Meeting Minutes, November 14,2007

Legislative Forum
Moderator: Sally Herrell
Panel: Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, Rep. Kevin Levitas, Sen. Steve Henson and Georgia DOE Board Member Brad Bryant
ELPC Minutes
Evansdale Elementary School
November 14, 2007

Welcome & Intros – Co-President Terracer Earnest and Principal Joseph D’Ambra welcomed attendees, County Administrators, and Principals. Board Members Jim Redovian and Cassandra Anderson-Littlejohn and Dr. Sue Snow and Dr. Martha Reichrath from the GA DOE were recognized.

– Sally has been a legislator, and now is a parent at Evansdale. She authored a bill requiring 15 minute Recess for all children (opposed by Superintendents) and continues to advocate legislation that emphasizes things that affect families’ lives. Too much homework and bus pick-ups too early in the morning are current concerns. She introduced the guest panel:

• Mary Margaret Oliver – Representative House District 83 – Has served in both House and Senate.

• Kevin Levitas – Representative House District 82 – 1st term.

• Brad Bryant – State School Board Member – Formerly DeKalb Board Member.

• Steve Hinson – Senator District 41.

Mary Margaret Oliver
1. She is a Fernbank and Druid Hills graduate who appreciates parent/PTA input to the legislative process.
2. On homework, her unofficial survey is that parents are equally divided on the too much-too little issue.
3. The question in 2008 will be: How do we finance education in Georgia? This has been building with the litigation against the state about adequacy of school funding and has proceeded into the Governor’s Finance Committee. Hopefully there will be a settlement soon.
4. Plus there will be a big fight about tax relief/tax reform this year. The Speaker’s proposed HR 900 bill would eliminate property taxes and substitute a sales tax on goods and services. School districts oppose this.
5. There has been little advocacy for public education in Georgia in the last 5 years. The austerity cuts in 01-02 have not been fully restored even though the economy has improved. DCSS lost 20 million in per pupil expenditure and has gotten about 10 million back.

Kevin Levitas
1. He appreciates the great schools and parents in his district. There are not enough education advocates; do write your legislators.
2. With an 11.3 billion budget in 2003 and the last budget topping 22 billion, how/why are austerity cuts still in place? Prioritizing education is the important issue.
3. The QBE (Quality Basic Education) funding formula was not fully funded to begin with and is also now outdated e.g. textbook pricing. Best practices and data are being considered in the development of its replacement, IE2 (Investing in Educational Excellence).
4. A recent science and technology panel stressed that more qualified candidates are needed to fill science and technology jobs. Upping the ante in science and math is positive for students and attracting business to the community.
5. Child safety should be encouraged; this is a very important issue. Cybersafety is a big problem with bills in the House including cyberbullying.
6. Dan Weber and Fran Millar from DeKalb and are important legislative resources to contact: Dan Weber, Senate Education and Youth, Chair; Fran Millar, House Education, Vice Chair.

Steve Henson
1. HR 900 proposes a reform to sales tax. Currently Georgia offers a variety of tax resources – property, sales, advalorem – and is not a relatively high tax state. Steve thinks the stability of the property tax is helpful during economic downturns. If sales taxes decrease, the education budget would be the first to be reduced.
2. If we fully funded education we’d see real change but many argue we ‘can’t throw money at the problem’.
3. Steve does not support vouchers.

Brad Bryant
1. Brad is a Henderson HS grad along with Steve Henson. He has been a parent, PTA Pres., and Board Member in DeKalb and now serves on the State Board.
2. In education it all comes back to serving the child. Nationally we are looking at what it means to serve all children (with NCLB).
3. A recent DOE Board retreat stressed communication is key. We need more opportunities for healthy dialogue and accurate information in education. “Good To Great” by Jim Collins was homework for the retreat. The book suggests greatness is a conscious choice and discipline.

Q. Do Special Ed certification teachers get extra rewards? Can incentives be provided for teachers to get Gifted Certification?
Oliver: We need different incentives and rewards for different kinds of teachers e.g. science, technology.
Bryant: Differentiated learning needs are crucial. Spec. Ed., Science, Math and others are now designated as high needs.
Dr. Reichrath: She will take the idea for certification incentives back to DOE for review.
Henson: The local school board also has the option to create incentive.
Levitas: Business partnerships might also be an option to provide teacher incentives.

Q. How are we reaching out to the business community? What is taught in Career Tech?
Redovian: DCSS has joined the GA Chamber of Commerce. The Board understands that a workforce is crucial. We have also set up a Foundation to fund academies and special programs with businesses.
Henson: SB 68 offers some options with charters and career academies.

Q. For parents making the public vs. private school decision, is there a plan going forward to handle the influx of immigrants in the district? And the resulting individual classroom needs?
Oliver: DeKalb offers leadership in this area. The Avondale International School needs more support and will uplift County scores.

Q. Concerns about DCSS selling a vast piece of property for business development (the Sembler Project) without engaging in open dialogue with the public. Can the Legislature impose a public hearing process when a School Board wants to sell property to a private developer?
Henson: He will take this suggestion back for discussion.

Q. NCLB is up for reauthorization. NCLB aimed to bring students up to grade level – good. Disability students are treated the same as other students – bad. Can you pass along concerns to adjust for students with a disability?
Bryant: The US House and Senate understand this. Data suggests improvement for disability students has happened. The first thought of tweaks has evolved into an overhaul so reauthorization won’t be soon.
Dr. Reichrath: DOE is working with the University of Georgia on alternative assessment.

Closing Remarks & Adjournment – Co-President Faye Andresen - Faye thanked participants and attendees. She suggested www.projectappleseed.org as a resource for parents in public schools and noted the County has selected calendar option #2 (most like this year’s). The meeting was adjourned.

Announcements:

January ELPC Meeting – The New Math: Does it add up? – Fernbank Elementary

February ELPC Meeting – Myth Busters: Connecting Elementary to High School – Oak Grove Elementary

Respectfully submitted,

Polly Wills, Recording Secretary