The legislature adjourned Sine Die last Friday night with a furious finish passing a number of bills on the 40th day and completing work on the full year 2008 budget. Still unsettled was the 2007 amended budget vetoed last Thursday by Gov. Perdue. A special session will be called by the governor to consider what the ’07 amended budget will look like. Waiting to be resolved is Peachcare funding for the balance of the year till June, emergency funding for tornado-ravaged southwest Georgia and the mid-year education adjustment.
Over the next weeks, we will look at the major areas and examine both the budgetary additions and the policy changes passed by the Legislature in the 2008 session.
Education — and more key policy changes
In the education budget, Gov. Sonny Perdue offered a number of budgetary initiatives that were adopted by the Legislature including middle school graduation coaches to identify and focus on at-risk children, more ROTC programs for low graduation rate schools, renewed funding for teacher supplies cards as well as funds for on-line tutorial programs for high school students. Gov. Perdue proposed a $29 million reduction in the austerity cut to local systems dating from the 2002-03 recession. The Legislature reduced that to $26 million and used the difference to return exceptional growth and regular capital outlay funding from the 40 percent level to the 100 percent level that would help local systems accumulate funds for new schools at a faster rate. Capital Outlay funding in all categories totaled over $450 million. Gov. Perdue also proposed funds to assist students with taking college entrance exams.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle staked out his education agenda by leading efforts to fund charter systems where entire systems are charter schools which are managed based on outcomes. Lt. Gov. Cagle proposed and the legislature funded, career academies that will duplicate highly successful partnership schools between local systems and the Department of Technical and Adult Education. There will be five charter system pilots and $300,000 grants will be made to five systems for career academy start-ups.
Summer remediation programs focusing on low-achieving middle school students will be continued and positions are added to the Department of Education to assist with charter system conversion and to implement SB10.
SB 10, passed on day 40, provides the first voucher funding that “follows the child” for special needs children. This legislation will allow those children with physical and mental disabilities whose needs are not being met, to seek more specialized education in the private arena.
Other significant legislation included HB 332 which increases class sizes for high schools in the four core subjects, a move sought by fast-growing systems.
HB 559 allows charter school teachers to participate in the state health insurance plan. Local systems will have the option of hiring business managers as assistant principals under legislation passed this year as well. School councils were revamped by legislation in 2007, giving parents the majority of membership and insuring a parent is chairperson. The Grade Integrity Act prevents a teacher from being intimidated or coerced into changing a student’s grade.
K-12 education will receive $7.8 billion of the $20 billion state funds under the 2008 budget, about 40 percent overall. When combined with Regents and technical college funding, Georgia is spending more than 50 percent of all funds on education.
Teachers will receive a 3 percent cost of living increase. School bus drivers and food service workers will receive a 3 percent COLA and a 50 cent increase in retirement benefits for a total of $14.50 per month for each year of service.
Visit the Legislature’s home page at
To view the 2008 Budget in its entirety:
www.senate.ga.gov - Tab - Budget Reports
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