Kemp to sign GOP school bills on race, book bans and parents’ rights

Gov. Brian Kemp after speaking on the last day of the General Assembly at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Monday, April 4, 2022. On Thursday, he'll travel to Forsyth County to sign multiple education bills.  Branden Camp/ For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Branden Camp

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Gov. Brian Kemp after speaking on the last day of the General Assembly at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Monday, April 4, 2022. On Thursday, he'll travel to Forsyth County to sign multiple education bills. Branden Camp/ For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Branden Camp

They are among multiple Georgia education bills he’ll sign on Thursday

Gov. Brian Kemp will travel to the Forsyth County school district Thursday morning to sign into law multiple education bills that Democrats fought against, his office said.

Republican lawmakers in the state, in step with the GOP nationally, championed bills that made education a wedge issue over mask mandates, school books, censorship and race.

One of the most controversial bills Kemp will sign limits how K-12 teachers can discuss about race and racism. House Bill 1084 prohibits the teaching of nine concepts Republicans consider divisive. The definitions were lifted in large part from an executive order by former President Donald Trump prohibiting their use in federal workforce training.

“We can teach U.S. history, the good, the bad and the ugly, without dividing children along racial lines,” Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville,” said ahead of the Senate’s vote.

But Samuel D. Jolly had a different take. He’s a former president of Morris Brown College and chairman of the Council of HBCU Past Presidents.

“We see this bill as being designed to prevent the teaching of systematic racism and trying to sustain the legacy of Jim Crow, which I’m very much a part of,” he said after the bill was approved.

The bill passed with a last-minute amendment establishing a school athletics oversight committee that would oversee sports authorities, such as the Georgia High School Association. The bill authorizes them to determine if transgender students should be prevented from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. Democrats called the amendment shameful and appalling.

Kemp will also sign Senate Bill 226, which expedites the process for removing books considered inappropriate from school libraries and curriculum. Opponents say the books being targeted often deal with issues of race and sexual identity.

Also on the list is House Bill 517, which increases the size of a program that allows taxpayers to contribute to private school scholarships while recouping their money as a credit off their state taxes.

And Kemp will put his signature on legislation clarifying parents’ right to see curriculum and to attend school board meetings — guarantees that mostly already exist in state law.

Kemp’s office said these bills “empower students and parents when it comes to the education of their children.”

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Chelle Brown holds a graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale while speaking at a Cherokee County school board meeting in Canton on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Brown and some other parents advocate for removing books they deem objectionable from Cherokee County schools. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Chelle Brown holds a graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale while speaking at a Cherokee County school board meeting in Canton on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Brown and some other parents advocate for removing books they deem objectionable from Cherokee County schools. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Chelle Brown holds a graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale while speaking at a Cherokee County school board meeting in Canton on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Brown and some other parents advocate for removing books they deem objectionable from Cherokee County schools. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

One school district observed that the legislation on open records and open meetings won’t change much.

For instance, Senate Bill 588 will only require school districts to develop a clear policy explaining the kind of behavior that can get someone kicked out of a board meeting, Mike McGowan, chief of staff in the Cherokee County School District, told his school board last week.

“Every other provision in the new law was already law as it relates to open meetings and the open records act and the publishing of documents, etcetera, etcetera,” he said.

The governor will also sign House Bill 385, allowing retired teachers in high needs areas to work full time while drawing a pension. And he will sign Senate Bill 220, ensuring financial literacy is taught in schools and establishing a commission on civics education that will recommend legislation to lawmakers annually through 2028.

Kemp has already signed legislation that says schools with mask mandates must let parents opt their children out. The law is in effect through June 2027.


Signing of education bills

Who: Gov. Brian Kemp

When: 8:30 a.m. Thursday

Where: Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center, 1150 Dahlonega Hwy, Cumming