GeorgiaCAN is looking forward to a productive 2018 legislative session that focuses on the needs of students and improves the quality of education in our state. Throughout the session, we will monitor every education bill and committee meeting to keep you informed. As always, our positions on any bill will be based on our guiding policy pillars.

GeorgiaCAN has several policy goals – laid out below – that we will be advocating for this year. We hope you will join us advancing these common-sense legislative priorities.

Support the funding of the charter facility grant program

In 2017, GeorgiaCAN worked with coalition partners to pass House Bill 430, which aimed to improve Georgia’s charter school environment. Acknowledging that facility costs are one of the biggest challenges these schools face, HB 430 included language authorizing an annual facilities grant for charter public schools. Now, this line item must be funded. GeorgiaCAN will advocate strongly for this funding to be included in the FY2019 budget.

Ensure charter public schools are equitably funded

Despite educating more than 32,000 students, charter public schools authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission do not receive any local share of funding. To make up for this shortfall, the state appropriates a supplement based on the average of the five lowest spending districts in the state. As a result, State Commission charter public schools receive 20 percent less funding on average than traditional schools and in comparison to a district such as APS the difference is nearly twice as much. For a charter school to reach their full potential, charter public schools should be funded the same as any other traditional public school. GeorgiaCAN will support any effort to decrease this funding disparity and ensure that charter public schools are more equitably funded.

Raise the cap of the tuition tax credit program to benefit more students

Georgia’s existing tax credit program helps enable more than 14,000 students to attend the school of their choice. However, despite long waiting lists of students seeking to participate and an overwhelming demand to contribute, the state has capped the program’s size at $58 million. Last year, GeorgiaCAN supported legislation that would have raised the cap. We’ve also advocated for increasing the transparency of the program to allow for a better understanding of the students who are benefiting. We intend to continue our support for these initiatives this legislative session and urge the adoption of HB 217, which aims to increase the spending cap.

Restore the AP exam subsidy for low-income students across all subjects

Georgia had previously covered the cost of one AP exam for low-income students; however, a recent budget change has limited that subsidy to only STEM subjects. AP classes are more rigorous, offer college-level curricula and provide students with college course credits for obtaining a qualified score on their AP exam. GeorgiaCAN urges the General Assembly to support the continuous improvement of AP participation and success rates in all subjects by restoring this subsidy. The ability for a student to participate and earn college credit though the final AP exam should not be limited in any way by their financial situation.

Move Georgia to a student-centric state education funding formula

A student-centric model would base state funding on students and their characteristics and would give districts more flexibility to create programs that best support its students and their individual needs. Further, an analysis of state funding formulas shows Georgia is currently one of only 11 states with no extra state funding for students in poverty or high-poverty schools/districts. Georgia should acknowledge the impact that poverty has on students and schools by incorporating a weight into the formula and should give districts more flexibility by adopting a funding formula based on students rather than programs.

We would love to hear your thoughts on these priorities, if you have a second please fill out this quick survey.

Michael is the Executive Director of GeorgiaCAN.

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