has completed 37 of the 40 days that it will meet in 2009. There are only three days left this session so bills will be moving fast and furiously next week. We are seeing language from bills thought dead amended to bills that are moving so anything can happen in the next few days. The Senate still has not passed a budget for next year so this final week promises to be a very interesting one. The revenue numbers remain grim so there’s talk that a special session may be needed. In this time of declining revenue it’s of note that the legislature has passed several bills that provide tax credits or exemptions that directly affect the government’s available funds.

Update: School Nurse Funding

We still don’t know about the funding for school nurses. The House put it back in, the Senate has had no public hearings so no one knows what is in their version of the 2010 budget.
• Call your Senator and let him know funding for school nurses is critical!
• If it makes it out of the legislature intact, the Governor can still line item veto the funding so contact him and let him know the funding for nurses is important to you.

Voucher Legislation:

Just when many thought SB 90 was done for this session, some of the language from it was amended to HB 251, the bill that allows intra-district school transfers. While the private school language was not added, the language allowing transfers between school districts was. PTA supports school choice but the issue here is how to pay for the student who transfers from one district to another. The student doesn’t reside in the new district so no property tax revenue is generated to fund his education. Currently districts can charge tuition for non-district students. In this bill the state and local funds from the sending school district would go to the new school district. The decision about how much money follows the child rests not with the local district but with the state. Local systems do not calculate how much is spent per pupil. To take the total dollars spent and divide by the number of students is too simplistic. Buses need to run whether there are 20 students or 40 students riding them, lights and heat have to be on in the school buildings and buildings must be cleaned. This bill takes the decision making about how local dollars are spent out of the control of the taxing authority that raised the dollars which many argue is unconstitutional. Some people argue that their dollars should follow their child but the reality is that it is not just their dollars; it is every tax payer’s dollars that are being spent to educate that child.

Legislation that Passed both Chambers:

HB 149: Move on When Ready: Students in 11th and 12th grades may enroll in Georgia public colleges and take Department of Education approved courses that will meet both high school graduation requirements and earn them college credit. Hours earned will not count against HOPE. What this means to you: If a student is ready to attend college and only has a few high school credits remaining to fulfill the high school diploma requirements, (s)he can earn those credits while attending college..

HB 300: Parents to be informed about meningococcal meningitis and other vaccines.

HB 484: Children of military personnel on active duty stationed in GA can qualify for HOPE.

SB 69: Any person who allows, permits, encourages or requires that a child engage in prostitution or sexually explicit conduct may be found guilty of sexual exploitation. (Currently only child’s parents of caregiver could be so charged).

HB 280: Provides differentiated pay for math and science teachers effective July 1, 2010.

HB 233: OPPOSE Two year freeze on any appreciation on the value of a property, even if it changes hands.

SB 84: Requires local school boards to have at most seven members (unless grandfathered) and abide by an ethics policy. The bill gives the Governor the power to remove board members if a school system is placed on probation by an accrediting agency and board members can remove fellow board members by a 2/3 vote. House amends: Board members cannot serve on a board of a private elem. or secondary school at the same time as on a local BOE. Prohibits gifts over $100.

Legislation to Watch: A comprehensive list of potential bills is on the website

HB 120: 2009 sales tax holiday would be from July 30 to August 2. Passed House and S. Finance

HB 23: Drivers under age 18 cannot use a cell phone nor text message while driving. Exceptions are made for driver emergencies, reporting an accident or criminal activity, or using while parked. Any driver involved in an accident while using a wireless device will face higher penalties. Passed House, passed Senate Public Safety

HB 193: Permits the required 180 day school year to be defined in hours, thus providing local school boards with flexibility in setting the school calendar. Passed House, passed Sen. Ed.

HB 243: Eliminates bonus for Nat’l Board Certified teachers. Grandfathers those currently receiving the bonus and those who began the certification process prior to Mar. 1, 2009. Eliminates from funding those teachers leaving teaching and going into administration or some other area effective July 1, 2009. Passed: Housed. Passed Sen. Ed.

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. Passed House, to be held and will likely not pass this session

SB 5: SUPPORT Requires seatbelts be worn in all pickup trucks with an exception for those over 18 who are doing agricultural work.. Passed Senate. SB 23 also requires seatbelt use in pickup trucks but was voted down.

