The legislative session has begun, and we’ll be updating you throughout the 40 legislative days on the “goings on” under the Gold Dome. To help you cut through all the noise, here are six things to know:
- Lots of $$$ talk – This will be a session that will excite the accountants as Georgia wrestles with questions of spending and revenue. We appreciate the leadership of Governor Kemp to put Georgia in a strong fiscal position by cutting spending, but we fully anticipate significant dialogue on how the budget should look moving forward. That leads us to…
- Casinos are a major threat – In an effort to avoid cuts and instead increase revenue, some are looking to embrace fraudulent math and an otherwise horrible idea: bringing casinos to Georgia. Such a move would cost the state far more than it brought in, hinder our ability to recruit business, and, even worse, provide a magnet for the evil of human trafficking and other community-destroying activity. We will work to empower legislators to oppose this reckless idea.
- Key legislation in position to move – Over the last few years, we’ve been keeping you updated on the “Tebow Bill,” SB 163 – which provides access for homeschool students to participate in extracurricular activities at their local public school – as well as “Simon’s Law,” SB 104 – which closes a loophole in Georgia code and would require doctors to get parental consent before placing a DNR on a minor child. Both have passed the Senate and now just need final passage in the House to reach the Governor’s desk. Expect action alerts in the coming days on this important legislation.
- Protecting children will be at the forefront – We look forward to supporting the Governor’s agenda for foster care and adoption reform, and we are excited by the number of bills aimed at protecting children – including legislation that would protect the vulnerable from gender reassignment surgeries and also athletes in single gender sports from being forced to compete with those who do not share their biological gender.
- Brian Kemp keeps his promises – It’s been incredible to see the profound culture change Governor Kemp has brought to the Gold Dome, and he has proven to be a strong ally for families. We achieved incredible success in 2019, and I expect even more wins in 2020. However, it’s important to understand that he alone cannot make his agenda happen overnight. Some of the issues we engage in will take time, but we are committed to seven more years with him at the helm, and I trust that he will keep every promise he’s made. We also need to send him reinforcements which leads us to…
- Everyone is watching what will happen in November – While I don’t think legislators are “punting” on this session, I do believe there is eagerness to see if the faith community will truly stand with those who have stood with us come election time. It’s why this election cycle could not be more important as we reward those who have done right and oppose those who have placed a radical liberal agenda ahead of protecting Georgians. It’s why we are building an unprecedented election effort, and we hope you’ll support this push push with a generous gift today.
As you can see this is another big year for our ministry and a year that could decide the direction of Georgia for generations to come. I’m grateful to have you standing with us, and I look forward to keeping you updated.
In His Service,
President and Executive Director
Georgia is an awesome place. We have beaches and mountains. Outstanding farmers and a booming film industry (yes, fake news, production is still flocking to Georgia). We are a great place to do business and an incredible place to raise a family.
But, the most precious resource of our state is, unquestionably, our children.
That’s why it’s imperative to address with real solutions, the real problems our children face as they head back to school.
Somewhere in Georgia a coach, teacher, or student will have their First Amendment rights silenced – barred from expressing their God-given and constitutionally protected freedom to exercise their religion.
As school starts, there are children across our state who are at schools that do not fit their needs or schools where they are bullied, and they remain trapped – unable to afford an option better suited for them and their family.
Students who desire to be homeschooled will attend public school because it’s the only place they can participate in the extracurricular activities their tax dollars pay for – foregoing the educational route they’ve identified as best for them.
Conversely, students who remain homeschooled will be denied the opportunity to put on their local high school’s uniform, march in the band, or participate in a club because they won’t sacrifice what they’ve determined to be their educational route – costing them other opportunities crucial for their development.
And, every student and teacher will find themselves handcuffed by a one-sized fits all approach that has characterized our school system for far too long.
So, where’s the hope?
Well, we have a governor in Brian Kemp that is bold in dismantling Common Core, putting students first, and using his political capital to support teachers and stronger classrooms, as you can see in his recent op-ed.
