In my family, we firmly believe that a good education and hard work are keys to future success. As a result, supporting our schools and advocating for our teachers, students and administrators have been priorities of mine since I began my legislative career.
We listened to the concerns of teachers, parents and administrators to pass legislation that will reduce the amount of mandatory testing in our schools, provide well-deserved pay increases for teachers, and emphasize the importance of local control when it comes to educating our students. I was proud to support the following measures this session, all of which have been signed into law by Governor Deal:
Less testing/more flexibility
This session, I was proud to support Senate Bill 364, which will require less mandatory testing for our students and more flexibility for our teachers and administrators. This law revises the annual performance evaluation criteria for public school teachers and administrators. Specifically, the law reduces the weight assigned to test results on teacher evaluations from 50 percent to 30 percent, and it increases the required student attendance rate from 65 percent to 95 percent for a student’s testing scores to count toward teacher evaluations.
This law also lowers the testing component for school administrator evaluations from 70 percent to 40 percent, reduces the amount of mandatory tests from 32 to 24, and encourages schools to schedule mandatory tests closer to the end of the year to maximize instruction time. This law also reduces the amount of in-class observations required for teachers with at least three years of experience who have previously earned grades of “Proficient” or “Exemplary” on their evaluations.
State budget for fiscal year 2017
The state appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 provides an additional $300 million in funding for local school systems to offset austerity cuts allowing systems to eliminate furlough days, increase instructional days, and provide teacher pay raises. This law also provides $28.6 million for salary increases and other incentives for Pre-K teachers and their assistants; $4.1 million in salary increases for other school employees, school bus drivers and school nurses; and $29.4 million in additional funding for the “Move on When Ready” dual enrollment program for high school students.
As a member of the conference committee that produced the final, agreed-upon version of this bill, I was proud to help pass this measure and ensure that our educators and students receive the support they deserve.
Local control and transparency
As a proponent of more local control in education, I also supported House Bill 739 this session. Under this law, the State Board of Education may, but is no longer required to, develop statewide instructional materials and content for school systems to use. In addition, this bill allows local schools boards to adopt their own locally approved instructional materials.
Before adopting their own locally approved instructional materials, school boards must provide a review and recommendation process with opportunity for public comment and parental input. Likewise, local school boards must make the proposed instructional materials and content available for review in person or on their Web sites.
Similar transparency requirements apply to instructional materials and content proposed on a statewide basis by the State Board of Education. Therefore, this new law will increase transparency in education, allow for more local control of our educational system and increase parental involvement — all of which I believe are key to the continued improvement of our education system in this state.
Religious expression on clothing
This session, I was honored to work with Rep. Brian Strickland on House Bill 870, which was included in Senate Bill 309 that Governor Deal signed last week. This law prohibits high schools that receive state funding from participating in an athletic association that forbids religious expression on athletic clothing unless such restriction is necessary to protect the safety of the participants or the conduct of the athletic event in a manner consistent with the rules of the particular athletic event.
This law also will allow non-GHSA schools, such as private schools or religious schools, to compete against GHSA schools in scrimmages, matches, games or other competitions.
If you have any questions regarding these education bills or any other matter effecting education in this state, please do not hesitate to call my legislative office (404-656-5052), email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or engage on Facebook.