• By Terrence Wilson, J.D. • IDRA Newsletter • January 2023 • Terrence Wilson, J.D.

Over the last few elections, Georgia’s political importance has been put on full display. Many of the politicians gaining national prominence have put education at the center of their platforms. For Georgia’s over 1.6 million students, the decisions that these leaders make have a huge impact on their ability to be prepared for the future. IDRA’s following policy priorities will create a Georgia public school system that fulfills the promise of a just, equitable education for all.

Secure Full & Fair Funding for Georgia’s Public Schools

All students deserve to attend free, high-quality, fully-funded schools. However, an outdated funding formula and two decades of funding gaps, coupled with the systematic diversion of taxpayer funds toward private education, have undermined Georgia’s public schools and their ability to serve Georgia’s most vulnerable students, particularly those students living in poverty and in rural communities.

IDRA Policy Recommendations

  • Protect the state budget from continuous cuts and identify additional sources of revenue to fully fund public schools;
  • Support schools and families with limited economic resources with additional state funding as Georgia is one of only six states that does not provide additional funding to schools for serving students from families with limited economic resources;
  • Supplement rural district funding by amending the funding formula (QBE) to include a sparsity adjustment for rural districts;
  • Increase funding allotted in the annual budget for dual language immersion programs, with appropriate oversight mechanisms to ensure that funding is applied appropriately;
  • Repeal current voucher programs and reinvest those funds into public schools to ensure that the needs of all students, particularly students with disabilities, can be met;
  • Require participatory budget practices for all districts; and
  • Commission a modern cost study to understand the needs of all Georgia students.

Ensure Excellent Educational Opportunities for Georgia’s Emergent Bilingual and Immigrant Students

IDRA Policy Priorities for the 2023
Georgia General Assembly Session

As home to the seventh largest emergent bilingual student population in the country, it is imperative that we secure their rights to excellent schools that support English mastery while developing and honoring their home languages and cultures.

IDRA Policy Recommendations

  • Modernize Georgia’s statutory language from “English learners” to “emergent bilingual learners” to ensure an asset-based approach to students;
  • Adopt a statewide strategic plan to strengthen emergent bilingual student education as other southern states have done;
  • Celebrate the diversity of languages spoken by Georgia’s students by expanding Georgia’s English-only language law to include other languages;
  • Address teacher shortages in Georgia’s emergent bilingual programs.
  • Expand Georgia’s statewide assessments to be provided in students’ home language;
  • Expand the Georgia Department of Education’s reporting dashboard to include seal of biliteracy attainment and ensure its accessibility for emergent bilingual students; and
  • Direct the Board of Regents to repeal Policies 4.1.6. and 4.3.4. and expand access to higher education and financial aid for undocumented and DACA students.

Create Safer Schools Without Harmful Disciplinary Practices

Georgia’s students should have access to safe and supportive learning environments where teachers and school administrators do not rely on harmful exclusionary discipline and policing strategies. Instead, we must invest in research-based strategies that support positive school climates and student success.

IDRA Policy Recommendations

  • Eliminate the state’s reliance on harmful, unnecessary exclusionary discipline practices inside schools;
  • Expand the mandatory use of Multi-Tiered Support Systems (MTSS) to include the entire prekindergarten-12 continuum to reduce the state’s reliance on exclusionary discipline;
  • Prohibit the use of corporal punishment on any child;
  • End the presence of police inside schools while also collecting and publishing comprehensive and disaggregated policing data, including arrest, citation and use of force data, from schools that use law enforcement;
  • Ensure that students, including LGBTQ+ students and students of color, are safe from discrimination in schools by expanding anti-bullying, reporting and notice requirements; and
  • Provide critical funds for school-based professionals, like counselors and social workers, while expanding implementation of research-based programs, such as restorative practices and social-emotional learning.

Promote Culturally-Sustaining School Climates that Support All Students

Culturally-sustaining schools create positive, safe and supportive school climates for all students to receive high-quality educational opportunities to succeed. Recent classroom censorship policies have made schools less safe or supportive for students.

IDRA Policy Recommendations

  • Codify standards that include the contributions and perspectives of Black and African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and Afro-Latinos throughout American History across K-12;
  • Continue support for cultural and ethnic studies courses by including these courses as social studies credit to meet graduation requirements;
  • Reverse the move toward censoring our classrooms by repealing Georgia’s classroom censorship bills;
  • Amend the Parents’ Bill of Rights to include students’ rights;
  • Ensure curricula and pedagogies equip students to understand gender and sexuality; and
  • Incentivize school districts to implement culturally-sustaining educational practices.

Terrence Wilson, J.D., is IDRA’s regional policy and community engagement director. Comments and questions may be directed to him via email at terrence.wilson@idra.org.

[©2023, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]