Supporting Excellent Science Teaching for Georgia

GSTA Legislative Report - March 1, 2016, Post-Crossover Update

04 Mar 2016 12:52 PM | Jeremy Peacock (Administrator)

Science/STEM Education: Bills to Watch

On February 25th, the Georgia Science Teachers Association held its first annual “Day at the Capitol.”  GSTA members from across the state descended on the Capitol to meet with state legislators and speak with them about relevant issues before the General Assembly.  During the morning session, GSTA members met privately with key influencers such as Senate Education Chairman Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), House Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-Newington), House Education Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), and House Education Committee member Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta).  Later that morning, the group met Governor Nathan Deal (see picture below) and was honored in the Senate Chamber by Senator David Lucas (D-Macon) with Senate Resolution 709.  In the afternoon, each GSTA member met with their local legislators to discuss the importance of the science standards review process and the GSTA’s legislative priorities.  Members of the group spoke with Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), Senate Science & Technology Chairman Bruce Thompson (R-Canton), Governor Nathan Deal’s Senate Floor Leader Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), Senator Bill Ligon (R-Brunswick), Senator Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), Senator Frank Ginn (R-Athens), Representative Spencer Frye (D-Athens), and others. 

On Monday February 29th, the Georgia General Assembly completed the 30th day of the 40-day legislative calendar.  This day was the deadline for legislation to “cross-over” to the opposite chamber in order to remain in consideration.  Legislators who sponsored legislation have from now until March 24th to move that legislation through the committee process and to the Governor’s desk.

Fiscal Year 2017 Budget: The Governor’s proposed FY 2017 budget contained funds for the Department of Education to “develop a statewide, standards-based curriculum to guide instruction and assessment, and to provide training and instructional resources to teachers for implementing this curriculum.”

Status: The House version of the budget reduced those funds slightly in accordance with agency-wide reductions, and the Senate is now considering the budget in committee.    Once the Senate approves the budget it will move to a joint conference committee for reconciliation before each chamber approves the final conference committee report. 

SB 364, sponsored by Senate Education Chairman Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta). This bill seeks to reform the use of standardized tests in the evaluation of both students and teachers.  A major focus of the bill is to pivot from summative assessments to formative evaluations in math and reading.  Of note, the bill requires science end of course tests to be administered annually in grades five and eight.

Status: This bill has been approved by the Senate and will now move to the House for consideration. 

SB 355, sponsored by Senator William Ligon (R-Brunswick). This bill originally sought to enact numerous reforms to the use of standardized tests and Georgia’s teacher evaluation system.  The revised version of the bill approved by the Senate addresses standardized test opt-out procedures and seeks to prevent teachers and administrators from being penalized when a student does not take a mandated test.

Status: This bill has been approved by the Senate and will now move to the House for consideration.
HB 801, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones (R-Milton). This bill, which has strong support from House leadership, seeks to allow the University System of Georgia to add GPA weights to certain STEM courses which would exclusively impact a student’s HOPE GPA.  The purpose of the bill is to prevent students from avoiding STEM courses because of the impact that the rigor could have on their HOPE scholarship eligibility.  

Status: This bill has been approved by the House of Representatives and is now eligible for consideration by the Senate Higher Education Committee.  The University System of Georgia, Technology Association of Georgia, and numerous other key stakeholders are supportive of this bill. 

HB 739, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville). This bill, which was drafted in consultation with the Department of Education and numerous school districts, seeks to bring greater transparency to the instructional materials adoption process.  The bill would make the statewide materials adoption process optional and require local districts to institute an instructional material review process that includes an easily accessible public notice and a parental component. 

Status: This bill has been approved by the House of Representatives and is available for consideration by the Senate Education & Youth Committee. 

HB 1061, sponsored by Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta).  This bill seeks to reduce the impact of assessments on teacher evaluations. It also seeks to require that growth in student achievement as measured for teacher evaluation purposes only be used if the student attends at least 90 percent of instructional days for the course in question.  The bill does not seek to change the number of state mandated assessments in any specific subject matter area.

Status:  This bill was considered by the House Education Committee but did not receive a vote.  It is no longer eligible for consideration this year in its current form. 

HB 734, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine).  While this bill it outside of education, we were introduced to it during our Capitol visit.  The bill would facilitate the development of space flight-related business activities within Georgia, with a goal of increasing the number of STEM-related jobs available in the state.

Status:  This bill was passed by the House Monday and will now move to the Senate for consideration.

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