Virtual School Meanderings

March 28, 2016

GAEL Capitol Opinion March 25, 2016 Sine Die Edition

More on Georgia HB100 (see

The GAEL Capitol Opinion
Sine Die Edition

March 25, 2016
Good Friday at Last!
After midnight last evening one of the most emotion filled sessions of the Georgia General Assembly came to a fluttering end.   Two of the major emotional issues were religious freedom and campus gun carry. Religious freedom as HB 757 was amended and passed both House and Senate and now rests with the Governor. The Governor has until May 6 to veto, sign, or allow the bill to become law. No one knows how much longer the media circus will continue before the Governor acts. Of equal emotional merit is HB 859, the campus gun carry bill that is to the Governor as well. He strongly suggested that the General Assembly “fix” the bill but the legislators wanted no part of that. The legislature also approved the stun gun bill, HB 792, very late last night.
For educators it was a nail bitter down to the end to make sure the Senate approved the House changes to SB 364, the TKES/LKES/Testing bill. They agreed on Day 40 after 9:00 PM. The bill exited the General Assembly in the same format that has been reported to you previously. It lowers TKES to 30%, LKES to 40% student growth; requires 90% student attendance to be counted in the student growth calculation; reduces the number of mandated tests and makes SLOs local instruments; and finally places significant emphasis on K-5 literacy and math. There were only two votes against the bill in its entire travel through the General Assembly, Sen. Josh McKoon from Columbus and Sen. Mike Crane from Newnan. It now goes to the Governor.
FY 2017 Budget
Perhaps the most important news was the passage of the FY 2017 Budget. There were few changes in the conference committee’s budget from that which left the Senate last week. The highlights of the Budget are:
  1. $300 Million to reduce the austerity reduction, leaving $150 Million on the austerity plate. The Governor has indicated that teachers are to receive a 3% pay raise from that money but it is up to local systems as to how they do they that and it may show up as furlough day reduction, bonuses, or supplements. There is no adjustment to the state salary schedule and there is no explicit guarantee of the same money for next year but based on current revenues that should not be an issue.
  2. $222 Million in bonds for capital outlay.
  3. $124 Million for T&E and enrollment growth.
  4. $29.4 Million for Move on When Ready growth.
  5. $8 Million in bonds for career and technical equipment.
  6. $8 Million for the State Charter School Commission supplement.
  7. $3.2 Million for information technology supporting local school systems.
  8. $3 Million for charter system grants.
  9. $2.5 Million for film and AV grants for middle and high schools.
  10. $300,000 for PBIS personnel employed by RESAs.
  11.  3% raises for lunchroom workers, bus drivers, nurses, and RESA personnel.
Thanks to our friend Angela Palm from GSBA for her budget synopsis.
Last Minute Deals
One of the most frustrating events every year in the General Assembly is to watch the last minute deals in the form of bills added to other bills, bills being completely rewritten, and amendments to bills added from the floor as another bill that  is being considered-but alas that is the way they do business under the Gold Dome.   This year saw Sen. William Ligon attempt to get his two bills, SB 310 and SB 355, attached to House bills but the House rejected the opt out bill, SB 855 and we believe that the Senate approved the bill without the Ligon amendment. Of note is that neither bill was considered on its own merits by the full House. Sometimes it works for the good. Rep. Tom Dickson stripped all of the language out of HB 100, the kindergarten starting age bill which passed the House last year, and replaced it with legislation that deals with virtual school instruction being offered by school systems to out of school students. It too was adopted in its highly amended version. There was NONE of the kindergarten start age language left in HB 100.
The Bills Which Passed
Listed below are the bill which we believe passed. The final version will not be available until next week when we determine what actually passed and in what form. A few years ago a bill passed at 11:45 PM and when the House voted on the measure there were three different versions of the bill on the floor and it was not until a week later that the Speaker, the author, and the House Clerk were able to determine exactly which version passed.
Just because a bill is shown as adopted does not mean that it is on its way to the Governor. Very frequently one chamber makes changes to the other chamber’s bills and then those bills have to return to the originating chamber for Agree/Disagree votes, many of which take place on Days 39 and 40 amid the ending fury. If the chambers disagree a Conference Committee is then appointed to resolve the differences and the Conference Committee report must be approved by both chambers. That is why it takes a week to make sure of what was truly adopted. You will get that report next Friday.
2016 BILLS
Requires two budget hearings each year
QBE funds earned for out of district virtual learning must be spend on v.l.
Pilot program to put video cameras in special needs classrooms
Requires system financial disclosures on website + SB 374 + SB 310
Review process state/local for instructional materials
Permit school bus drivers to use cell phones as radio
Home schooler must score 1350 on SAT to have Zell Miller HOPE
HOPE revision, includes computer science as optional rigor
Biliteracy seal for proficiency in foreign language
Training for finance officers; charter school head cannot be finance officer
Title 20 cleanup; dual enrollees exempt from EOCT; SB 329; SB 348
Encourage dugout safety instruction
Request more time for recess
Encourage sudden cardiac arrest training for athletics
Retiring police officers retain weapon and badge (SRO)
Local government (BOE) may not restrict freedom of speech
Require health care providers to provide electronic/printed directories
Prevents GHSA from limiting religious expression; cross scrimmages
GADOE may not get grant unless approved by legislature Added to HB 659
Expands rules for dual enrollment, MOWR, career academy grants
Allow retirement systems to invest in commingled and collective funds
Eases Strategic Waiver systems path to Career Academies and grants
Sets opt out provisions for testing
Failed to pass
Clarifies Freedom of Speech for BOE members Added to HB 659
Reduces TKES from 50 to 30%; sets testing K-12
Criminal justice reform; requires training for tribunals
Exemption for certain financial reports for pilot Title I programs (HB 659)
Encourage BOEs to guarantee sport safety
If you have questions about any of the above bills or any others related to education, please do not hesitate to contact me at or
Sine Die!
The Capitol Opinion will be published each Friday of the 2016 General Assembly.  If you have specific questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me at or770-601-3798.  The Capitol Opinion is authored by Jimmy C. Stokes and is not the official position of GAEL or any of its affiliates.

