Georgia Gov Signs Education Bill

( – The Governor of Georgia, Republican Brian Kemp, signed two new education bills into law on April 13th that deal with literacy and school safety.

One bill requires all state public schools to conduct “active shooter drills” at least once each year by October 1st. This has been one of Kemp’s legislative priorities. Students will be required to take part in these drills unless school districts allow parents to opt them out. 

The same bill requires the state to create anti-gang programs and training for teachers and staff about how to identify gangs and their recruitment techniques.

Kemp told a gathering of school superintendents that the bill “modernizes school safety protocols” and gives teachers and staff the necessary skills to protect student safety.

Earlier in the year, lawmakers granted Kemp’s request to allocate money to school safety. Legislators earmarked a total of $115 million that will be doled out in $50,000 increments to every public school in Georgia.

The other education bill Kemp signed deals with literacy rates. Like those in many states, the literacy rate of Georgia students is dismayingly low. A test administered by the state found that 63 percent of students could not read and write at their own grade level. A test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only 32 percent of fourth-grade students in Georgia are proficient readers.

House Bill 538 and Senate Bill 211 focus on raising literacy among students in third grade and below. Republican Rep. Bethany Ballard, who sponsored one of the literacy bills, said that age range is crucial because “third grade marks that transition where you stop learning to read and you have to start reading to learn to go further in your education.”

The state’s education department will be required under the new laws to create curricula and instructional materials for Georgia schools. That department will also be required to choose a standardized test to assess reading progress among public school students.  Every year, each district will have to show evidence that it has been using these approved materials.

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