By: Stuart Bennett | January 15, 2010, 10:27 am

After taking a break in December, for their annual planning retreat, the Georgia State Board of Education returned to its regular format this month with a relatively light agenda. The state board rules, charter and budget committees met bright and early Wednesday morning to deliberate. The board Rules committee voted to adopt a new rule governing the special education scholarships (vouchers) mandated by SB 10 a few years ago. In her report, policy specialist Carmen Fernandez reported that there are currently 2,100 students receiving these special needs scholarships in Georgia.  This rule and corresponding guidelines are being put in place to govern the current process with little change. The committee also voted to initiate their annual adoption of the state funded courses with Rule 160-4-2-.03 STATE-FUNDED K-8 SUBJECTS AND 9-12 COURSES FOR STUDENTS ENTERING NINTH GRADE PRIOR TO 2008 for the 2010-2011 school years and Rule 160-4-2-.20 STATE-FUNDED K-8 SUBJECTS AND 9-12 COURSES FOR STUDENTS ENTERING NINTH GRADE IN 2008 AND SUBSEQUENT YEARS for the 2010-2011. Both of these rules are reviewed and revised annually based on school district recommendations for additions and the implementation of the Georgia Performance Standards. The department recommends that course or subject submission deadline be June 1 each year so that districts plan earlier for their next school year's course offerings. In other policy actions, the board modified Rule 160-4-2-.34 Dual Enrollment. The amendments to this rule created a new grade conversion chart to bring this rule in line with last year’s “Move on When Ready Act” (HB149). The recommended credit conversions are: 

  • One to two semester hour credits =.5 high school unit credit
  • Three to five semester hour credits = 1 high school unit credit
  • One to three quarter hour credits = .5 high school unit credit
  • Four to eight quarter hour credits = 1 high school unit credit

Last, but certainly not least, the board initiated amendments to The Special Education Rules: 160-4-7-.03 Child Find, 160-4-7-.04 Evaluations and Reevaluations, 160-4-7-.05 Eligibility Determination and Categories of Eligibility, 160-4-7-.07 Least restrictive Environment, 160-4-7-.09 Procedural Safeguards, 160-4-7-.12 Dispute Resolution, 160-4-7-.18 Grants for Services, and 160-4-7-.19 Services for Agency Placed Students. In December, 2008 the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) issued new federal regulations to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Georgia must revise their rules to mirror these federal regulations no later than May, 2010. Click on the link above to review the changes made to each rule.  Click on the consent agenda and special education rules. You might want something with caffeine in it before you begin. Completing our policy report this month, ANNOUNCING, the new school bus specifications are out as the board adopted “New Guidelines for School Bus Specifications.”  The board also approved 10 system waivers this month with rules that have not been waived by the state board until this month: Rule 160-5-3-.02 Contracted Transportation Services; Rule 160-5-3-.08 School Bus Drivers, and Rule 160-5-3-.02 Standard Cost Development.

The other waivers granted were for class size, Direct Instruction, ELL, professional Learning, and alternative education programs.

On the budget front there were only a few annually renewable contracts this month: $88,492.50 in State Funds for the coordination and facilitation of the State’s Science Olympiad; $98,562.50 in State Funds for reimbursement to schools for a portion of administrative costs for students enrolled in courses through Georgia Virtual School for the Summer 2009 and Fall 2009 sessions; Desire 2 Learn (D2L) contract to increase the amount by $56,268.74, for the Georgia Virtual School, and finally, to amend the contract with Covendis Technologies to increase the cost by $1,725,000.00 for a new total contract $5,812,838.00 in State/Federal Funds for Temporary IT Staffing.

 On the charter schools front the Charter Committee had no action items.  The meeting focused on the 2009 Georgia Charter School Annual Report which was presented to the Committee of the Whole on Thursday.  There are 121 approved charter schools enrolling some 65,000 students with 85%of the schools making AYP.  The full report will be posted on the DOE Website.

There was a lengthy discussion concerning the seven charters approved by the Charter Commission.  Currently two appeals have been filed with the State Board, one approval and one denial.  The Committee discussed at length the process and implications if the Commission’s decision is overturned, especially a denial.