Lawmakers and Georgia schools: money, testing, speeding, recess and sex abuse

Educating children is among the top obligations of the state and consumes about a third of the tax revenue, so with Georgia’s 2018 legislative session entering its fourth quarter, what has been accomplished and what could happen before the clock runs out?

Monday is Day 30 in a 40-day legislative session. Day 28 — “Crossover Day” — ended on Wednesday for the state Senate and around 1 a.m. Thursday in the House.

As of that day, when bills must cross from one chamber to the other to remain in play, a handful of important education bills were still alive while one high-profile piece of legislation was killed outright.

House Bill 482 would have created state-funded accounts for more than 4,000 students. Their parents could have redirected the money to private school tuition, tutoring or other services if they chose not to enroll in public school. There were some caveats: students would only be eligible if they’d attended public school at least a year — unless they had a documented disability, had been bullied or adopted from foster care, were low-income or were from a military family new to Georgia.

The vote against this last bill on the House agenda came after a long Crossover Day. It was preceded with opposition speeches by several lawmakers from both parties, including the Republican chairman of the House Education committee, who called it a “voucher” program that would divert money from public schools. The vote was a decisive 60-102.

Here are six bills that passed on or before Crossover Day:

  1. House Bill 787 would increase funding for charter schools operating under the authority of the State Charter Schools Commission. The bill by Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, would cost about $17 million a year, according to a state analysis. The vote in the House was 111-54.
  2. House Bill 217 would increase the annual $58 million cap on the state’s tax-credit scholarship program, which allows taxpayers to reduce their tax bill by the amount they contribute to a private school scholarship program. It passed both chambers last year, but the House and Senate couldn’t agree on how much to raise the cap. It remains in play because this is the second year of a two-year session. A conference committee is attempting to reconcile the differences.
  3. Senate Bill 362 would offer an alternative to the standardized state tests that so many people love to hate. Leaders including Gov. Nathan Deal insist that tests are necessary to hold schools accountable, but Congress has relaxed the mandate, allowing states to experiment. The bill would establish a pilot program so that school districts could try out their own alternatives to the Georgia Milestones. It passed the Senate 52-0.
  4. House Bill 605 is not technically an education bill, but it could affect private schools, day care centers and other entities that take care of children. It extends the statute of limitations for lawsuits by adults who come forward later in life with claims that they were sexually abused as children. The current age limit is 23. The House voted 170-0 to pass it.
  5. House Bill 978 is another bill that is not, strictly speaking, about education but that still attaches to schools, or at least to the people who drive near them. It would establish, for the first time, the use of automated cameras to enforce speed limits in school zones, with fines for violators. It passed the House by a vote of 94-76.
  6. House Bill 273 sounds like a big win for children who like to play but a big loophole would let schools wiggle out of its mandate to schedule daily recess. It was popular with adults, passing the Senate by a vote of 50-0 after passing the House by an overwhelming margin last year. It returns to the House for final approval of amendments by the Senate.


The AJC's Ty Tagami keeps you updated on the latest happenings in K-12 education issues affecting Georgia. You'll find more on, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in state and local education. Subscribe to

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Education

Ga. Senate committee studying Atlanta’s Emory, CDC annexation
Ga. Senate committee studying Atlanta’s Emory, CDC annexation

State legislators hope to end discord between the DeKalb County School District and Atlanta Public Schools over Atlanta’s annexation plans for Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control. The Senate Study Committee on the Financial Impact of Atlanta Annexation on Schools held its first meeting Thursday. Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur...
As assessments soar, taxpayers hope for relief from Atlanta Public Schools
As assessments soar, taxpayers hope for relief from Atlanta Public Schools

Some sticker-shocked homeowners are calling for tax relief after seeing their estimated Atlanta Public Schools taxes on the heels of Fulton County property value hikes. Last year, Fulton County froze residential property values at 2016 levels after complaints about big bumps. This year, property values assessed have gone up significantly to reflect...
Former Savannah St. chief violated harassment policy, report finds
Former Savannah St. chief violated harassment policy, report finds

The conduct of Savannah State University’s former police chief with three female officers violated the school’s sexual harassment policy, according to a state investigative reports released Thursday. The officers said they feared retaliation if they told others about his conduct, the reports say. The most serious allegation was that...
Georgia gets mixed grades for college grad rates of black, Latino students
Georgia gets mixed grades for college grad rates of black, Latino students

Georgia received mixed grades from an organization for its efforts to help African-American and Latino students earn college degrees. The Education Trust released a report Thursday that found African-American and Latino adults are less likely to hold a college degree today than white adults were in 1990. While about 47 percent of white adults...
Will Georgia educators turn their backs on Casey Cagle?
Will Georgia educators turn their backs on Casey Cagle?

The Cagle campaign for governor is in the midst of damage control after Clay Tippins, the fourth-place finisher in the May GOP gubernatorial primary, released a recording of Casey Cagle explaining he promoted a bad education bill to undermine another candidate. A tactic has been to decry the surreptitious recording made by Clay Tippins...
More Stories