On top of that, he is joined by a leading advocate for empowering students in Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. He outlined his educational philosophy here.
This gives us GREAT hope, and we must seize the momentum!
With such strong leadership at the helm, we are committed to forging a stronger, freer, more empowering Georgia for our students to seize opportunity and become who God meant them to be.
That’s why we testified and fought for Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) which give kids and their parents an opportunity to attend the school that best suits their individual needs, utilizing their tax dollars to fuel their dreams. It’s also why we’ve crafted and led the charge for the Tebow Bill, which allows Georgia homeschool students to (as they are able to in the vast majority of states) participate in extracurricular activities at their local public schools. And, it’s why we are pushing the Student and Educator Faith Protection Act, designed to protect the First Amendment rights of students and faculty.
Back to School is an exciting time, and we are making progress under Governor Kemp. But, it’s also a time when many parents and students are faced with a stark reality – there isn’t enough choice, there isn’t enough freedom, and there isn’t enough protection for the faith and values our kids are taught at home.
To join us in the fight for Georgia, please consider a generous donation today . Your gift will help us craft the policies and lead the charge to fight for Georgia’s most precious resource.
For Opportunity and Freedom in Our Schools,
President and Executive Director
PS. I have great confidence in the leadership of our state, but they need strong partners under the Gold Dome. We can make no mistake about it that choice is lacking in our state. Our education must improve. And, in many systems, our values are being actively undermined – including Decatur where a radical policy led to a young girl’s horrific assault. We MUST do better. Please partner with us today so that we can fight to build on the educational successes we are seeing under Governor Kemp
The 2019 legislative session has concluded, and, if there’s a primary takeaway, it’s this: Brian Kemp and Geoff Duncan are doing exactly what they said they would do.
In a world where politicians have a fuzzy relationship with the truth, campaign one way and govern another, and give a wink and a nod to one group while reaching a handshake agreement with an opposing one, our state is governed by two leaders who buck the trend. Brian Kemp and Geoff Duncan exude integrity, and the 2019 legislative session yielded results and efforts precisely in line with their platforms. How awesome this is!
While I won’t comment on policies outside of our issue area, I will say that the big accomplishments of Year 1 of the Kemp Administration came because he is a genuine promise-keeper, a devoted conservative, a leader who puts Georgians first, and an executive who has surrounded himself with a talented and hard-working team.
Now, onto the biggest win: The Heartbeat Bill. This bill reflects our shared commitment for a Georgia that cherishes life. It establishes the “Personhood” of the unborn and affirms that reality in our tax code, in child support, in how we count people, and in the protection of human life.
We look forward to Governor Kemp signing this bill in the coming weeks, but we know the work is not done. Alyssa Milano was at the Capitol yesterday, and the Left is doing everything they can to drive the phony narrative that the Heartbeat Bill is bad for the film industry and for the business community as a whole. Planned Parenthood and other radical pro-abortion groups are vowing to come after anyone who voted for this life-saving legislation.
That’s where the opportunity comes in. We now have a major opportunity talk about the sad realities of abortion, the truth about life, and achieve a real cultural shift. Moreover, we have an opportunity to support and bolster those leaders who did the right thing and stood for life – while also holding opponents accountable for their radical vote that unborn babies with beating hearts aren’t worth protecting. In the coming days, I will be reaching out to you about the big goals we have to grow so that we can best make an impact on our political landscape.
Overall, this was a great session. Our Tebow Bill (SB 163) will be studied over the summer, and, after passing the Senate this year, starts in a great place for final passage in 2020. Simon’s Law (SB 104) did not make it to the House Floor in time, but it too should become law next year. Our efforts on religious freedom also shaped the dialogue ahead of 2020 and should gain traction in that session.
We would like to thank you for the thousands of calls and emails you partnered with us to send, for your prayers, and your support. We would like to thank Governor Kemp and Lt. Governor Duncan for their awesome leadership and to their staffs for their tireless efforts. We also want to express our appreciation for the lead sponsors of our supported legislation: Rep. Wes Cantrell, Rep. Kasey Carpenter, Sen. Greg Dolezal, Rep. David Clark, Sen. Marty Harbin, Sen. Chuck Payne, Rep. Ed Setzler, Sen. Bruce Thompson, and Sen. Renee Unterman.
