General Assembly of ...

General Assembly of Georgia Legislative Changes Impacting Public Education – 2022

October 26, 2022 | by Blake C. Sharpton

During the 2022 Regular Session of the General Assembly of Georgia, the Legislature enacted twenty-one bills that impact education. A summary follows:

4-H RELATED ABSENCES

Act 772 (H.B. 1292) prohibits students who participate in 4-H sponsored activities or programs from being counted as absent from school, subject to verification requirements provided for in the Act.

This Act enacts Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-692.3.

Effective May 2, 2022.

REQUIREMENTS OF BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETINGS

Act 721 (S.B. 588) provides that meetings of local boards of education shall be open to the public except as otherwise provided by law. The Act provides for public notice of public meetings of local boards of education. The Act requires local boards of education to annually adopt rules of conduct for public meetings of the local board of education. The Act provides for a public comment period. The Act further provides for the removal of members of the public from public meetings of a local board of education for actual disruption in accordance with rules adopted and published by the local board of education. The Act provides that visual and sound recording shall be permitted at such public meetings. The Act provides that it shall not be construed to limit the authority of any law enforcement officer or the application or enforcement of the Open Meetings Act (Ga. Code Ann. §§ 50-14-1 to 6).

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-58.

Effective July 1, 2022.

BOARD OF EDUCATION COMPLAINT RESOLUTION POLICY REQUIREMENT

Act 720 (S.B. 226) requires each local board of education to adopt a policy, no later than January 1, 2023, providing for a complaint resolution process to be used by its local school system to address complaints submitted by parents or permanent guardians alleging that material that is harmful to minors has been provided or is currently available to a student. The Act provides for policy requirements. The Act requires the Georgia Department of Education to develop a model policy for use by local school systems no later than September 1, 2022. The Act defines the term “harmful to minors.”

The Act enacts Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-324.6.

Effective July 1, 2022.

REVISIONS TO CHARTER SCHOOLS ACT OF 1998

Act 769 (H.B. 1215) revises, and provides, certain definitions relative to the Charter Schools Act of 1998. For more information see the following blog article: https://www.butlersnow.com/2022/10/general-assembly-of-georgia-legislative-changes-impacting-charter-schools-2022/.

Effective July 1, 2022.

ELEMENTARY AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION PROGRAM – PILOT TO ONGOING

Act 599 (H.B. 1303) provides for the transition of a pilot program for elementary agricultural education to an optional ongoing program. The Act requires participating schools to employ an agricultural education teacher.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-154.3.

Effective July 1, 2022.

ELEMENTARY RECESS REQUIREMENTS

Act 841 (H.B. 1283) provides for scheduled daily recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five, subject to limitations provided for in the Act. The Act requires local boards of education to establish written policies allowing unstructured break time for students in kindergarten and grades one through eight.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-323.

Effective July 1, 2022, and applicable beginning with the 2022-2023 school year.

GENERAL EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (GED) DIPLOMAS

Act 726 (S.B. 397) updates and replaces terminology throughout the Official Code of Georgia Annotated related to general educational development (GED) diplomas and provides for state approved high school equivalency (HSE) diplomas. The Act updates the minimum standards and requirements for such diplomas to be established by the Technical College System of Georgia. The Act revises provisions related to HOPE GED vouchers.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. §§ 15-10-22, 20-2-69, 70, 204, 690, and 690.1, 20-3-66, 395, 400.1, 405.1, 411, 519, 519.2, 519.6, and 660, 20-4-11, 25-4-8, 40-5-22, 42-3-50, 42-9-44 and 45, 43-6-11, 43-10-2, 9, and 12, 43-10A-7, 43-18-41 and 50, and 43-26-38.

Effective July 1, 2022.

