A good week for ed­u­ca­tion at the Capi­tol

The Covington News - - OPINION - Dave Bel­ton is a Repub­li­can from Dis­trict 112, serv­ing in the Ge­or­gia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

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.

Ninety 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.

REP.DAVE BEL­TON COLUM­NIST

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