Please stay tuned for more information about our efforts and plans. I will be sharing some of our goals next week, and I ask that you be in prayer about partnering with us to further the cause of life and freedom in Georgia.
President and Executive Director
We need a culture change under the Gold Dome. For those who have heard me speak, this refrain- or a variation of it- is often at the forefront of my mind as I share what needs to happen in our state.
This legislative session, key bills and amendments protecting life, religious freedom, and parental rights were killed before they even hit the floor. Despite a thoroughly “red” legislature with a full complement of statewide office holders, they refused to even touch the most important issues.
BUT, there is reason aplenty to rejoice. First, the upcoming elections- featuring open seats at the key statewide positions and every legislative seat- give us a perfect opportunity to make that culture change.
Second, we made substantial progress in our first legislative session here in Georgia. We nearly passed a key parental rights bill (SB 437) in the House after getting unanimous passage in the Senate. With time being the only issue, this will pass next session. Also, we achieved significant progress on Tebow legislation (SB 384 and HB 905), where we will have a summer study committee with the goal of passing a bill in 2019. Our religious freedom in schools bill (SB 361 and HB 922) was the lead story on AJC, got attention from major broadcast stations, and was covered by national media. It will also be reintroduced as well and has been a key differentiator for who is truly supportive of religious freedom and who is not.
Finally, there is some strong school choice legislation now on the governor’s desk including Rep. John Carson’s HB 217- which increases the cap on scholarships for school choice- and Rep. Scott Hilton’s HB 787- which helps fund charter schools. This is a very positive step, though we want to continue to do more to make Georgia a more school choice oriented state.
This legislative session underscored the need to do more, and it also gives us reason to be grateful. It was an exhausting process, and, because of this, I would ask you to thank your representatives- regardless of Party or ideology- for their work on your behalf. Also, please take some time to thank some or all on this (incomplete, my apologies to anyone we forgot) list of legislators who put in tremendous legwork this session fighting for our values:
- Rep. Mandi Ballinger (HD-23) for passing SB 437 out of the House Juvenile Justice Committee.
- Rep. Wes Cantrell (HD-22) for carrying key pro-life and school choice legislation.
- Rep. Kasey Carpenter (HD-4) for carrying our religious freedom in schools and parental rights legislation in the House for us.
- Rep. John Carson (HD-46) for carrying school choice legislation to passage.
- Rep. David Clark (HD-98) for carrying our Tebow legislation in the House.
- Rep. Brooks Coleman (HD-97) for agreeing to set up a summer study committee regarding Tebow legislation.
- Rep. Scott Hilton (HD-95) for carrying school choice legislation to passage.
- Rep. Ed Setzler (HD-35) for requesting SB 437 be put on the floor for a vote in the House.
- Sen. Marty Harbin (SD-16) for carrying RFRA, a resolution calling for a parental rights amendment, and passing a resolution calling for a repeal of the Johnson Amendment.
- Sen. William Ligon (SD-3) for carrying legislation to protect faith-based adoption agencies and to protect free speech on college campuses.
- Sen. Josh McKoon (SD-29) for carrying pro-life legislation.
- Sen. Jeff Mullis (SD-53) for allowing SB 437 to go to the floor of the Senate.
- Sen. David Shafer (SD-48) for requesting SB 437 be put on the floor for a vote in the Senate.
- Sen. Renee Unterman (SD-45) for passing SB 437 out of her Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
- Sen. Michael Williams (SD-27) for carrying our religious freedom in schools and Tebow legislation.
President and Executive Director
By Brittany Jones, an attorney and Policy Manager for Family Policy Alliance
Parents, not faceless government officials, have the fundamental right and solemn duty to direct the education and upbringing of their children. Clear and simple. This is not only a guiding legal principle in our country, it is a reality lived out by parents every day—because only parents can truly know their children and make decisions in their children’s best interest that will set them up for the best future possible.