SB 8: Allows elementary and middle school students to carry and self administer epi-pens. Passed Senate, passed House Health/Human Services

SB 94: Removes the requirement that a dependent child up to the age 25 be a full-time student to be insured medically under the parent’s health plan. Passed Senate

SB 114: Provides special provisions for children of military personnel who transfer into GA public schools including waivers to some GA graduation requirements and additional allowable absences. Passed Senate, passed House Ed.

SB 206: Requires tax expenditure review, detailing for each item the amount of tax revenue foregone for at least a three year period, the intended objective of the expenditure, an analysis of whether or not it is achieving the objective. Taxes included in this report shall cover all state taxes collected by the Department of Revenue. Passed: Senate

SB 239: Requires parents to enroll a child within 10 days of moving into a district. Failure to do so would result in a fine between $50-500, 1-10 days incarceration or some combination thereof. Passed Senate, passed House Ed.

Key: HR- House Resolution, HB– House Bill, SR– Senate Resolution, SB– Senate Bill

Daily Reports with additional details on all the bills being tracked by GA PTA can be found on the Capitol Watch website under News

Karen Hallacy
Legislative Chair


Cerebration said...

Looks like we may have built a beautiful, new LEED certified high school for a lot of Clayton kids to enjoy if HB 251 passes into law. (Same goes for Miller Grove and the rest...)

Ella Smith said...

This bothers me a great deal. Hopefully this will not happen.

Anonymous said...

A good school nurse is worth her worth (or his) in gold, especially for elementary and middle. A school nurse really helps create a sense of community and definitely helps with abseeteeism and finding healthcare resources for children in needs.

I'd rather pay my school property tax money for school nurses than administrators making huge salaries with take home cars.

Cerebration said...

Amen to that!! My school nurse growing up was my best friend's mother -- what a comfort!

Ella Smith said...

School nurses allow teachers to teach when students are sick. They are a must!

Cerebration said...

SB 84: Requires local school boards to have at most seven members (unless grandfathered) and abide by an ethics policy. The bill gives the Governor the power to remove board members if a school system is placed on probation by an accrediting agency and board members can remove fellow board members by a 2/3 vote. House amends: Board members cannot serve on a board of a private elem. or secondary school at the same time as on a local BOE. Prohibits gifts over $100.

We need to keep a careful watch on our Board if this law passes. I would hope that the school board and/or the county do not try to circumvent this law and grandfather in our 9 members. We could use a leaner group - I think it would be great to only have 5 or 7 members. There is too much discussion, grandstanding and chatter to allow for 9 members and Dr. Lewis to hold a productive meeting.

Anonymous said...

On HB 251
Note there are no concerns mentioned about impact on receiving schools. No rules on setting capacity numbers.
The proposal is insane.

Cerebration said...

There's this --

Beginning in school year 2009-2010, elect to enroll such student in a public school that is located within the school system in which the student resides other than the one to which the student has been assigned by the local board of education if such school has classroom space available after its assigned students have been enrolled. The parent shall assume the responsibility and cost of transportation of the student to and from the school.


Beginning in school year 2010-2011, request a transfer for the student to attend a public school outside of the student's resident school system. It shall be in the sole discretion of the local board of education, with input from the school council of the desired school, to accept students pursuant to this paragraph. If the parent chooses this option, then the parent shall be responsible for transportation to and from such school. ...

It's vague - at the discretion of the school board, with input from the school council...

Cerebration said...

(d) This Code section shall not apply to charter schools.

I think that's a big signal to go ahead and make Lakeside a charter school - asap.

Cerebration said...

(e) This Code section shall not apply to newly opened schools with available classroom space for a period of four years after the school opens."

That one protects Arabia for four years. However, I wouldn't be surprised if we did an investigation, we might find quite a few out of county students at Arabia after year 1. I just don't see it as wildly popular as the school system predicts - being that it's out there in no man's land. It's just too darn far and difficult to get to for most of DeKalb.

Cerebration said...

Conversely, this is going to make the Military Academy wildly popular - if they locate it centrally. I'm certain that students from all around metro will apply to the academy after it's up and running for four years.

Anonymous said...

IF DCSS will actually listen to its local schools councils, I cannot see too many HB251 transfers in DCSS. Most of the schools are overcrowded at this point and just cannot take anymore students.

As an aside, my child's Interior Design class is going to visit Arabia Mountain today. She is beyond excited - it's really been played up in her class. In fact she made the statement that if it were not so far away, she might apply. Maybe someday those of us up north can get one of these type of high schools?