GAEL, P.O.Box 6445, Athens, GA 30622

March 21, 2016

Georgia – HB 100 Education; Date By Which A Child Must Reach A Certain Age In Order To Be Eligible For Enrollment In Certain Educational Programs; Change Provisions

I also received this from a colleague a few days ago…

HB 100 by Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta), a bill that originally changed the Kindergarten start date for students, was stripped of its original language and replaced with language that requires school systems to use 90 percent of funds received for students enrolled only in virtual school programs in a local system but residing in another system ON virtual school instruction and nothing else. The bill was amended in committee in a way that this provision will not be eligible to be waived by Charter or Strategic Waivers systems.

This was an interesting case, as it illustrates the lengths that some will go to impose their ideological agenda on public education.

Sponsored By
Sponsored In Senate By
First Reader Summary
A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to elementary and secondary education, so as to change provisions relating to the date by which a child must reach a certain age in order to be eligible for enrollment in certain educational programs; to provide for related matters; to provide for an effective date; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
Status History
Mar/15/2016 – Senate Read Second Time
Mar/15/2016 – Senate Committee Favorably Reported By Substitute
Feb/20/2015 – Senate Read and Referred
Feb/19/2015 – House Passed/Adopted By Substitute
Feb/19/2015 – House Third Readers
Feb/12/2015 – House Committee Favorably Reported By Substitute
Jan/29/2015 – House Second Readers
Jan/28/2015 – House First Readers
Jan/27/2015 – House Hopper

Feb/19/2015 – House Vote #47Yea(110)Nay(53)NV(8)


I also received this from that same colleague…

Adopted Education Bills
The following bills have been adopted by both House and Senate. In some cases it must return to its original chamber for an agree vote but that is seen as an issue with any of the listed bills.
HB 100 Pertains to two school systems that permit out of system students to
participate in their virtual learning courses. Requires that QBE funds
earned in this manner be spent on virtual learning.
QBE funds earned for out of district virtual learning must be spend on v.l.