Directing a child’s education about the world, academics, and faith is the most important duty of a parent. Because children typically spend 7-8 hours of their day in an education setting, the influence of that environment fundamentally influences children culturally, socially, and spiritually.
This means that parents must be free to choose a method of education that best aligns with their faith and and their child’s learning style. When parents are free to do this, they are creating the best foundation for their children to grow into a wide-open future and providing them the fuel to explore God’s unique calling in their lives.
Thankfully, there’s a growing variety of educational choices for parents, though some states are more friendly when it comes to meeting families’ education needs than others. The education method this article focuses on is homeschooling.
As you may know, Tim Tebow—the Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion quarterback—was homeschooled. But thankfully for him, he lived in Florida, where home schoolers are allowed to play sports on public school teams. Had he lived just a bit further over on the Georgia side of the state line, for example, he wouldn’t have had this opportunity.
Family Policy Alliance supports a policy that’s become known as a “Tebow Law,” a law in the majority of states that ensures children who are homeschooled have the same opportunity to access public school extracurricular activities as other children. We believe that a child’s learning style and academic needs should never prevent her from participating in skill-building extracurricular activities. States like Georgia, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Kansas still deny homeschoolers this access. Unfortunately, “Tebow Bills” in both Georgia and Kansas this year never even made it out of committee. There is still a chance in West Virginia and Hawaii for their bills to be passed.
Tebow Laws create a small opportunity for children now that can lead to a big future.
In addition to supporting good laws that expand opportunities and choices for children who are homeschooled, Family Policy Alliance and our state-based family policy council allies fight against bad bills that would limit those choices.
Recently in Hawaii, homeschoolers rallied to defeat a bill that would have allowed a school superintendent to deny parents the ability to homeschool their children. Hundreds of homeschoolers turned out to testify in opposition to the bill. Eva Andrade, President of Hawaii Family Forum, our allied group in Hawaii, shared how families came together to defeat this bad bill:
“Something powerful happens when faith-based homeschoolers come together and raise their voices. Not only were the legislators amazed at the turnout, they could not silence the articulate and passionate voices of families in the trenches that do this important work every day. It was an honor to stand in their shadow.”
God calls and equips parents to raise up their children according to His Word. And we also know that God has a unique calling in every child’s life. Our heart at Family Policy Alliance is to partner with godly parents to help them see good bills passed in their state that will increase opportunities for children and protect the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children.
If you agree that giving children have a wide-open future and the fuel to explore God’s calling in their life is best for every child in your state, and every state, we hope you’ll consider partnering with us.
As you may know, Tim Tebow – the Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion quarterback – was home schooled. But thankfully for him, he lived just across the Georgia line in Florida, where home schoolers are allowed to play sports on public school teams.
It’s time for Georgia to allow what Florida and 30 other states already permit. Allowing home schoolers to try out and compete in public school sports benefits everyone – the students, the parents (who already pay for the public schools with their taxes) and the state as a whole. Just think how much Florida gained by letting Tim Tebow compete!
That’s why Family Policy Alliance of Georgia developed and backed a “Tebow Bill” to give home schoolers equal access to extracurricular opportunities.
But a few key legislators need to hear from you now so that this bill (SB 384) will get a hearing and a vote. Please take a minute to take action on at least one (and hopefully all three). I’ve put them in order of priority, and it only takes a few moments for each:
- Thank Sen. Fran Millar for co-sponsoring the bill, and urge him to bring the bill to a vote in the Senate Education Committee, of which he is a member..
- Likewise, please encourage Rep. Brooks Coleman to bring the House version of the bill (HB 905) to a vote in his committee.
- Finally, please ask Sen. John Wilkinson, who is Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee, to push for and vote for the bill.
Your quick and simple action on these could prove extremely important. So let me thank you in advance for making your voice heard!
President and Executive Director
Members of the committee, I thank you for the opportunity to come before you today to express my support for SB384.