Cerebration said...

Most of the schools are overcrowded at this point and just cannot take anymore students.

I'm not so sure this matters to DCSS. They keep allowing an unobstructed influx into Lakeside, causing the school to add 21 trailers on top of the tennis courts - making them unusable. By my count - we currently have as many as 613 students who do not live in the attendance zone.

Anonymous said...

613? That's beyond ridiculous, cere. I would hope your BOE rep would be concerned enough to call for an investigation - they can't all be NCLB transfers.

Cerebration said...

No - only 148 are NCLB transfers (officially) - 65 are there by Administrative Transfer (special permission letter) - and a whopping 400 are labeled "New to Lakeside" - and they want us to believe that these are students returning to public school from private school. for example, there are 246 students who live in the district and went to Henderson for 8th grade and now are freshmen at Lakeside. There are 245 additional freshmen labeled "New to Lakeside"... New from where?!! That is the mystery. We certainly don't have that kind of growth in this district.

Cerebration said...

Plus - our Board rep is currently knee deep in Military Academy doo doo to bother with anything else. This is the core problem with DCSS - they are constantly creating new, blazing "fires" before they even deal with the ones burning in front of their faces.

Is there a reason the military academy couldn't be put on a list of "great ideas that require additional research with a goal of implementation in 2 years?"... no - had to ramrod it through in 3 months - down the street from Lakeside - pushing aside all other current, relevant issues at Lakeside.

Anonymous said...

Agree, there is no way a school can gain that many "new" students. There are not that many students leaving private school and it's the same way here in Dunwoody - very little new growth, though some of the older neighborhoods seem to be turning younger, but not to that extent.

Lefty said...

According to a friend of mine whose kids attend Oak Grove, they had at least 30 new kids there who had attended private school last year. Oak Grove added a 1st grade class the day after registration and a 2nd grade class a month into the new school year. It's not inconceivable that many of those 400 Lakeside kids came from private schools.

Cerebration said...

It's not inconceivable - but believe me, they didn't.
But since it's not inconceivable, the school system maintains that is the story. Personally, I know of quite a few resident students who have left Lakeside to go to either private school or Open Campus.

Dekalbparent said...

Druid Hills is remarkably consistant in it's out-of-district numbers:

36% of the freshmen
29% of the sophomores
36% of the juniors
35% of the seniors

are from outside the district.

This is a total of 445 out of district students.

Cerebration said...

So - judging from the discussion on recent threads - DeKalb is being punished and having to pay millions of dollars because they have too many buildings with available seats. However, if these schools could keep their students, and prevent them from transferring and crowding other schools, we could save the money. But - instead of looking to improve home schools and keep their students - the county is looking at consolidating and closing schools. Still leaving the issue of transfers causing crowding at several "desirable" schools.

Is this logical? It sure seems to be the easy solution. I wonder how much we're going to have to pay in fines when Arabia ends up with available seats - no wonder no one checks on the Clayton transfers. Apparently, we need the warm bodies in some schools.

What a mess.

Cerebration said...

As far as penalties for empty seats -- I was referring to the enlightening post by dekalbparent on the Sembler thread...

I had occasion to ask one of our BOE members about some of these issues, including the following item that was on the BOE agenda:

It is recommended that the Board approve a resolution to phase-out the current facilities used for Open Campus High School, DeKalb School of the Arts and Hooper Alexander Elementary School. These facilities will no longer be used as K-12 facilities.

Here are some excerpts of the reply I received that you may find informative:
"The item you refer to on the agenda was pulled. We did not vote on it. The old Briarcliff HIgh is slated to be closed probably this summer. We are being severely penalized tax wise for the unused seats in that building. We are trying to get the seats off our inventory so we receive more tax benefits from the state. The Open campus will move to the new central office building on Mountain Industrial. We will look at Briarcliff in the next year to find out what the costs of renovation will be and if we should proceed to renovate. I believe the building will be vacant. The building will not be sold. That piece of property is the second most valuable piece of property the school system owns. Unfortunately that school is going to take a great deal of expense to get it back up to minimum standards. We wanted to use it as the military school, but it was cost wise not feasible.

We will however have to vote on consolidation and the closing of some buildings in the near future. This is necessary because of the tax penalties. We get penalized by the state for unused square footage in a building. That cost us millions last year."

Cerebration said...

As you can see, Druid Hills has 445 extra students who have transferred from elsewhere - Lakeside has - I'm betting - 600 - I'm sure Dunwoody has their share. Could it be conceivable that not only are these transfer students causing over crowding at receiving schools - they are causing the school system millions of dollars in tax penalties for leaving empty seats in their home schools?

Is this good management?

Anonymous said...

Didn't HB 251 pass? If so, it is effective beginning with the 09-10 school year. First NCLB transfers and now this. What a nightmare for the administration. Not sure how much effect it will have in DeKalb unless the administration plays games with the interpretation of when a school has available space. But it could have a significant effect in other school systems.

Cerebration said...

As far as I can tell, the last update said it was still in Committee - but it looks like they were just tweaking. Here are some important notes --

No later than July 1, 2009, each local school system shall establish a universal, streamlined process available to all students to implement the transfer requirements of subparagraph (A) of this paragraph.

In the event that the total allotment of state and federal funds to the receiving school system is less than the cost to the receiving school system to educate such student, as compared to its resident students, the receiving school system shall be authorized to charge the student tuition for the difference in such amounts.


It looks like they've added a lot of flexibility for local school boards to determine IF they will accept these transfers, IF they deem a school as having "space" (does adding trailers count as space?) and IF they decide to charge tuition to make up the balance in cost (although I see a lot of room for "scholarships" and Title 1 paying for the costs.)

This could be one way to seriously grow the Marine Academy after the first 4 years.

Cerebration said...

BTW - I noticed that our rep, Kevin Levitas voted NO. I think he understands how differently this law will effect DeKalb vs other systems, since we have so many open spots at failing schools, and over-crowding at successful schools.

We need to get our system in balance before we can take on many others.

Cerebration said...

Now - on to my favorite -- SB 84 -- hopefully we'll find out soon if this passed into law -- and then we'll watch as our Board decides how to go about paring down from 9 to 7 members...! Unless, of course, the county has provided a loophole. (Which I truly hope not -- we NEED a smaller, leaner BOE, imho.)

b)(1) Each local board of education shall have no more than seven members as provided by local Act.
(2) This subsection shall not apply to a local board of education whose board size exceeds seven members as provided by local constitutional amendment or federal court order or pursuant to a local law in effect prior to July 1, 2009; provided, however, that if the local law of any such local board of education is amended to revise the number of members on such board, paragraph (1) of this subsection shall apply."

Cerebration said...

And there's the wonderful HB 149 - which - in my opinion - is absolutely brilliant!!! This bill allows high school students to just move on to college or technical college and get high school AND college credit for it!

Called "Move On When Ready" - it stops the school system from holding students prisoner to their high school graduation requirements before being allowed to attend college - even if that student is bored out of his or her mind... hurrah!

To amend Part 4 of Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to financing under the "Quality Basic Education Act," so as to enact the "Move on When Ready Act"; to provide for definitions; to provide a program for eleventh and twelfth grade students to attend postsecondary colleges and schools for high school credit; to provide for notice to parents and students of the program; to provide requirements for course credit; to provide for state funding; to provide for testing; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

themommy said...

I can't seem to find out if 251 passed. It was sent back to the House which stripped it back down to basically a choice option within your own school system (I think because the analysis I read said all the gooblygook about money following the child to a different system was removed.) So, the Senate committee had to then accept the changes. If it was not voted on last night, then it doesn't really die, it will reappear next session.

If it didn't pass, it is time for some conversations with any of your REPUBLICAN representatives/senators, since they really are in control.

themommy said...

This is from the Georgia Schools Boards Association Capital Watch website. (under Advocacy if you go to It looks as if HB 251 passed though a very watered down version.

As an aside, this legislation was introduced by a legislator from S. Cobb whose husband is on the Cobb BOE. I have seen, in the past, this very information, which schools have spaces for admin. transfers. I would love to speak with Rep. Morgan to understand her motivation.

HB 251 allows transfer of students from one school to another within the same school system pending available space. Parents must be notified annually of the schools within the system that will be accepting students. (Note: two versions of this bill were circulating as voting occurred in the last few minutes of the session. A second version included language prohibiting future service on a local board of education or as superintendent if the individual has family members serving as a central office or building level administrator. Stay tuned as it is determined which version received a ‘do pass’ vote.)