When the Georgia General Assembly convenes Monday, Jan. 14 for its 2013 session, legislators will prepare to make decisions on a number of important issues for Georgians. This year lawmakers will tackle key education items impacting school safety, program funding and teaching standards.
As Vice President Joe Biden wraps up a week of stakeholder meetings, and prepares to present President Obama with his recommendations for comprehensive gun violence legislation on Tuesday, the Georgia General Assembly prepares to address a wide range of gun-related proposals. Like most state’s, Georgia lawmakers priority to address school safety is fueled by the horrible school massacre at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary that included the shooting deaths of 26 children and educators. Among many of the topics include putting more armed officers or resources officers in schools and even arming school principals and teachers with guns. The Georgia Federation of Teachers, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) have already released statements against the idea of arming school principals and teachers. In line with some of Vice President Biden’s committee recommendations, some Atlanta Democrats are already talking about gun-control measures like limiting high-capacity magazines, requiring background checks and public records of private gun sales. In local response to all of the discussion over gun control, stores like Wal-Mart are reporting record gun sells and selling out of ammunition as the public anticipates new gun laws on the horizon. The combination of school safety laws and gun control will remain under the microscope this year.
There is new hope for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship as well as other education programs funded through the Georgia Lottery. Two years ago Georgia students and parents faced HOPE Scholarship cuts impacting the ability for many students to continue their college educations. This year Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal says he intends to give HOPE recipients 3 percent more toward their tuition staring with the fall semester. Thanks to more Georgians playing the lottery there was more revenue added to the state program. This means more funding is available to cover other lottery education projects like the Pre- K Program. The program’s previous cuts included knocking down the number of days for Pre-K education from 180 to 160 a calendar year. Last year the state added 10 days back to the Pre-K calendar and this year Gov. Deal says he will not only add an additional 10 days to the calendar, but also increase Pre-K teacher pay.
Another key issue for Georgia teachers is this year’s new teacher evaluation system that ties educators' job performance assessments to student performance. Programs like physical education, art or band presently do not require the same assessment tools as would math, reading or social studies. The problem to be resolved is how to measure areas where standardized tests are not used as basic measuring tools. There also must be a way to assess younger grade levels where standardized tests are also not required. The Georgia Department of education and lawmakers will be working together to develop an effective and fair evaluation process.
The 152nd Georgia General Assembly officially begins with 2013 and with both Senate and House of Representative members meeting at the Georgia State Capital in downtown Atlanta. The session convenes at 10 am on Monday, Jan. 14.