November 4, 2014

ALEC And Online Learning

This came across my radar screen yesterday – ALEC’s Extensive Plans for Education Restructuring in Your State.  It is an interesting read, and I think readers will be particularly interested in this portion:

Now for a great idea: Take lower-performing students and put them in an automated education setting. Call it “virtual public school” to make it sound fancy. Be sure to note that virtual public school “may” help students improve academically.

Virtual Public Schools Act  (2005) 

…“Virtual school” shall mean an independent public school in which the school uses technology in order to deliver a significant portion of instruction to its students via the Internet in a virtual or remote setting. …

Meeting the educational needs of children in our state’s schools is of the greatest importance to the future welfare of [state]…

… Providing a broader range of educational options to parents and utilizing existing resources, along with technology, may help students in our state improve their academic achievement….

Virtual schools established in this article… Must be recognized as public schools and provided equitable treatment and resources as any other public school in the state. [Emphasis added.]

These “schools in front of a screen” may” work– we don’t know if they will prior to pushing through this legislation in [state]– but be sure they get their share of [state’s] public school fiscal pie.

In 2010, ALEC expanded its virtual learning to include a “clearinghouse” of online courses to be offered across districts. The model bill, entitled Online Learning Clearinghouse Act, includes no details regarding the accountability of the online education vendors. There is, however, a section detailing the payment of fees to the unaccountable virtual vendors.

And in order to further ensure that under-regulated online vendors might have a chance to pocket public school funding, in May 2012, ALEC proposed a model bill, Online Course Choice for Students:

This bill opens up the world of high-quality online course instruction to students. Each year, students in public school grades 7-12 would have the option to enroll in up to two online courses that award college credit or meet standards for core academic courses. The state would create standards and accountability measures to ensure that they are providing students with a course catalog containing only high-quality online course offerings. Funding for each online course is driven by the free-market in an open and competitive process, rather than simply allocating a portion of student funding unrelated to the actual cost to deliver the course. (In other words, vendors are paid per student.) Finally, after completion of each online course,parents and students provide feedback via the web in an open forum to rate the effectiveness of the course.  This feedback, combined with test scores, provides a quality indicator ranking that is available to all. [Emphasis added.]

No agency monitors these vendors to guarantee that teaching and learning are actually happening.

June 19, 2013

Congratulations to Texas on Advancing Competency-based Learning and Online Learning

More news from the neo-liberals (although with some factual errors)…

Digital Learning Now!

June 17, 2013

Press Office
(850) 391-4090

Digital Learning Now! Congratulates Texas for Offering Expanded Options & Flexibility to 2.5 Million Students

WASHINGTON – On Friday, June 14, 2013, two bills became law in Texas which support next generation models of learning. Texas Senate Bill 1365 supports competency-based learning by allowing students to earn credit for courses by meeting rigorous benchmarks on selected exams. Additionally, House Bill 1926 guarantees every student in grades six through 12 the option to take up to three high quality online courses.

Today, Digital Learning Now!, a national campaign under the Foundation for Excellence in Education with the goal of advancing state policies that create a high-quality digital learning environment, released the following statement regarding the two newly enacted laws:

“Digital Learning Now! congratulates the Lone Star State for taking such an important step forward in advancing course choice and the customization of public education for Texas students in grades six through 12. By expanding course options for approximately 2.5 million students, Texas will ensure a stronger and freer educational future for its students while creating one of the largest online course choice programs in the country – becoming a national leader in supporting next generation models of learning.