GEORGIA MENTAL HEALTH PARITY ACT

Act 587 (H.B. 1013) enacts the “Georgia Mental Health Parity Act.” The Act provides the framework to ensure that mental health and substance use disorders are covered under health care plans and state health plans in compliance with federal parity requirements. The Act expands the fields of study for service cancelable education loans to Georgia residents. The Act requires the state to provide funding for a minimum of five new co-responder programs and provides for the training of behavioral health co-responders. The Act provides for the establishment of a grant program to implement assisted outpatient treatment. The Act authorizes the establishment of a grant program for providing funds to accountability courts to implement trauma-informed treatment and to units of local government for transportation costs to and from emergency receiving, evaluating, and treatment facilities, subject to appropriations.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. §§ 15-21-101, 20-3-374, 31-53-3, 33-20A-31, 33-24-28.1, 29,  and 29.1, 35-5-2 and 5, 37-1-20 and 116, 37-2-4 and 6, 37-3-1, 42, and 101, 37-7-1, 42, and 101, 49-4-153, and 49-5-24 and enacts Ga. Code Ann. §§ 15-1-23, 31-2-17, 33-1-27, 33-21A-13, 33-21A-14, 35-6A-15, 37-1-7, 37-1-114.1, 37-1-115.1, 37-1-120 through 37-1-125, 45-12-154.1, 49-4-152.6, and 49-10-5.

Effective July 1, 2022.

PARENTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS

Act 718 (H.B. 1178) enacts the “Parents’ Bill of Rights.” The Act provides for the protection of the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their minor children from undue infringement by a state or local government entity, local board of education or other governing body, or any officer, employee, or agent thereof. The Act requires school and school system governing bodies to adopt policies or regulations that promote parental involvement in public schools. The Act provides for policy or regulation requirements, including, but not limited to required procedures for a parent to review his or her child’s records, for a parent to learn about his or her child’s courses of study, for a parent to object to instructional materials, for a parent to withdraw his or her child from sex education studies, and for a parent to prohibit recordings of his or her child subject to safety and security exceptions. The Act provides that its provisions are not intended to and shall not be construed to authorize a parent to engage in unlawful conduct; prohibit a judge or officer of a court of competent jurisdiction, law enforcement officer, or any agent of a state or local government entity that is responsible for child welfare from acting in his or her official capacity within the reasonable and prudent scope of his or her authority; prohibit a court of competent jurisdiction from issuing an order that is otherwise permitted by law; or apply to a parental action or decision that would end life. The Act provides for a process by which parents shall have access to certain information. The Act provides for appeals. The Act prohibits certain waivers. The Act provides for definitions.

The Act enacts Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-786.

Effective July 1, 2022.

POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION – FORMING OPEN AND ROBUST UNIVERSITY MINDS (FORUM) ACT

Act 818 (H.B. 1) enacts the “Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act.” The Act provides for public forums at public institutions of higher education within the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia for the campus community. The Act prevents the creation of free speech zones at such public institutions of higher education. The Act provides for reasonable, content- and viewpoint-neutral, and narrowly tailored time, place, and manner restrictions on expressive activity at public institutions of higher education. Under the Act, protected expressive activity consists of speech and other conduct protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, including, but not limited to, lawful verbal, written, audio-visual, or electronic expression by which individuals may communicate ideas to one another, including all forms of peaceful assembly, distributing literature, carrying signs, circulating petitions, demonstrations, protests, and speeches including those by guest speakers. The Act prohibits material and substantial disruption of protected expressive activity at public institutions of higher education. The Act requires public institutions of higher education to provide public notice of rules and expectations regarding expressive activity and to develop materials, programs, and procedures related to expressive activity. The Act provides for annual reporting. The Act provides for definitions.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. § 20-3-48.1; repeals Ga. Code Ann. § 20-3-48.2; repeals and reenacts Ga. Code Ann. § 20-3-48; and enacts Ga. Code Ann. § 20-4-11.1.

Effective July 1, 2022.

POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION – EXPANSION OF NEEDS BASED FINANCIAL AID PROGRAM

Act 725 (H.B. 1435) expands eligibility for the state’s Needs Based Financial Aid Program to include students with a financial aid gap. The Act provides for a definition of “financial aid gap” and revises the definitions of “eligible student” and “qualified institution.” The Act provides for part-time students to be eligible for the program. The Act limits awards to undergraduate level postsecondary education and provides for a maximum total award amount of $2,500.00 per eligible student. The Act updates the student application process. The Act clarifies the authority of the Georgia Student Finance Commission to establish rules and regulations for the program and provides for the authority of the Georgia Student Finance Commission to conduct compliance examinations of the program, to annually measure and evaluate the program, to collect and monitor enrollment and student data, and to suspend qualified institutions under certain circumstances. The Act revises the criminal penalty for persons making false statements or misrepresentations in the application process. The Act provides for automatic repeal on June 30, 2025.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. §§ 20-3-360 through 20-3-364 and enacts Ga. Code Ann. §§ 20-3-365 and 366.

Effective July 1, 2022.

POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION – REVISIONS IMPACTING NONPUBLIC POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

Act 789 (S.B. 333) provides for multiple revisions applicable to nonpublic postsecondary educational institutions. The Act removes certain provisions related to agents and agent’s permits. The Act provides for new exemptions from applicability of Part 1A of O.C.G.A. Article 7 of Chapter 20-3 (Ga. Code Ann. §§ 20-3-250.1 to 250.27) as related to certain programs for industry-specific certifications and certain short courses. The Act provides for expanded exemption from applicability of such part for certain programs where students obtain occupational training through employment experience. The Act requires financial assessments for each institution applying for an initial or renewed authorization to operate. The Act revises bonding requirements. The Act revises Tuition Guaranty Trust Fund participation requirements; eliminates the cap on such fund; removes bankruptcy of a participating postsecondary educational institution as grounds for reimbursements from such fund; provides for expanded opportunities for reimbursements from such fund; and provides for the suspension of authorization for a postsecondary educational institution to operate when it does not meet its obligations regarding such fund.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. §§ 20-3-250.2, 250.3, 250.5 to 250.8, 250.10 to 250.15, 250.18, 250.21, and 250.27 and repeals Ga. Code Ann. § 20-3-250.9.

Effective July 1, 2022.

POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION – FUNDING FOR VETERANS SCHOLARSHIPS TO THE TECHNICAL COLLEGE SYSTEM OF GEORGIA

Act 642 (S.B. 87) enacts the “Senator Jack Hill Veterans’ Act,” which authorizes Georgia taxpayers to make certain voluntary contributions through the income tax payment and refund process to aid and assist veterans with service-connected disabilities through scholarships to the Technical College System of Georgia. The Act provides for the addition of appropriate language relative to such contributions to be added to the Georgia income tax return form. The Act provides for annual determinations and transmittal of scholarship funds by the Department of Revenue.

The Act enacts Ga. Code Ann. § 48-7-64.

Effective April 18, 2022 and applies to all taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2023.

PROTECT STUDENTS FIRST ACT

Act 719 (H.B. 1084) enacts the “Protect Students First Act.” The Act prevents the use of and reliance upon curricula or training programs which advocate for nine delineated “divisive concepts,” including, but not limited to, the concept that one race is inherently superior to another race. The Act’s provisions are subject to exceptions provided for in the Act. The Act provides that it shall not be construed or applied to inhibit or violate the rights protected by the Constitutions of Georgia and the United States of America or undermine intellectual freedom and free expression; infringe upon the intellectual vitality of students and employees of local boards of education, local school systems, or other schools; prohibit a local board of education, local school system, or other school from promoting concepts such as tolerance, mutual respect, cultural sensitivity, or cultural competency consistent with the requirements of the Act; prohibit a school administrator, teacher, other school personnel, or an individual facilitating a training program from responding in a professionally and academically appropriate manner and without espousing personal political beliefs to questions regarding specific divisive concepts raised by students, school community members, or  participants in a training program; prohibit the discussion of divisive concepts, as part of a larger course of instruction, in a professionally and academically appropriate manner and without espousing personal political beliefs; prohibit the full and rigorous implementation of curricula, or elements of a curriculum, that are required as part of advanced placement, international baccalaureate, or dual enrollment coursework, provided that such implementation is done in a professionally and academically appropriate manner and without espousing personal political beliefs; prohibit the use of certain additional curricula; create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, by any party against a local board of education, local school system, or other school, or the departments, agencies, entities, officers, employees, agents, or any other personnel affiliated with such local board of education, local school system, or other school; or prohibit a state or federal court or agency of competent jurisdiction from ordering training or other remedial action that discusses divisive concepts due to a finding of discrimination, including discrimination based on race. The Act requires local boards of education, local school superintendents, and the governing bodies of charter schools to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race. The Act requires that curricula and training programs shall encourage school employees not to judge others based on race. The Act provides for complaint resolution policies and procedures, including corrective action plans; provides for promulgation of a model policy by the State Board of Education; and provide for guidance to schools and local school systems by the Department of Education. The Act provides for a process by which certain individuals shall have access to certain records. The Act provides for penalties and remediation. The Act prohibits certain waivers; prohibits basing certification and classification of certain professional personnel upon completion of training programs which advocate for divisive concepts; and prohibits certain performance standards and the code of ethics for educators to require completion of training programs which advocate for divisive concepts. The Act provides for definitions, including, but not limited to, a definition for the term “divisive concepts.”

