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Legislation bolsters education
Hill Jack
State Sen. Jack Hill

While transportation legislation and funding along with issues such as medical marijuana took the headlines, important education legislation passed the Legislature this year and increased funding for education was a centerpiece of the fiscal year 2016 budget. High school students will have a wide array of opportunities from dual enrollment in colleges and universities to technical certification that will give them both a skill certification and a high school diploma. 

Legislation – high school options

SB 2 - Proposed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, under SB 2, high schools will be able to award a high school diploma to students who complete an associate degree program, earn a technical college diploma/certification or complete licensing requirements for state, national or industrial certification. 

The Technical College System will identify annually critical shortage fields where trained employees are needed and share this info with the State Board of Education, who will help local systems inform students. This bill makes high school graduation assured while a student is achieving an employable skill or two-year degree.

SB 132 - The “Move On When Ready” Act puts into law the results of a collaboration between the Governor’s Office, Board of Regents, Technical College System, K-12 representatives, State Board of Education and legislators who worked on removing the obstacles to dual enrollment for high school students and to resolve funding issues. 

SB 132 combines all of the dual enrollment programs into one, “Move On When Ready” and expands eligibility to all students in grades nine-12 who can be accepted by the post-secondary institution. 

• Eliminates the requirement a student has to be enrolled in a public school to qualify for dual enrollment

• Requires  the distribution of dual enrollment information to students in the eight grade.

• State BOE will specify subject area requirements and in collaboration, TCSG and BOR, determine appropriate courses by July 1, 2015
Students are not liable for tuition, mandatory and non-course fees or books

• Dual credit hours will not count against caps on HOPE scholarships or other grants

Other education legislation

HB 91 - Does away with the high school graduation test and was effective March 30. Retroactively allows students who failed portions earlier to apply for diplomas.

HB 131 - Revises definition of “bullying” to include cyber-bullying and expands where the law applies, adding off school property cyber bullying of school students and personnel.

SR 287 - Sets a vote in 2016 on a constitutional amendment for state action on failing schools

SB 133 - Would only go into effect with the passage of the constitutional amendment above.  Schools given an F grade three years in a row could be selected as one of 20 per year to be managed in an opportunity school district. Basically, that school would become a charter school for at least five years. There are no failing schools in the 4th District.

FY 16 budget sends majority to education

The FY 2016 general budget includes some $900 million in new spending with over half, $494 million, not including bonds, going toward funding K-12 growth and reducing previous austerity cuts. Additionally, the budget directs the Department of Community Health to continue coverage of school bus drivers and other non-certified personnel with health insurance and to implement the next stage of increases for the employer’s portion of premium cost to local systems. Here’s a breakdown of the big items:

• $152.4 million for FTE growth and teacher pay scale (training and experience)

• $280 million for reducing previous austerity reductions in the QBE formula.Budget language says “to provide local education authorities the flexibility to eliminate teacher furlough days, increase instructional days and increase teacher salaries.”

• $3 million in lottery funds to restore two pre-k teacher planning days

• $1.4 million for 60 additional classes in the summer transition program for low-income rising pre-kindergartners.

• $6.5 million to support the reading monitor program through the Governor’s Office for Student Achievement

One new cost that the above new funding will pay for is a scheduled increase of $150 per member per month in the amount that employers (school systems) of non-certified school employees, such as school bus drivers, must pay for health insurance. This still does not pay the entire employers’ portion of health insurance, and the state will still be subsidizing some $200 of the cost. Systems will pay out some $102,825,000 from the $150 per member per month increase spelled out in the FY16 budget.

Georgia’s growing economy has made it possible for the state to infuse new funding into K-12 education and systems appear to be directing the funding directly to classrooms and to teachers as intended.       

Legislation and final action may be accessed online at: and the state budget can be accessed online at the Senate Budget and Evaluation Web site:

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