Kemp signs teacher pipeline, other education bills

Gov. Brian Kemp signs a half dozen education bills surrounded by government officials and advocates at Kennesaw State University Tuesday, May 4, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Gov. Brian Kemp signs a half dozen education bills surrounded by government officials and advocates at Kennesaw State University Tuesday, May 4, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a half dozen education-related bills into law at a ceremony at Kennesaw State University Tuesday.

One of them, Senate Bill 88, was a priority for the governor, who has a daughter who is a future educator. Deemed a teacher “pipeline” bill, it seeks to increase the size of the teacher workforce through a variety of means, including an alternative certification path for military veterans, mentoring of teachers, new training requirements in college and efforts to attract more minority college students to the teaching profession.

It also allows the Georgia teacher of the year to advise the state education board at a meeting or public hearing. Kemp said the legislation “is focused on recruiting, preparing, mentoring and retaining the best and brightest in education.” He said he will ask the legislature again next year to let retired teachers return full-time to the classroom in “high needs” areas, something he pushed for this year but did not make it into the legislation.

Education took a back seat this year to other priorities, such as the Republican-led push to overhaul voting and the change to a citizen’s arrest law that drew scrutiny after the shooting death last year of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick.

Senate Bill 47, the most contentious education-related issue during this year’s legislative session, was not among the bills Kemp signed Tuesday though he is expected to do so soon. It would expand eligibility for the 14-year-old Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program to students with a range of conditions, including autism and substance abuse issues, who have “504 plan,” which can require classroom accommodations. Currently, only those identified with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act qualify for the vouchers, which subsidize the cost of private school tuition.

Other education bills signed Tuesday:

  • Senate Bill 59, increasing funding for charter schools and their access to the state health insurance plan
  • Senate Bill 66, merging the Georgia Foundation for Public Education and the Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation
  • Senate Bill 153, moving oversight over three dropout recovery charter schools from the State Charter Schools Commission to the state Department of Education
  • Senate Bill 159, allowing schools to use vehicles carrying eight or fewer passengers to transport homeless students and those with learning disabilities
  • Senate Bill 213, allowing schools to spend sales tax revenue to install equipment that saves energy and water

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