Somewhere in Georgia today there is a kid who has made a decision with his parents that the best educational path for him is to take advantage of the opportunity to be homeschooled.
Maybe he had a learning disability, maybe he was very advanced in a particular subject matter that he wanted to explore in depth, perhaps there were opportunities that he could only take advantage of through homeschooling, or maybe the family simply decided homeschooling was the best route to make certain their values are reflected in his education.
Whatever the reasons, this student is also interested in sports. He may not be the best athlete, but it’s a passion, he enjoys the camaraderie, and finds it to be a valuable part of his personal development.
Today, Georgia is one of the shrinking minority of states around the country that forces this student to make a choice- pursue the educational path that he and his parents have determined is best OR reject that decision in order to participate in athletics.
This choice is not forced upon him because he has done anything wrong. He hasn’t. It isn’t about his academics. He’s doing fine in school and excelling on tests. It isn’t because of cost because his family’s tax dollars count just as much as the next family’s. And, it isn’t about protecting the public school system because 13 of the 15 highest rated public school systems in the country allow for equal access for homeschoolers.
This false choice is simply about punishing homeschooling and forcing as many kids into public school, regardless of whether that is the best route for the student, as possible. This is just wrong.
Like many of you, I would love to see this bill result in a Tim Tebow-like player getting an opportunity to play high school football, sign to play for the Dawgs, and lead them to a championship. We can hope that happens, but that isn’t what this bill is about. It isn’t even fully about sports.
This bill is about removing barriers to parents and their child making the best educational decision for their family. Those are the only people that should be involved in that decision, and it is your responsibility as elected officials to cut out as many obstacles that muddy the waters.
Today, I am obviously speaking to you as the Executive Director of an organization that supports school choice, parental rights, and wants to see families empowered. But, I am also speaking to you today as a father.
I was not homeschooled, and, as such, I enjoyed the opportunities to play sports throughout my life. Both football and basketball were a major part of who I was as a child and a teenager, and, if I’m being honest, who I am today.
With three sons of my own now- ages 3, 2, and just born, I cannot imagine the choice between deciding whether to homeschool my boys as we plan to and believe is the best thing for our family or putting them in school so they can play sports, enjoy that opportunity, and, Lord willing, be the third generation of Muzios to play college athletics.
No parent should have to make that choice. They’ve paid the same tax dollars as everyone else, and, every parent- whether they homeschool or not- should be applauded for being intentional about their child’s educational choices, not discouraged from doing so.
I believe this legislative body should promote freedom, empower families, and encourage every student to pursue their best results. That’s what this bill is about. It’s about choice, preserving options for qualified students, and joining the growing majority of states that are doing the right thing. In fact, every state that touches ours has a Tebow law in place.
I don’t want Georgia to be left behind. I don’t want to see my state continue to punish those who exercise their school choice rights. I don’t want parents and students to continue to be forced into these difficult and gut-wrenching decisions, and, selfishly, I don’t want that for myself. I humbly ask you to support this legislation today.
Thank you for your time and your consideration.
By Autumn Leva, VP of Strategy
As believers, we all lament decisions by courts and politicians that have “kicked God out of our public schools.” But what if we—the family of believers—stopped lamenting and instead decided to do something about it?
That’s what’s happening in Georgia right now, and we wanted to make sure you heard about it—because it can happen in your state too.
Last fall in Georgia, a high school football coach knelt in prayer with his players before the game. Then, an atheist group called Freedom from Religion Foundation sent the school a threatening letter saying that the coach was out of line—and of course used the tired, old, and always out-of-context mantra “he violated the separation of church and state.”
But here’s the kicker—this atheist group isn’t even located in Georgia. They’re based in Wisconsin and have a reputation for meddling in other states—probably even yours, even if it didn’t make national news—attempting to silence religious speech and squelch any public displays of faith. Freedom from Religion Foundation typically targets small schools, towns, or even senior living homes without the means to fight back.
Now, our ally in Georgia, Family Policy Alliance of Georgia, and a bold state Senator, Michael Williams, are pushing back—and their efforts are getting a lot of attention in the media.