“Further, by enacting Senate Bill 1365, the state is allowing greater flexibility on student advancement based on skill and proficiency level instead of ‘seat time.’ By allowing students to earn credit for courses after achieving high scores on state-approved exams, including AP and CLEP exams, the state has placed a strong emphasis on content mastery rather than how long a student is sitting in a classroom. This is a huge step forward in ensuring Texas students earn credit for true mastery of a subject and are able to move on quickly to the next level in their academic pursuits.

“We commend Governor Rick Perry, the bill authors and sponsors, and the entire Texas Legislature for their commitment to advancing these important policies. The real work now begins of implementing these reforms with a commitment to ensuring high quality. We look forward to working with Texas leaders in the months ahead, and we encourage lawmakers to continue to work toward improving, expanding, and strengthening policy related to online and blended learning opportunities for all students.”

To learn more about these bills, check out Digital Learning Now’s summaries and analysis of Senate Bill 1365 (Credit by Exam) and House Bill 1926 (Online Course Choice).

# # #

Digital Learning Now! is a national campaign under ExcelinEd with the goal of advancing state policies that will create a high-quality digital learning environment to better equip all students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in this 21st-century economy. The policy framework stems from the belief that access to high-quality, customized learning experiences should be available to all students, unbounded by geography or artificial policy constraints.

P.O. Box 10691
Tallahassee, FL 32302-2691
T: 850-391-4090
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Copyright © 2013 Foundation for Excellence in Education

December 3, 2012

Washington Post: Michigan Coalition Opposes Race To Top Finalist In Letter To Obama, Duncan

I wanted to re-post this today, given that I am one of the many signatories, and that the collection of lame duck bills includes provisions to drastically expand online learning in the state with not checks or balances and no measures to ensure quality.  It essentially throws open the doors to a system of K-12 online learning that, to date, has produced very poor results in Michigan (e.g., one news item noted that the Michigan Virtual Academy reported results lower than that of the Detroit Public School District).

For those not familiar with what is happening in Michigan, I would recommend reading Michigan again: ‘This bill … disenfranchises voters, ends their local control, and unconstitutionally hands taxpayer-owned property over to for-profit companies.’

Michigan coalition opposes Race to Top finalist in letter to Obama, Duncan

A large coalition of Michigan parents, PTA leaders, K-12 teachers, professors and others — including the superintendent of Detroit Public Schools — sent a letter (see text below)  to President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan protesting the selection of a new education entity as a finalist in the latest edition of Race to the Top, the administration’s signature education initiative.

The U.S. Education Department this week announced 61 finalists in the latest Race to the Top edition, this one designed to award a total of nearly $400 million in federal funds to school districts that agree to implement specific school reforms. The list of finalists was somewhat unusual, given that it was intended for districts but a few individual public charter schools won, as well as charter school networks. In Michigan, the only finalist named was the “Education Achievement Authority,” a newly created entity that will operate  the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in Michigan. The state government had applied to three previous rounds of Race to the Top, not winning any of them.

Here’s the letter that explains why so many people in Michigan oppose the naming of the EAA as a Race to the Top finalist:

Dear President Obama and Secretary Duncan:

We are encouraged that education continues to occupy such an important space in the national agenda, and we thank you for your efforts in promoting dialogue around this critical issue.  We are writing to share our deep concerns with the possible awarding of Race to the Top funds to the “Education Achievement Authority” or EAA in the state of Michigan.

The EAA, a “state reform” district modeled after the problematic New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD), was established through an August 2011 interlocal agreement between then-Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools Roy Roberts and Eastern Michigan University under the former Public Act 4 of 2011 (“The Emergency Manager Law”), an act that was repealed by the Michigan electorate in the November 6 election. Shortly thereafter, the Detroit Board of Education voted to disband the EAA and to sever ties with Eastern Michigan University.  Despite the voice of the electorate, our Michigan state legislature is pressing forward with bills during the lame duck session that would codify the EAA into state law.

To continue reading…

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