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Posted: February 26, 2017 5:00 a.m.

Belton: A good week for education at the Capitol

The pace certainly picked up this week as the House passed many bills. I’ll highlight the most meaningful below.

The House passed a law that would prohibit Georgia colleges or universities from creating any “Sanctuary” policies. Many years ago we’d already passed a law against “Sanctuary Cities” but felt we needed to expand those provisions to our halls of learning. We also passed a bill that adds stepparents to the list that a court could award custody of a child should his parents die. On the military front, we passed a bill that grants HOPE scholarships to Georgia National Guard and Reserve Components who work in Georgia. We also passed a bill that would help our Department of Education identify military children. Finally, by a unanimous vote, we passed my School Choice for Military Children bill on the floor of the House.

I led my most important Military Affairs Committee this week, where we heard from our top military liaisons in the University and Technical College systems. Armstrong University was ranked the fourth best military friendly university in America, followed by Georgia State at No. 7, UGA at No. 42, College of Coastal Georgia at No. 52, and Augusta University at No. 112. Our Technical Colleges fared just as well: Savannah Tech is ranked No. 1 in the nation, followed by Wiregrass GA Technical College at No. 13, Gwinnett Technical College at No. 19, and Central GA Technical College at No. 25. These winners shared best practices with their colleagues, so we can make all our colleges military friendly as well as our K12 schools around our military bases.

90 percent of Georgia’s universities and technical colleges have a military outreach center. Georgia allows veterans to receive in-state tuition as well as HOPE. Our military liaisons reach out to veterans the very first time they call, keeping a life-line of support as they navigate through a completely different environment. “Veterans know what it is to serve,” said award winning Mark Eister of Georgia State, “but they feel disconnected from the camaraderie of military life.” Veterans leave the extremely structured life of the military and enter the incredibly unstructured life of college life, a transformation that often leads to early drop-outs. “The first semester is the most critical time. Once you give a soldier a direction, he knows how to accomplish the mission.” Military liaisons, counselors, and peer advisors help find that soldier’s direction. Veterans also enjoy the Post 911 GI Bill scholarship, but getting the benefits is an incredibly cumbersome process that requires a great deal of help from these military advisors. As most soldiers do not receive help from their parents, these advisors also help these veterans find part-time jobs, accommodations, and methods to cope with their disabilities (most veterans leave the military with a disability – physical or psychological). Georgia is a very military-friendly college state.

The School Turnaround Bill passed the House Education Committee, creating a system of supports and assistance for our 153 chronically underperforming schools. This bill will give the State School Board a systematic method to use already existing law to give resources to our lowest performing schools. If progress is not made after a few years, certain interventions to fix these schools would then ensue (that was already in existing law as well.) In order to gain bipartisan approval, the idea of private school vouchers was not included. We also passed a companion bill that creates a dollar for dollar income tax credit to create funds for this project while not adding any tax burdens

I hope you will continue to pray for me as I serve you under the Golden Dome. You can contact me at 706-372-4114 or davebelton112@gmail.com.

 

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