Great Budget and Legislative Year for Public Schools by Brooks Coleman

March 25, 2013

Great Budget and Legislative Year for Public Schools

by Rep. Brooks Coleman

Chair of the House Education Committee

I am providing you with the following budget and legislative information, as passed by the House, that may be used by you to communicate with your constituents, school boards, and superintendents.

The total amount of new money appropriated for education in the Amended Fiscal Year 2013 Budget and the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget combined is more than $394 million, plus an additional $244 million in bonds. The Governor has also protected the core funding formulas, QBE and Equalization, from cuts over the last two years while other agencies were required to take significant reductions.

Fiscal Year 14 Budget Highlights

HB 106, the FY 2014 budget, provides $146.5 million to fully fund Quality Basic Education (QBE) enrollment growth of 1.4% for 23,922 students, as well as training and experience for teachers. While state agencies had to submit budget reductions of 3%, there were no reductions to QBE.

Equalization Grants, the additional funds for school districts to narrow the gap between systems in terms of property tax wealth per pupil, are increased by $38.3 million to reflect full funding of the required $474.4 million. This is the first year that Equalization has been fully funded since FY 2009.

The House version of the budget reflects the State Education Finance Study Commission’s recommendations for year two of increased state support of school nurses (an additional $3.1 million), professional development for school level administration, central office redirect to classroom technology and the corresponding hold harmless for smaller districts, and year one of a three-year plan to fund school counselors at a 1:450 ratio for all QBE programs.

The House restored the Sparsity Grant reductions ($2.6 Million) for the 21 smallest school systems that do not generate enough earnings by FTE to provide standard, required educational programs and services. Failure to restore these funds would have had a devastating impact on systems that receive these funds.

In the House version of the budget, reductions to Career/Tech and Agricultural Education, Nutrition, and RESAs were softened. Funding for the Governor’s Honors Program and Communities in Schools was restored.

The bond package that passed the House totaled $785 million of which $244.1 million, or 31%, was dedicated to K-12 education. This included $204.7 million to fully fund the new K-12 capital outlay programs (HB 760, 2012 Session). The House version of the budget also included $3.6 million for vocational equipment for new schools, $25 million for school buses statewide, and $3.8 million for needs at the three State Schools and FFA Camps. Finally the Governor recommended and the House agreed to $7 million for technology infrastructure upgrades at local school systems as recommended by the State Education Finance Study Commission. This funding is the first step in ensuring that our schools are set-up to deliver a 21st century education.

The FY14 budget also includes $12.9 million in additional lottery funds to add 10 additional days for the Pre-Kindergarten program bringing the total number of days to 180.

Amended Fiscal Year 13 Budget Highlights

HB 105, the AFY 2013 budget, included $167 million for enrollment growth and charter system adjustments.

QBE, Equalization, and State Schools were exempt from reductions. The House softened reductions to programs that directly impact students including Career/Tech and Agricultural Education, Communities in Schools, Georgia Youth Science and Technology Centers, Governor’s Honors Program and RESAs and the Senate agreed. In the final version of the Amended FY 2013 budget, reductions to School Nutrition and Sparsity were completely restored.

Legislation Highlights

The following bills have passed the House and are awaiting action in the Senate.

HB 327 – enacts the “Flexibility and Accountability Act for Student Achievement” as recommended by the State Education Finance Study Commission. By FY 2015, all school systems will have to decide which accountability model to implement – IE2, Charter System or “status quo”. At this time, a few systems have already transitioned to the IE2 or Charter System model but the majority of systems will likely remain “status quo”. Many systems would like to exchange additional accountability for flexibility, but need more of a defined path to do so. HB 327 creates a streamlined system of accountability in which systems may choose the traditional QBE model (Category 1) and advance to higher levels of accountability and flexibility (Category 2 or Category 3) as they are ready.

HB 283 – amends Title 20 of the O.C.G.A. relating to education. It implements recommendations from the State Education Finance Study Commission including enhancing ratios for school counselors and school psychologists and creating a capital outlay program for technology; renames vocational to career technical and agriculture, removes obsolete No Child Left Behind language, renames commission charter schools to state charter schools,clarifies that Charter Advisory Commission is only for charter systems, implements budget savings for charter systems, cleanup to Online Clearinghouse and implements request by governor’s office to set up a non-profit for Office of Student Achievement.

HB 244 –revises certain provision relating to annual performance evaluations. It provides for the development of an evaluation system, no later than the 2014-2015 school year, for teachers, assistant principals and principals. This bill lists the evaluation measures as well as a rating system the State Board of Education shall adopt.

HB 354 – relating to the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) and their involvement with early care and learning in Georgia. This bill would revise definitions relating to child care facilities, updates terminology in code relating to child care learning centers (which will no longer be referred to as day-care centers) and recommends that owners of any early care and learning program carry liability insurance coverage.

HB 211 – This legislation provides school systems with a two-year exemption from the motor fuel tax on fuel used in school buses. This is expected to save school systems about $5.6 – $6 million per year.

HB 116 – gives the State Board of Education the ability to transfer items that belong to the board (such as donations, gifts, property, etc.) over to the Georgia Foundation for Public Education. In doing so, it gives the authority over the administration and management of those items to the foundation.

HB 123 – enacts the “Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act” to convert existing schools to charter schools or to impose turnaround models for low achieving schools. This bill lists those who are able to submit petition to the local school board and the turnaround models that can be imposed.

HB 131 – This bill allows “dual credit courses” to be treated in the same manner as advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses for purposes of determining eligibility.