Schools Remain Legislative Focus

The Georgia General Assembly worked through last week’s weather challenges to keep the 2015 legislative session on track.

After some tweaking in the Senate, both chambers on Feb. 19 approved the House Appropriation Committee’s FY2015 mid-year appropriations bill, and Gov. Nathan Deal signed it the same day.

The biggest beneficiaries of the additional funding in the current fiscal year: Georgia’s public schools.

In addition, the bill urges the Department of Community Health to study how to continue providing coverage to 22,000 part-time school employees under the State Health Benefit Plan. The issue likely will be resolved in the next few weeks as we work through the $21.8 billion budget for FY2016.

The House last week also approved an education bill I co-sponsored. House Bill 100 would phase in over two years a stricter age requirement for entering kindergarten.

Educators want kindergarteners to be developmentally ready for school. Currently, a 4-year-old can start kindergarten in August if he doesn’t turn 5 until Sept. 1.

We are delaying implementation of the bill’s provisions until the summer of 2017 so that parents have time to adjust to the changes. In 2017, a child may enroll in a state-funded kindergarten if he turns 5 by Aug. 1. Starting in 2018, kindergarten students must turn 5 by July 1.

Two of the highlights of this session for me came toward the end of last week.

Several folks from the Barrow County Farm Bureau participated in Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 19. My guests included Ray Fowler, Chuck and Bobbie Steele, Wanda Faulkner, Russ Wilburn, Linda Crumley, Terry Hollifield and John McLocklin.

And a very meaningful moment for my family occurred the morning of Friday, Feb. 20, when the Rev. Chuck Cook served as the House Chaplain. Chuck is a Winder native and youth pastor at Northeast Church in Braselton. He also is my wife Cindy’s first cousin, and it was a great privilege to introduce him in the House where he gave a devotional and prayer.

We are now halfway through the 2015 session. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent Barrow County. May God bless you and your family and our great State.

Rep. England has served in the Georgia House of Representatives since 2005. He represents District 116, which includes most of Barrow County. In addition to chairing the House Appropriations Committee, he is an ex-officio member of the Ways & Means Committee and a member of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, the Education Committee, the Industry and Labor Committee, and the Natural Resources and Environment Committee. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact him at englandhomeport@gmail.com or by calling his legislative office at 404-463-2245.