Brenau University occupational therapy students, from left, Allison Guisasola, Rachel Strazynski, Shelby Wrenn and Ashley McCoy meeting with legislators in 2014.
Brenau University occupational therapy students, from left, Allison Guisasola, Rachel Strazynski, Shelby Wrenn and Ashley McCoy meeting with legislators in 2014.

Georgia Legislature Passes Brenau Student-inspired Bill to Extend Education Benefits to Military Families

Mar. 25, 2015
David Morrison

It started as an idea from four Brenau students. It caught the attention of Georgia lawmakers who thought it would be a good bill. It has now been approved by the General Assembly and could soon be signed into law.

The Georgia Senate voted 35-8 Tuesday to pass House Bill 62, a bill that helps special needs children whose parents are on active military service obtain state scholarships to attend private schools that specialize in educating these students.

HB 62 had already been passed by the House of Representatives, so the measure goes to Gov. Nathan Deal to either sign into law or veto.

“It’s a real simple bill, it’s good government, it’s good for our students,” said Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), who presented HB 62 to the Senate.

Dr. David Miller, associate professor, Healthcare Management

Dr. David Miller, associate professor, Healthcare Management

HB 62 was initially developed last year as a class project in a public policy course taught by Gainesville, Georgia-based Brenau University business professor, Dr. David Miller, as part of the curriculum in Brenau’s occupational therapy graduate studies. All Georgia residents, Allison Guisasola of Braselton, Ashley McCoy of Maysville, Rachel Strazynski of Atlanta and Shelby Wrenn of Clarkesville took the course as part of the requirement for an occupational therapy master’s degree, which they completed in May 2014.

Miller gave the students an assignment, he said, to “come up with an idea to modify an existing piece of legislation, what they think would be a good idea, and present this as a policy proposal.”

The students determined it was difficult for the children of military personnel to qualify for one of the state’s special needs scholarships because of the law’s one-year residency requirement.

“We felt like that was such an easily amendable thing to look into, trying to get them therapy as soon as possible,” said Strazynski.

The students developed their proposal for amending state law and made a formal presentation to state Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) and Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), who agreed to assess the project.

“This really caught my attention because of the military presence in my district,” Tanner said. “It caught my attention as something that really needed to be addressed.”

Tanner subsequently had a bill drafted to waive the residency requirement for special needs students whose parents are in Georgia on active military service.

He an cosponsors introduced HB 62 during the first week of the 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly, and it easily passed in both the House and Senate. Deal, who is also from Gainesville, has 40 days to sign or veto the measure

“It’s nice for the students and for me to be able to go back to subsequent classes and say, ‘Hey, you think what you do here doesn’t have any consequences?’” Miller said. “But It does.”

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