Today’s piece is cross-posted from ExcelinEd’s reform news section.
The Georgia Legislature met from January 12 to April 2, 2015, and considered many types of education reform during their three-month session. ExcelinEd commends Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Representative Buzz Brockway, Representative Mark Hamilton and the entire Georgia Assembly for their leadership in building a strong foundation for education reform in the state. Below is a summary of Georgia’s efforts to advance reform during the 2015 legislative session.
A-F SCHOOL GRADING
On April 21, Governor Deal signed into law SB 133 and SR 287, the A-F School Grading and Opportunity School District (OSD) legislative package. SB 133 enacts A-F School Grading in statute, providing a clear and transparent measure of school performance now used by 16 states. The OSD established is based on similar state intervention districts in Louisiana and Tennessee. Schools earning an “F” for at least three consecutive years will be eligible for the OSD and will remain in the OSD for five to 10 years. Per the provisions in SR 287, the OSD is subject to a statewide ballot referendum in November 2016.
In early May, Governor Deal signed into law SB 89, the Student Data Privacy, Accessibility and Transparency Act, based on ExcelinEd’s model bill language. The legislation passed unanimously in both chambers and is the nation’s most comprehensive student data privacy bill. It strikes a balance between safeguarding student data and ensuring that educators, parents and policymakers have appropriate access to the information they need to drive student improvement and achievement. The law gives parents access to their child’s education record, avoids the unnecessary collection of data that does not belong in that record, requires a data security plan for the state data system, prohibits technology providers working with schools from selling personal information about students or using it for targeted advertising, and provides for the designation of a Chief Privacy Officer.
EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNTS (ESAs)
Georgia made significant progress on a universal Education Savings Account program this session (HB 243/SB 116), which would allow parents to direct their child’s funding to the schools, courses, programs and services of their choice – including tuition and fees, curriculum materials, tutoring, online learning, dual enrollment and licensed services like therapy for students with disabilities. HB 243 passed the House Ways and Means Committee in March, and SB 116 was amended with the ESA language after passing the Senate. Either bill, or both, can be picked up from their current point in 2016, the second year of the two-year session.