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November 23, 2015

Georgia's Education Reform Commission Offers Recommendations

After a year of intense meetings and deliberations, an education task force set up by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has proposed a long list of comprehensive reforms to public education in Georgia.

The Governor's Education Reform Commission conducted its meeting Thursday to discuss and vote upon recommendations to be sent to Governor Deal next month.  The suggested reforms cover a variety of topics in 5 broad areas.

  1. School Funding - A number of recommendations have been made to simplify and update the outdated Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula that has been in use since the 1980s.   Under the proposed changes, the main formula includes a weighted base amount for budget items such as salary, operations and transportation, while the expanded formula includes weighted options for sparsity and poverty. Overall, the proposed formula updates would restore roughly $206 million dollars to public education.  Education funding, like other areas of the state budget, was hard hit during the nation's economic recession.
  2. Early Childhood Education and Pre-K -  Improving the pay grade for early education, pre-K teachers and teacher assistants; reducing class size; and codifying certification for providers are among the approved recommendations for early learning.
  3. Move On When Ready - Changing the method by which reading and math assessments are conducted in early grades, allowing more testing flexibility, and expanding the dual enrollment and career path opportunities started last year with Senate Bill 2 are just some of the recommendations outlined in this category.
  4. Teacher Recruitment & Retention - Allowing districts more flexibility in teacher salaries and bonuses -particularly for serving underperforming schools, reforming the additional pay options for advanced teacher education, and adding more performance-based weights to teacher salaries are all part of this approved package.
  5. School Choice & Options - This is the only area where commission members rejected proposed recommendations.  Members voted against a new program for income-based scholarships for private education.  This new program would have been in addition to a similar, existing program that is not predicated upon need.  The commission also rejected a proposal that would have amended the Education Savings Account legislation set to be debated during the upcoming legislative session in January. Additional recommendations to include clarifying language for Charter school facilities and equal funding were passed and are therefore included in the proposal to be sent to the governor.
The Commission will meet a final time in December to unveil the official report. To review the recommendations debated at the November 19th meeting, click here.