Voters rejected the creation of a statewide Opportunity School District for failing schools — but education is still expected to take center stage when the Georgia General Assembly convenes in January.
Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said funding for K-12 school remains an issue, even though most of the previous cuts have been restored. Legislation to change the distribution formula died last year, but he expects it to be resubmitted.
“I’m going to watch that pretty closely,” Hufstetler said. “It shifted funds around from county to county, but I didn’t feel it was a good thing for our schools. I want to make sure our schools come out OK on a new formula.”
The proposed OSD constitutional amendment would have let the governor appoint an outside superintendent to manage the schools put into the district, using federal, state and local funds.
Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, said it’s likely that some sort of school reform will be “on the menu” in 2017.
“I don’t know if we’ll come back to opportunity schools, but every year somebody is filing a bill to make school choice more robust and I expect to see that again,” he said.
Criminal justice reform is also going to be a major issue in the upcoming session, he said, and he expects to see some new initiatives now that state revenue is starting to pick up.
“Since I’ve been elected, we’ve never had a year where there has been money for so-called ‘extras,’ beyond the basics,” Coomer said. “It’s going to be interesting to see where we put that money. Tax reform? Economic development? I don’t have an answer now, but it’s certainly something to follow.”
Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said she is focused on mental health and early intervention — catching it and starting treatment before the age of 5, if possible.
She met last week to go over priorities with officials from the Division of Family and Children Services and from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.
“I’m also looking at our aging population, so both ends of the spectrum,” she said. “One of the great concerns of the Council on Aging this year is transportation — helping those who are older and on fixed incomes get to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, keeping them active and healthy as long as possible,”
Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, said he has several bills he intends to file soon.
One of the measures addresses some language in divorce proceedings dealing with jointly held property.
Another would allow election supervisors to fix misspellings or other mistakes on a ballot. Currently, that can be done only through a court.
He also said he’s going to keep an eye out for ways to enhance work-based learning opportunities in high schools.
“I don’t have any legislation, but I will continue to focus on that to make sure it’s working well,” he said.