It was a busy year for educational advocates and stakeholders in the 2024 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Lawmakers focused on a wide range of issues including social media use and restrictions, library funding, charter schools, school choice and even transgender issues. Today, we look at education related bills that passed and moved on to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

One of the most controversial bills gaining passage this year was SB 233, the “Georgia Promise Scholarship Act,” which will provide participating students $6,500 in scholarship funds each school year. Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, and Rep. Todd Jones, R-South Forsyth, teamed up to push this legislation through both Chambers. The bill also had strong support from Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, and Speaker John Burns, R–Newington, during the final days of session.

The bill creates the Georgia Education Savings Authority to administer the Promise Scholarship Program and adds the revision of the definition of ‘qualified education expense’ by distinguishing between eligible core courses and eligible CTAE courses.

“It is deeply meaningful to me that, five years after presenting this measure to the Senate, we have come together to support this tailored bill. SB 233 is designed to prioritize families in the decision-making process for their children’s education, offering choice and alternatives for those enrolled in schools that may not adequately serve their needs,” said Dolezal.

Jones added: “The General Assembly has taken a critical step to changing the trajectory of K-12 education in Georgia with the passage of Senate Bill 233. A sea change moment has occurred with SB 233 as we put the child at the center of every education decision in our great state.”

Other bills passing this session include:

SB 395 by Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Gwinnett. “Wesley’s Law” is named in memory of a family member of Dixon’s who died of a fentanyl overdose. This bill requires schools to make a “reasonable effort” to maintain a supply of naloxone/Narcan, an opioid antagonist. The legislation allows teachers to carry and keep the drug in classrooms, and protects anyone who uses or chooses not to use naloxone in a school from liability and shields school districts and staff from civil liability.

HB 409 by Rep. Lauren Daniel, R-McDonough, was stripped and replaced with Daniel’s version of “Addy’s Law” contained in HB 1284. The bill encourages schools to consider reconfiguring school bus stops. Under this legislation, drivers violating Addy’s Law could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined at least $1,000, jailed for at least 12 months, or both. The bill was amended on Sine Die to add language allowing the for-profit management companies of some charter schools to make decisions regarding employee hiring and benefits.

SB 351 – Protecting Georgia’s Children on Social Media Act by Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R- Dallas, requires local school boards to create social media policies prohibiting students from accessing social media through school-owned devices or internet services. The State Board of Education has the authority to review these policies and may withhold funding from non-compliant schools and districts. Local board bullying policies must also be expanded to address cyberbullying and provide information on resources and services related to addressing bullying.

Also, SB 351 requires social media companies to verify user ages, prevent minors from holding social media accounts without parental consent, and provide additional privacy protection for minor account holders.

HB 1122 by Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, provides for funding requirements for superintendents for state charters with full-time equivalent students over 1,000 and principals for local and state charter schools, allows part-time employees who work at least 20 hours per week to have their children attend the charter school, and clarifies conflicts of interest around which charter school employees can serve on state and local charter boards. The bill also includes language from HB 1186, which requires the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) to work with GaDOE to establish a single numerical score on a scale of 0-100 and four scoring categories for public schools and school systems that must be published on the GOSA website, GaDOE website, school system website, and the school website if one exists.

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