The Act provides that no high school that receives Quality Basic Education (QBE) funds shall participate in, sponsor, or provide coaching staff for interscholastic sports events which are conducted under the authority of, conducted under the rules of, or scheduled by any athletic association unless such athletic association provides for an executive oversight committee. The Act provides for the appointment, membership, selection of officers, meetings, duties, and authorities of such executive oversight committee. The Act provides that if the athletic association determines that it is necessary and appropriate to prohibit students whose gender is male from participating in athletic events that are designated for students whose gender is female, then the athletic association may adopt a policy to that effect; provided, however, that such policy shall be applied to all of the athletic association’s participating public high schools. The Act provides for reimbursement by the athletic association for duties related costs incurred by such executive oversight committee. The Act provides for noncompliant high schools to forfeit QBE funding.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-200, 316, 739, 984, and 984.1, and enacts Ga. Code Ann. § 20-1-11.

Effective July 1, 2022.

RESIDENCY PROGRAMS – ACCREDITATION REVISIONS

Act 831 (S.B. 340) revises the definitions of “designated teaching hospital” and “hospital authority” to change the entity that approves a residency program from the American Medical Association to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. § 31-7-95.

Effective July 1, 2022.

REVISIONS TO CHILDHOOD LEAD EXPOSURE CONTROL ACT

Act 776 (H.B. 1355) revises provisions relating to abatement of lead poisoning hazards, decreasing the concentration of lead for lead poisoning and elevated blood lead level, decreasing the ratio of lead for lead poisoning hazard, and expanding locations to be measured and included in abatement.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. §§ 31-41-4, 11, 12, 14, 17, and 18.

Effective only upon the effective date of a specific appropriation of funds.

FINANCIAL LITERACY INSTRUCTION AND THE GEORGIA CIVICS RENEWAL ACT

Act 723 (S.B. 220) provides for a mandatory course of instruction in financial literacy for students in eleventh or twelfth grade beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. The Act requires the State Board of Education to establish content standards for such course. The Act provides for such course to count toward a mathematics, social studies, or elective unit of credit requirement for graduation. The Act requires the Professional Standards Commission to establish appropriate requirements and procedures to provide for qualifications for teachers of such course and provides for a financial literacy endorsement by the Professional Standards Commission.

The Act enacts the “The Georgia Civics Renewal Act.” The Act establishes the Georgia Commission on Civics Education to promote and enhance the education of students on the importance of civic involvement in a constitutional republic, the study of state and local government among the state’s citizenry, the importance of civic engagement and public service, and communication and collaboration among organizations in the state that conduct civics education.

The Act provides for membership, filling of vacancies, terms, officers, duties, meetings, and reimbursement of members of the commission. The Act provides for an automatic repeal of “The Georgia Civics Renewal Act” on December 21, 2028.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-200 and enacts Ga. Code Ann. §§ 20-2-149.4 and 209, and 20-14-95.

Effective April 28, 2022.

STUDENT SCHOLARSHIP ORGANIZATIONS

Act 722 (H.B. 517) addresses student scholarship organizations and provides for the inclusion of earned interest in such organizations’ calculations of minimum revenue obligations for scholarships and tuition grants. The Act requires that student scholarship organization audits are conducted in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards, provides for the expansion of the scope of such audits, and provides for a deadline by which such audits shall be reported to the Department of Revenue. The Act requires that student scholarship organizations immediately notify the Department of Education if the Department of Revenue ceases preapproving contributions to student scholarship organizations. The Act requires student scholarship organizations to annually submit copies of Form 990s to the Department of Revenue. The Act provides that student scholarship organizations are solely responsible for verifying student eligibility. The Act provides for expansion of public reporting requirements. The Act provides for increases to the limit available to individuals, heads of household, married couples filing joint returns, and individuals who are members of certain limited liability companies, shareholders of Subchapter “S” corporations, or partners in a partnership. The Act provides for tax credits for qualified education expenses to be used by certain insurance companies against certain tax liability. The Act provides for conditions and limitations on the allowance of tax credits for qualified education expenses. The Act revises the aggregate annual limits of the tax credit and provide for increases contingent on the Governor’s revenue estimates. The Act provides for annual determinations by the Office of Planning and Budget. The Act revises and provides for definitions.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. §§ 20-2A-2 and 3 and 48-7-29.16.

Effective July 1, 2022, except that Part II of the Act becomes effective January 1, 2023, and applies to all taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2023.

TEACHERS RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF GEORGIA – REVISIONS IMPACTING RETIRED CLASSROOM TEACHERS

Act 724 (H.B. 385) provides for public school systems to employ certain beneficiaries of the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia as classroom teachers in a full-time capacity in areas of highest need determined for the Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) to which such public-school system is assigned. The Act requires such employers to make employer and employee contributions on behalf of such employed beneficiaries and provides for conditions and limitations for beneficiaries who return to service full time as teachers. The Act provides for the annual determination of areas of highest need for each RESA. The Act further provides for a performance audit concerning the provisions of Ga. Code Ann. § 47-3-127.1.

The Act enacts Ga. Code Ann. § 47-3-127.1.

Effective July 1, 2022, only if it is determined to have been concurrently funded as provided in Ga. Code Ann. §§ 47-20-50 to 51; otherwise, this Act shall not become effective and shall be automatically repealed in its entirety on July 1, 2022, as required by Ga. Code Ann. § 47-20-50(a).

TECHNICAL COLLEGE SYSTEM OF GEORGIA – APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAMS

Act 728 (S.B. 379) provides for the creation and expansion of registered apprenticeship programs in the state through the High-demand Career Initiatives Program. The Act authorizes the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia to enter into contracts with employer sponsors for the successful completion of the education, training, and other requirements of apprentices in Georgia. The Act provides for application requirements and procedures. The Act authorizes contract completion awards for employer sponsors. The Act requires the board, in conjunction with the Office of Workforce Development, to create and publish a list of high-demand jobs in Georgia. The Act requires an annual report by the Office of Workforce Development. The Act authorizes the board to accept grants and other funds and to adopt rules and regulations for the program. The Act provides for an automatic repeal on July 1, 2027.

The Act enacts Ga. Code Ann. §§ 20-4-150 to 156.

Effective July 1, 2022.

UNMASK GEORGIA STUDENTS ACT

Act 586 (S.B. 514) enacts the “Unmask Georgia Students Act.” The Act provides that no local board of education, local school superintendent, governing body of a charter school, or school administrator, teacher, or other school personnel shall make or enforce any rule that requires a student to wear a face mask or face covering while present on school property unless such rule provides that a parent or guardian of such student may elect for his or her child to be exempt from such rule. The Act provides that a parent or guardian making such election shall not be required to provide a reason or any certification of the child’s health or education status. The Act provides that no student shall suffer any adverse disciplinary or academic consequences as a result of such election. The Act prohibits certain waivers. The Act provides for an automatic repeal on June 30, 2027.

The Act amends Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-59 and enacts Ga. Code Ann. §§ 20-2-779.2, 2077, and 2094.

Effective March 29, 2022.

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