Whether public school staff can kneel or bow a head in prayer with their students is a gray area of the law, but Family Policy Alliance of Georgia and Senator Michael Williams believe that this should be a very clear area of the law—students should be allowed to pray at school, and teachers and coaches should be allowed to join them.
Senator Williams introduced a simple, common-sense bill to clarify that:
- Students can lead prayers and faith-based groups at school.
- Students can pray or express a religious viewpoint in their speeches (at graduation, for example) and in class assignments.
- Teachers can participate in student-led prayers.
Cole Muzio, President of Family Policy Alliance of Georgia, praised Senator Williams’ bill: “We are thankful that Senator Williams has stepped forward to affirm that First Amendment rights don’t end in the school parking lot. Teachers shouldn’t be forced to choose between their career and their faith, and students shouldn’t have to hide their faith at school.”
Does your state have a Senator Williams who will boldly step forward to protect your state’s schools from out-of-state activist groups, challenge the status quo, and restore religious freedom for students and teachers? Does your state have a Body of believers who will support a bold elected leader who will stand for faith?
Family Policy Alliance believes bold legislators who will stand for faith are worth supporting, and we want to help you find them in your state! Our calling and mission is to see godly men and women elected to the “mission field” of public office where they will serve families like yours and help restore religious freedom in every corner of the states and nation.
Imagine if we saw more coaches praying with their teams, more students in Bible studies and praying at school, and more teachers praying and reading their Bibles during break time. With a Body of believers willing to live out their faith by unleashing biblical citizenship, like the coach who prayed with his team, and elected leaders who share and boldly live out their values, we can see more of all of this—in every state—and we’re willing to work for it. Will you help us?
If you’re up for the challenge, I’d like to ask you to start by joining our Family Policy Alliance team in:
- Praying that the Georgia Legislature will pass Senator Williams’ bill to restore religious freedom in schools; and
- Committing, right now, to vote in the 2018 election for leaders who share your values.
by Brittany Jones, policy manager and an attorney
When I was growing up my parents simply wanted to know that I would make it to adulthood with the skills, knowledge and faith to make a difference in my small part of the world. My parents recognized early on that my brother got bored in a normal school environment, because he wasn’t challenged. They recognized that I didn’t learn to read in Kindergarten because I was too distracted by what Sally Sue was doing on the other side of the room. They recognized that my sister was drawing house floorplans before she could even write her ABCs. They took this information and made a hard choice. They made the choice to take us out of traditional school and to teach us at home, in a day and age when few in our community were educating their kids at home. At the time it was a scary, somewhat untried approach.
Maybe you are in a similar situation as my parents. Maybe your kid just wants to play football. Maybe they love dissecting worms in your backyard. Maybe they just like to paint. These are things that parents are in the unique position to observe and to act on for their child. Formal education is an enormous component in a child reaching their potential. A child’s education will launch their belief system and understanding of the world. As a society, we need to give kids the wide open space to explore whatever may interest them. We should seek to equip parents with the tools and space to make the decisions about their child’s education.
There are some concrete ways the government can help parents choose the best educational fit for their child:
Education Savings Accounts allow parents to save for their children’s education and use the funds when and how they see fit for educational expenses, helping remove some of the financial burdens of education. Tebow Bills, which allow a homeschooled student to participate in extracurricular activities and classes at their local public school.
“Tebow Bills” give students the opportunity to participate in public school activities and academic courses they might not otherwise have access to. This puts the choice in the hands of parents rather than the state.
My parents took a risk in our education, giving us the tools we needed to do something we truly love and are called to do. They produced a math teacher, an attorney and an architect.
And, yes, don’t worry — I did learn to read!
Family Policy Alliance is working every day to ensure you have the ability to raise your child in the way you are led. Whether in a traditional public school, an alternative public school, a private school, or home school, we want to equip you to raise and educate your child in a manner that best gives your child a wide open future and fuel to explore his or her calling.
This is part 5 of 5 in our Let Parents Parent series on the importance of protecting parental rights for families.