Senate Democrats derided the legislation as offering only “mock” protections, but most voted in favor of it along with the Republicans.
Senate Bill 211 by Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, which Kemp also signed on Thursday, will create a literacy council tasked with examining why so many third-graders are unable to read at the grade level. The council, made up of 30 members who are appointed by the governor and state legislators, will meet through 2026 to review literacy programs and decide which ones are “evidence-based.” Lawmakers approved $251,000 in funding for the council in the budget for fiscal year 2024.
The PSC has until July 1, 2025 to ensure that teacher certification exams are “consistent with evidence-based and developmentally appropriate literacy education,” language that likely affects how Georgia colleges of education prepare teachers. All K-3 teachers have the same deadline to complete a literacy training program “developed or purchased” by the state.
Starting in the fall term of 2024, schools will have to administer a reading screen to all students in kindergarten through third grade three times a year, and they will have until August 1 of that school year to implement intervention plans for students who show signs of significant reading shortfalls. School boards have until December 1 of that year to approve “high quality” educational materials for students.
The bill would require the state to recommend screening and educational materials.