Georgia lawmakers likely to focus on education funding, school safety

Gwinnett County Public Schools Police Chief Tony Lockard demonstrates the district’s new front entrance security and sign-in system at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee on Friday, July 22, 2022. Building security is likely to be a key education topic for Georgia lawmakers during the upcoming 2023 legislative session. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Gwinnett County Public Schools Police Chief Tony Lockard demonstrates the district’s new front entrance security and sign-in system at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee on Friday, July 22, 2022. Building security is likely to be a key education topic for Georgia lawmakers during the upcoming 2023 legislative session. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

School funding, building security and student counseling will likely get attention during the 2023 legislative session.

After a bruising election year session when Republican lawmakers pushed through controversial legislation about classroom race discussions, the banning of books and the prohibition of transgender athletes, this session may be more be more about traditional school issues.

One perennial topic, a law allowing more publicly-funded vouchers to attend private schools, could face less resistance after the death of House Speaker David Ralston. The Blue Ridge Republican clashed with voucher advocates last year and blocked their efforts. Currently, the state only funds vouchers for students with disabilities and indirect funding through tax-credit funded scholarships.

Lawmakers will likely wind up negotiating changes to the complicated Quality Basic Education formula. It’s the method that has been used to distribute state revenue to 180 school districts for nearly four decades. Based on a 1985 law, it was established long before computers became a staple in classrooms. Many have recognized for years that it is time for an overhaul, but little has changed. Former Gov. Nathan Deal tried, but the mechanism proved too complicated and the potential cost too high.

Even so, the Georgia Senate studied the formula last summer with an eye toward amending it, and state school Superintendent Richard Woods announced in late December that updating it is a priority for him. He said he wants to “modernize” it to address poverty, transportation, technology and other “needs to support a 21st Century learning experience” for students.

Gov. Brian Kemp, meanwhile, will be pushing legislation to help future teachers pay for licensure costs. He has also said he wants to direct money into the early grades to recover learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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