Thursday, January 15, 2015

Education: Top Priority for House Democrats

ATLANTA, GA (PR) - Members of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus rolled out their legislative agenda today. Democrats are dedicated to ensuring the next generation has access to a first-rate education and the tools to drive the economy forward. They “understand that a strong educational foundation is the greatest predictor of economic success.”

“However, successful students are developed through parental responsibility and strong schools. We also recognize that our policies in education should reach every child – and not just a select few. 

“Our legislative agenda will help students from the earliest days of learning through the post-secondary academics. Last year, we were pleased to see a number of our initiatives passed or incorporated into other bills, including the Parent Protection Act.”


• Anti-Discrimination Act: Sponsored by Rep. Simone Bell and co- sponsored by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, this legislation will ensure that state financed schools receiving School Scholarship Organizations (SSOs) do not discriminate based on race, gender, national origin, religion, sexuality or disability. 

• Civics in Schools Act: Sponsored by Rep. Debbie Buckner and co- sponsored by Rep. Mike Glanton, the Department of Education will be required to develop and implement comprehensive civics education curricula for all middle and high schools in order to improve students’ civic knowledge, skills and attitudes. 

• Drop-out Deterrent Act: Sponsored by Rep. Keisha Waites and co- sponsored by Rep. Able Mable Thomas, this legislation will revise the age of mandatory education from between ages 6 and 16 to between ages 5 and 17. 


• HOPE for All Act: Sponsored by Rep. Stacey Evans and co-sponsored by Rep. Mickey Stephens this legislation will amend the HOPE ACT bill to fully fund HOPE Grant for all recipients, not just Zell Miller HOPE Grant recipients. 

• Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act: Sponsored by Rep. Sandra Scott and co-sponsored by Rep. Hugh Floyd and Rep Dexter Sharper, this legislation will exclude foster care.

Minority Whip Carolyn Hugley: As state representatives, our continued focus is on three simple objectives: economic security, educational opportunity and shared responsibility. Whether you live in Reynolds or Sandersville, Decatur or Dahlonega, these are the cornerstones of healthy families, strong communities and a thriving state. 

This year, we will grapple with how to fund transportation. We will consider how we meet our constitutional obligation to educate our children. We will confront challenges to the freedoms enshrined in our constitution that by right should belong to every citizen. 

But we cannot be distracted by the scope of these discussions from simultaneously addressing the core responsibility of delivering solutions that will improve the lives of Georgians by addressing the needs that matter most. 

Our 2015 legislative package continues to demand common-sense solutions to the challenges we face, and it asks the General Assembly to put aside politics for good policy. Doing better by Georgians demands that government helps where it can and gets out of the way when it should. 

We introduce a package of twenty-six (26) bills that, if adopted, will make Georgia better for all who call it home. 


Rep. Scott Holcomb: Today, the House Democratic Caucus offers meaningful legislation to help Georgia’s families recovering from the Great Recession, knowing that help must begin at home. The bills we offer today will improve the economic lives of Georgia’s families by creating jobs, helping build small businesses and protecting working families. 

First is the goal of making sure that every Georgian who wants to work can do so. We are offering the Fair Chance at Employment Act, which limits the use of credit checks for employment decisions; the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which encourages private industry to hire ex-offenders through tax credits and expanding investment in tech start-ups by revising the Angel Investor tax credit. 

The General Assembly should immediately act to increase the minimum wage, to pay our bills promptly to the small businesses who have done the work and support entrepreneurs as they transition from unemployment to self-sufficiency. 

Also, as we give private companies public responsibilities, we must require that those companies cost less to the taxpayer, be transparent with how they perform public functions and allow the state to cancel the contracts that fail. 


Rep. Stacey Evans: Democrats understand that for our schools to be successful, our focus must begin on the children in our classrooms and our colleges. The legislation introduced today begins by focusing on our pre-K through 12th grade responsibilities. 

We will push for elimination of discrimination funded by our tax dollars through the Student Scholarship Organizations – public monies given to private schools. We will work to expand the civic capacity of our students and tackle our drop-out rates. 

Cyberbullying continues to interfere with our children’s education and must be stopped. Moreover, we should immediately stop the practice of suspending children in pre-K through 3rd grade and we should mandate that all schools have an emergency preparedness plan for students, educators and parents. For higher education, we will ask that the state provide the full HOPE grant for all recipients, eliminating the tiered system in our existing formula. 

We will lobby to exclude foster care assistance as income in calculating financial aid. Together, we will support successful students and secure stronger schools. 


Minority Treasurer David Wilkerson: The House Democratic Caucus recognizes that while our laws often focus on demands of our citizens, improving government begins by improving how we do our jobs. Today, House Democrats offer a package of legislation that will increase access to voting, defend civil rights and protect tax payer investments. 

The extensive use of Advanced Voting shows that we have the technology to allow voters to cast ballots from any precinct in their counties, a feature that should be offered not only during early voting but on Election Day. We must also reduce the red-tape on voters by requiring timely processing of voter registration applications and permanent portable registration so that you don’t have to re-register simply for crossing county lines. 

Civil rights must extend into the digital age by prohibiting employers from asking for passwords on social media sites as a requirement for employment. Also, we must protect our children by prohibiting on-line operators from amassing student profiles and targeting these kids for advertising. And, as we do our jobs, we cannot forget those for whom we work. 

We will offer ideas to ensure that we get the right return on investment from our tax subsidies attracting new businesses, that every Georgian has access to services, regardless of their English proficiency, and that homeowners have a chance to cure their mortgage debts and stay in their homes. 


Minority Leader Stacey Abrams: The goals of the House Democratic Caucus are straight-forward: help our families live and thrive, provide a quality education for Georgia’s kids and fix government so it works for everyone. Our legislative agenda will promote these solutions, and we will begin by inviting the public to come and hear more about our ideas. 

Our first hearing will be Tuesday, January 27 at 2:00 pm in room 230 at the Capitol to discuss our goals for educational opportunity. We will discuss our economic security legislation on Wednesday, January 28 at 1:30 pm in room 230. 

Shared responsibility proposals will be reviewed on Thursday, January 29 at 2:30 pm in room 216. We will also offer a budget review and update for the public on February 3, to understand the proposed budget and understand its impact on our families and small businesses. 

We will cap our efforts with a Community Wrap-Up event on February 4, to discuss not only our agenda but to understand what else is happening under the Gold Dome. The packets you have been given contain a complete list of legislation and sponsors and the Legislative Hearing schedule. All legislation will be introduced in the next few days. 

You will find updates on bill numbers as they are assigned on our website: Georgia is a strong and dynamic state, a place for those who believe in a vibrant future and are willing to work to make it a reality. Whether we are born here, come for school, immigrate here or are brought by the promise of jobs and change, Georgia is home. We are committed to a state where you can achieve economic security, find educational opportunity and feel a strong sense of shared responsibility. 

The House Democratic Caucus looks forward to working with the Speaker and the Governor to adopt and implement these common-sense solutions that everyday Georgians have asked for to make their lives better. We owe them no less. Thank you. 

- Emily Oh contributed with this post.

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