Aid, Social Issues Top Education Agenda
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The precollegiate education spending figures do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
It was a busy year for education in the Georgia legislature.
Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Truth in Class Size Act, which goes into effect in the fall, will set maximum sizes for grades K-8 and require that districts stop using a systemwide average in setting class sizes, which they have been doing since 2000. Districts will be able to continue using an average maximum figure only for grades 9-12.
Gov. Perdue also pushed through the controversial Classrooms First for Georgia Act, which requires school systems to spend at least 65 percent of their total operating budgets on direct classroom expenses, beginning in fiscal 2008.
Spending on K-12 education in fiscal 2007 will rise by $779 million, to a total of $7.21 billion—a 12 percent increase.
The increase includes $216 million to cover a 4 percent increase on the state’s salary schedule for teachers and kindergarten paraprofessionals. The state added $138 million to help districts pay for increases in employee health-insurance costs.
Teachers also will get a $100 debit card—at total cost of $10 million statewide—to buy school supplies in early August.
Other controversial legislation that passed includes voluntary new high school-level courses on the Bible. The state must now develop and adopt curricula for classes on the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Another law will require parents to be notified of all extracurricular clubs or activities at their children’s schools. Parents will be able to withhold permission for their children to join activities or clubs. The measure was seen as an attempt by conservative lawmakers to thwart support clubs for gay and lesbian students.
Vol. 25, Issue 40, Pages 16-17