By Angela Palm
GEORGIA – With all the happenings in the political world of late, it seems like the General Assembly beginning its session Monday is almost a footnote in the news — but that will change.
This is the beginning of a new two-year session, so all Committees will have to be appointed. The COVID protocols seem to be similar to those put in place in June for the finale of the 2020 session. Legislators and staff will be tested twice a week. House and Senate rules are posted. If you haven’t seen it, they have a new website!
Before we get to information you come here for, I’d like to introduce you to GSBA’s new lobbyist. Grace Kim has come onboard and will be with Scott at the Capitol. For those of you who haven’t heard, I’ll be at the office (which is currently my dining room table) watching the meetings and session. I remain Director of Policy and Legislative Services, so the only change you will see is an additional person. You will hear from all of us, but we’ll give Grace plenty of time to learn the system. By the way, this has nothing to do with COVID. It’s just time to slow down a little.
Speaker of the House David Ralston held a press conference yesterday. Watch the video for his responses on the budget, school choice, school reopenings, etc. If the Lt. Governor has done one, I haven’t seen it, so apologies to him if I missed it.
The budget is always a main event of course. So far, the revenue picture in 2021 has been positive. Georgia seems to be in much better shape economically than many other states. As of the November revenue report, we’ve had a 5.7% increase in revenue year to date. The December report should be out soon. Don’t get excited over that increase just yet. Expect the Governor and legislators to continue to take a conservative approach. They will be careful because they always are but also because there is still a lot of economic uncertainty and a lot of areas in need of funding.
The federal funding approved in December will no doubt also be a topic when it comes to discussing school needs. Allocations by state and a one page fact sheet are available. For district allocations, the rule of thumb has been to estimate four times the amount received last year. The Department of Education has said they will pass along the funding as soon as possible after they receive it. With the resignation yesterday of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, that process may be slowed down. Talk to your legislators and community about why you need that funding and how it will be used. There is a genuine need for it, so tell your story.
When schools reopened for face to face instruction is also bound to be another topic. True to local control, it happened as you deemed safest for your students and staff. You have already spent months in questions about this, but there will probably be more. This will also be used a basis for this year’s voucher push. So be ready.
Congress also passed appropriations for FY 2021 in December. There were increases for:
- Title I — $227 million more
- IDEA — $185 million more
- Career and Technical Education — $52 million more
President-Elect Joe Biden has announced he will nominate Miguel Cardona as Secretary of Education. He had promised to select a public school educator, and he did. Cardona has served from a classroom teacher on up to state chief of schools in Connecticut.
Sen. Patty Murray will take over as Chair of Senate Education Committee. She has been a strong supporter of an assessment and accountability system. She has also been outspoken about the need to administer assessments this year to find out where students have gaps.
State Board of Education
The Governor has announced two new members of the State Board. Dr. Stan DeJarnett, retired superintendent of Morgan County and retired GSBA Director of Strategic Planning and the Vision Project, will bring another educator voice to the Board. Matthew Donaldson, Mayor of Twin City and an Assistant Vice-President of banking at Durden Banking, was also appointed. Congratulations to them both! Governor Kemp has now appointed eight of the fourteen members of the State Board.
GSBA’s Rural Task Force has issued its 2020 report in a series of white papers. They chose to continue to focus on the previously identified topics but go more in depth on them. The Introduction is here. The topics are: