On Thursday, March 28, the 2013 legislative session came to an end when the House and Senate completed the 40th and final legislative day. This last day of session is known as “Sine Die,” a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for further meeting.” One of the most important bills passed this session was House Bill 106. This bill establishes the state budget for Fiscal Year 2014, totaling $19.92 billion, running from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.
The 2013 legislative session was relatively quiet with no high profile education bills and few major bills affecting children and youth. The most significant bill affecting children was HB 242, the Juvenile Justice bill which rewrote the juvenile code and addressed how youth would be handled once they entered the juvenile system. The goal is to keep the nonserious offenders out of jail and in local jurisdiction treatment programs so that minor offenders don’t become major, repeat offenders.
Below is a recap of some of the more significant legislation that impacts children and youth:
HB 70: Under certain case by case instances, the State Board Of Ed (SBOE) could waive the requirement that a ‘medically fragile’ student must be enrolled in a public school for one year and have an IEP before being allowed to qualify for a Special Needs Scholarship. The Local BOE/school could be required to expedite the development of the IEP. Stipulates that students already enrolled in private school are eligible. Amended to ensure student won’t receive more than the district receives from the state but payment schedules are not synced so if a student returns to public school the money doesn’t follow until next payment cycle. Does include austerity cuts but still does not deduct local 5 mil share.
HB 115: Revises provisions related to the suspension and removal of school board members in cases where the system is placed on probation by an accrediting agency. Proposed changes include: notice of probation must be submitted to the SBOE by the LBOE in writing, the state board hearing on charges must be held within 90 days, deliberations of the state board may be held in executive session and suspension or removal shall not apply to board members who were not on the board when the accrediting agency placed the system or school on probation. If school or district has been accredited by a second accreditation organization within the last two years then students would still qualify for HOPE. Also added that LBOE members can’t use local taxpayer dollars to defend themselves against being removed from office due to accreditation issues.
HB 131: Would have dual enrollment courses treated the same as AP and IB courses in calculating HOPE.
HB 244: Puts into law the teacher and leader evaluation system currently being piloted. Codifies how student achievement is factored into a teacher evaluation (50% of evaluation) along with trained and certified administrative observation, school climate and student surveys. Student achievement would be based on scores from EOCTs for those classes that have EOCTs and would be based on locally developed pre and post tests based on Student Learning Objectives (SLO) for those classes with no established end of course tests. Effective 2014-15.
HB 283: Major clean up of Title 20, as recommended by the Education Finance Commission. Updates QBE program weights; limits the charter system annual grant to those systems whose charters were approved prior to 1-1-12. Those approved after that date will get a one-time implementation grant subject to appropriations (translation: excludes Fulton County with 93,000 students would have receive a $9 million extra grant per year); counselor-student ratio changed to 1 to 450 for every grade and in 2015 will include FTE counts for English Language Learners and Students With Disabilities, and in 2016 will include gifted and remedial; includes technology with texts for ‘instructional materials’; extends maximum class size to 2014-2015 with State Board of Education eligibility to waive; allows 20 additional day grant to be used for additional services to students during the school day and removes the limit that can be spent on transportation; school psychologists to be funded at l to 2,420, formerly 1 to 2,475; school psychologists, special ed leadership and social workers to be indirect costs separately identified; removes ‘needs improvement’ designation from the code, and calls it ‘unacceptable’; charter schools no longer have to have a professional learning program; establishes a grant program to incentivize adopting of a digital learning program using high speed internet; middle school grades no longer need a shared planning period in law; home school students will send attendance reports directly to the state DOE, not the local school system; home school students with a suspected disability must notify the local school superintendent; specifies that charter petitions are three –way and that the local school system cannot be a petitioner; Charter Advisory Committee shall review petitions for charter systems only; LBOE to have 90 days to approve or disapprove a charter school petition which is now 60 days; removes the term AYP from the law; requires school foundations to be 501.c.3 corporations.
Changes definitions in the School Scholarship Organization regulations:
• Eligible student must be enrolled in the public school for at least 6 weeks;
• Currently 25% of revenue may be held in reserves.
• SSO must designate revenue to specific students;
• Students with financial needs must have preference;
• Must maintain separation between scholarship funds and operating funds;
• Must report federal AGI for families of all scholarship recipients and number of dependents in such families;
• Donors cannot designate a specific student to be recipient of the donated funds.
• Increases annual total to $58 million and eliminates the inflationary rider.
HB 284: Return to Play Act. Would require the local Board of Education to adopt a policy governing when an athlete (ages 7-18) can resume participation in a sport after sustaining a head injury. Covers public, charter and private schools but not church leagues. Schools will not be liable for a student’s injury unless it is caused by willful or wanton action. Public recreation facilities where registration is required and fee is charged shall provide written information on risks of concussion and head injuries to parents and are encouraged to adopt a return to play policy.
HB 337: Would allow public and private schools to stockpile auto-injectable epinephrine (epi-pens). Doctors would be able to write a prescription for the schools. An employee will be trained to recognize anaphylactic shock and how to administer the epi-pen and will not be liable unless gross negligence is found. Recently, a pharmaceutical company said it would provide four per school if the school had a prescription for them.
HB 372: Lowers the requirement to receive a HOPE grant from 3.0 to 2.0. Does not affect HOPE Scholarships.
HB 382: Schools that enter into a recreation joint use agreement will not be liable for injuries that happen on their grounds while they are being used by the renter of the facilities. The other entity will be required to carry insurance to cover any liabilities. Modified to only pertain to agreements between public/private not public/public due to liability.
HR 552: Urges implementation of comprehensive school counseling programs and encourages districts to allow counselors five full-time segments to advise students (and parents).
SB 212: Requires an American Heart Association video on how to perform CPR and use AED devices to be shown in high school Health and PE.
HB 142: Ethics Bill: Caps expenditures at $75 per occurrence. Forbids lobbyists from paying for sporting events, hunting trips, etc. as well as foreign travel. Can still pay for caucus, delegation, committee or whole general assembly events with certain limitations. Can pay for trips if legislator is performing ‘official duties’.
HB 156: Makes ‘sexting’ between teenagers a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
HB 242: Rewrite of the Juvenile Justice Code. Revises how a youth is processed when he or she is in the juvenile system. Eliminates conflicts in the code.
HB 350: Requires a national criminal records check for anyone who works in a child care facility. Each person must be re-checked every five years.
(Written by Karen Hallacy, Georgia PTA Legislative Chair. Reprinted from the May 2013 issue of EAST COBBER)