First, before I write a single word about this very informative meeting, let me give major props to the Hospitality Committee and parents at Hawthorne Elementary. I have never seen such an enormous, delicious spread of food at a school-related meeting! They created a welcoming reception for our meeting participants, organizers and attendees.
Emory Lavista Parent Council held a very informative meeting focusing on two related topics: “The 2011 Legislative Update” brought to us by State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (Dem, Decatur, House District 83) and State Sen. Fran Millar (Rep., Dunwoody, Senate District 40) and “How State Funding for Schools Really Works” as explained by Joe Martin, past Executive Director of the Georgia School Funding Association and recent candidate for state school superintendent.
First, Mary Margaret Oliver (MMO) and Fran Millar highlighted the education-related bills before the legislature this session. SB 84 which outlines ethics for school board elections, has been in effect for two years and states that school boards must create an ethics policy (our school board is still tweaking one) and also says that school boards are limited to seven members unless under local amendment or federal court order. MMO pre-filed HB 22, a locally written bill redrawing attendance lines for the DeKalb school board. Currently the bill is written as dividing into five districts, but it could change to seven. (She took an informal poll and a show of hands in the room preferred five.) In addition, now State Rep. Mike Jacobs has filed HB 63, a statewide bill on the topic that sets school boards at seven members. Although, according to the AJC, "it applies only to school boards in counties with a Homestead Option Sales Tax and education tax -- which is only DeKalb -- and mandates a seven-member board", his bill must pass the House and Senate statewide.
Fran Millar informed us that without the federal stimulus, states would not have been able to balance their budgets and schools would have seen even deeper cuts. There is a funding hole that has not closed so prepare for more major cuts to education from the state. Fran announced that there is a new committee charged with conducting a two-year study on revising the QBE school funding formula. In addition, he would like to see better flow between K-12, technical colleges and universities. He would like to see more opportunities for technical and vocational studies as well as allowing students to Move On When Ready, as evidenced in his B.R.I.D.G.E. bill.
The lottery funds do not benefit K-12 as many people believe, they are spent 2/3 on Pre-K and 1/3 on HOPE college scholarships. Both say that the HOPE scholarship will definitely be revamped. Recommendations include perhaps creating a flat amount for college grants or funding only 80% of tuition or making the scholarships to needs based or perhaps distributed according to a sliding scale. In addition, neither legislator wanted to change the GPA from 3.0 to 3.5 (saying it would only encourage more grade inflation), but adding an ACT or SAT component would be a good idea.
(next post: Joe Martin’s presentation at the same meeting)
You can view Lynn Jackson's presentation on state school construction funding here:
The video of the meeting is found here: