GET BUZZ’D AT THE STATE CAPITOL

GET BUZZ’D AT THE STATE CAPITOL

GET BUZZ’D AT THE STATE CAPITOL

Get Buzz'd Blog Header

A focus on the state legislature and the policies effecting Georgian’s everyday life. 

Buzz Brockway, VP of Policy, is in downtown Atlanta at the state Capitol building, and walks us through the the last day or sine die of the legislative session. 

 

Our state lawmakers create policies that better the lives of Georgians. Learn more about active legislation and how it translates into everyday life for all of us.

Educating our educators on Senate Bill 47

Educating our educators on Senate Bill 47

Educating our educators on Senate Bill 47

group of students

We have some great news to share! Lawmakers in the Georgia House are likely to take up Senate Bill 47 as soon as today. SB47 makes vital improvements and updates to the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an important way we can serve Georgia families and the special-needs community, as many of these students have been left behind due to school closures, learning loss, and lack of access to crucial therapies. 

Among other key changes, SB47 would:

  • Expand the program to include a limited list of students with special needs (including autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and dyslexia) who have a 504 plan and formal diagnosis from a licensed doctor.
     
  • Allow students who attended a public special needs preschool in Georgia to participate.
     
  • Allow students with special needs who are adopted from foster care to access the program immediately.
     
  • Make other updates to the scholarship program in line with the renewed need among families for help due to COVID-19.

 

 

Students are not all the same, so their education shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all model. 

 

Sadly, the Georgia School Board Association is lobbying hard against SB47. The organization recently sent an email to supporters listing a number of objections to the measure and urging people to oppose it.


Here are those objections and our responses from the Georgia Center for Opportunity team:

There is no requirement that a student be re-evaluated to determine the students’ continued needs or eligibility. For example, an elementary student might have an IEP to receive speech therapy that they would not need after a few years.”

This seems like a red herring. It’s unfair to burden both public school systems and parents with constant revaluations in an attempt to catch a handful who no longer warrant an Individualized Learning Plan (IEP) or 504 plan. This would also create a massive burden on schools to evaluate kids who are no longer in the public school system.

The bottom line is that if a child is succeeding in a new environment, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean we should take them away from that school and put them back in an environment where they were not succeeding. We must prioritize the needs of individual students and get them the help they need. That standard is even more important for our neighbors in the special-needs community.

“There is no requirement that a private school provide the services in the IEP or 504 plan that the taxpayers are funding them to receive.”

No, but parents aren’t going to send their child to a school (especially if they need to come out of pocket with resources to do so) if the school cannot or is not meeting the child’s needs.

“There is no report to the taxpayers as to whether the students are receiving services or not.”

“Receiving services” is not an indicator of success. Children who are enrolled in public schools are also “receiving services,” but if their families choose to leave based on this scholarship, those services presumably are not meeting their needs. Parents have their children in the school of their choice voluntarily and they aren’t going to choose a school that can’t meet their child’s needs.

“Parents must give up all federal rights under IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to take the voucher.”

IDEA was something disability advocates had to fight for so that public schools would treat students with special needs the right way. IDEA rights only apply to public schools, so by definition if a child is not in public school, those specific rights do not apply.

This doesn’t mean that these students are being mistreated. In fact, a parent has the ability to leave any private school that isn’t serving their child well, which is currently not the case for public schools. If a child returns to public school at any time, their rights under IDEA are still fully intact. 

An imperfect analogy: You carry insurance on your car in case something happens. Then you move to a large city and can either walk or take the subway everywhere, so you sell the car. Someone might say, “But you gave up your insurance!” No, you gave up your car.

“There has never been an independent evaluation of the voucher program so we have no idea about a number of things including its effectiveness.”

There is literally a report that comes out on the program every year that includes 40 pages or so of information including academic performance data.

Parental satisfaction has been the major measure for accountability for this program and nothing in this bill changes that. That is completely inconsistent with a belief in transparency and accountability for the use of taxpayer dollars.

The issue lands here: Providing quality education to all students should be the goal of our education system. That system must prioritize the needs of individual students and families. When quality education is not accessible to a child — for whatever reason — we must provide options. It is our responsibility to give each child a sense of purpose and belonging as we prepare them for their future.

 

 

GET BUZZ’D AT THE STATE CAPITOL

Get Buzz’d At the state Capitol

Get Buzz’d At the state Capitol

Get Buzz'd Blog Header

A focus on the state legislature and the policies effecting Georgian’s everyday life. 

Buzz Brockway, VP of Policy, is in downtown Atlanta at the state Capitol building, and walks us through the proposed changes to The Special Needs Scholarship, occupational licensing, a current protest, and more.

 

Get Buzz'd - at capitol - March 17 2021

Our state lawmakers create policies that better the lives of Georgians. Learn more about active legislation and how it translates into everyday life for all of us.

Many Special Needs Students Have Struggled with Virtual Classes

Many Special Needs Students Have Struggled with Virtual Classes

Many Special Needs Students Have Struggled with Virtual Classes

Special Needs

For some students virtual classes during the past year have been fine. Some have even thrived. But for many special needs students, it has not gone well, as a parent tells the Georgia Center for Opportunity:

A virtual classroom worked fine for Jennifer’s two older children, but her youngest son, 10-year-old Joey, has Down syndrome. Online learning is entirely unworkable for him due to his special needs.

For example, DeKalb is following a normal bell schedule but staying engaged on Zoom for hours on end is not working. Morning classes will sometimes go well, but by lunchtime Joey is tuned out. It is impossible to get him back online after the lunch break for specials, such as music and art, and Jennifer cannot stay tied up until 2:30pm every day. She has seen academic and social regression for her son as he has little to no interaction with peers.

Additionally, his academic growth is limited due to repetitive practice of current skills on worksheets with no new individual instruction to learn new concepts in language arts or math. As a highly visual and experiential learner, he is missing the magic that happens in a classroom that cannot be replicated on a Zoom call.

“It’s day-by-day and minute-by-minute,” Jennifer shares. “One class he is engaged and on task, and the next minute he is hiding under the bed or taking his shirt off.”

All children, no matter their needs, deserve the opportunity for a high-quality education that meets their individual requirements. 

Today, Axios wrote about a newly released report on 130 studies on the safety of school reopening. The report found:

  • Any benefits to closing schools are far outweighed by the grave risks to children from remote-only schooling — risks that intensify the longer it continues, the report says.
  • The harms include academic loss — so severe that it could set children back for life — and mental health problems related to loneliness and isolation.
  • There are also severe hardships on parents — mothers in particular, about two million of whom have left the workforce to care for their kids as part of remote learning.
  • “Schools are not super-spreaders,” observes the report, written by John P. Bailey, a former deputy policy director at the Department of Commerce.

Fortunately almost 73% of Georgia’s school districts are open for face to face learning. The rest need to reopen ASAP, and plans need to be made to help students who fell behind catch up.

 

This post originally appeared on PeachPundit.com on March 11, 2021.

 

Buzz Brockway is a Guest on the Erick Erickson Show | WSB 95.5

Buzz Brockway is a Guest on the Erick Erickson Show | WSB 95.5

Buzz Brockway is a Guest on the Erick Erickson Show | WSB 95.5

On March 4, 2021 Buzz Brockway, VP of Policy, was a featured guest on WSB 99.5’s Erick Erickson Show to discuss legislation (HB 60) that would allow parents and students more education options.

Unfortunately, HB 60 will not come to fruition this year, but we’re not stopping the fight for our kids. 

Listen to Buzz explain the legislation and learn more about what state leaders are considering for our children’s education. 

Listen to Buzz Brockway explain the importance of House Bill 60 on WSB’s Erick Erickson Show.

Key GCO priority bills make crossover deadline

Key GCO priority bills make crossover deadline

Key GCO priority bills make crossover deadline

legislative update

The Georgia legislative session is halfway over, and already we’ve made some important progress in breaking down barriers to work and expanding opportunity for all Georgians.

We reached a key legislative mark on March 8: The crossover deadline. That means that any bill not passed by at least one chamber (either the Senate or the House) is likely dead for the remainder of the session.

The great news is that several key bills supported by the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) made the crossover deadline.

 

Get Buzz'd capitol update

Watch Buzz Brockway, VP of Policy for GCO, from the state Capitol as he updates us on what legislation is moving forward, and what is over for the year. 

Education

Heading up that list is a measure that would expand the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship. This program helps students with individualized education plans (IEPs) attend a private school that is a better fit for their individual needs. On March 3, the state Senate passed a measure, Senate Bill 47, that opens the scholarship to preschoolers in addition to students with a wide range of special needs, just not those with an IEP.

We’re continuing to work with lawmakers on the House side to pass the bill and send it to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature. We’re hopeful that 2021 will be the year this important measure becomes law in order to better serve families of special needs students who have disproportionately suffered during the pandemic.

Occupational licensing

We’re also seeing progress on occupational licensing reforms. Occupational licensing is needed in some industries and job categories, but the laws on the books today in many cases are an unnecessary roadblock to employment for workers.

Two bills on this issue made the crossover deadline. The first, Senate Bill 45, allows people who move to Georgia and hold an occupational license to immediately be granted a provisional license. This will allow these new Georgians to immediately go to work and support their families.

A second measure, Senate Bill 27, extends the time (up to two years) a retiring military member may count their military training toward requirements for an occupational license

Both bills are now pending in the House.

 

Adoption reforms

We’re pleased that two adoption-reform bills passed the House before the crossover deadline. House Bill 114 would increase the annual tax credit available for adopting a foster child from $2,000 to $6,000. And House Bill 154 would lower the minimum age to adopt from 25 to 21.

Foster and adoptive families play a crucial role in creating stable environments for some of the most vulnerable children in our society. Anything we can do through policy reform to help these families should be a priority.

Justice reforms

In an attempt to address the type of tragic vigilante violence that occurred in the Ahmaud Arbery case, lawmakers unanimously passed House Bill 479 on March 8. The measure overhauls Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law to generally prevent bystanders from attempting to arrest an individual suspected of a crime. GCO believes this is a crucial piece of legislation to prevent unnecessary tragedies and foster greater racial justice in our state.

 

Bills that didn’t make the cut

Unfortunately, supporters of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) will likely have to wait another year before we see them become a reality. Although a measure (House Bill 60) to create ESAs passed the House Education Committee on Feb. 26, it never came up for a vote on the floor of the House.

ESAs are an important way to expand educational access and choice for Georgia students. They allow parents and kids—no matter their race, the circumstances of their birth, or their socioeconomic status—to have equal access to the funds needed for a great education. We’ll continue fighting for ESAs in the 2022 legislative session.

On a positive note, bills that would have legalized parimutuel horse-race betting and casino gambling in Georgia are now dead after failing to make crossover.