Georgia Chamber to host “Chat” via Social Media

Starting at 10am on Friday morning, the Georgia Chamber will host a Facebook Live “Chamber Chat” with Jason O’Rouke and Cosby Johnson. O’Rouke is the Senior Director of Public Policy and Federal Affairs and Johnson is a Government Affairs Manager.

According to a tweet on Tuesday by O’Rouke the focus of the discussion will be Opportunity School District “Plan B”, K-12 Funding, and trends in Workforce Development. A post on Facebook by the Georgia Chamber states that the Facebook Live session will occur at the Capitol. You can submit questions in advance on Twitter directing them to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and using the hashtag #ChamberChat. You can also participate in real time on Facebook

Know your facts beforehand and check out the 2017 Georgia Chamber Policy Statement


Gaming In Georgia Already A Settled Question

This week’s Courier Herald column:

One of the biggest battles developing in the Georgia General Assembly this year is over the revival of a proposal to bring full scale casino gaming to the Peach State. The measure, which has been revised to bring two “destination resort” casinos, requires a change to the state’s constitution, and thus two thirds each of the Georgia House and Senate.

There are many with religious reservations to allowing this to become the law of the state. The origins of their position should be respected. There are a small handful of ministers in the legislature – and a couple more members that should be. They’re not going to be found in the “yes” column if and when this measure comes to a vote. This is stipulated.

The reality is, however, that the question before the Georgia General Assembly is not a moral one, but one of missed opportunity and diminishing tax revenues. The moral question was answered by voters in November 1992 when a constitutional amendment was passed creating the Georgia Lottery Corporation. Almost 60 Billion has been wagered legally in the state of Georgia since that time, legally. It has all been done through a state sponsored monopoly. Continue reading “Gaming In Georgia Already A Settled Question”

Why We Never Seem To Get Anywhere On Education

With the howls from the Betsy DeVos confirmation still ringing, it’s worth wondering why education seems to be such a powerful, but intractable issue. Last year’s Opportunity School District was a well-intentioned reform aimed at fixing chronically failing schools that was defeated soundly after the educracy characterized it as a “state takeover.” School choice advocates have to avoid using the word “vouchers,” lest they be accused of “stealing” public money from teachers and students. We hear over and over again that Georgia’s public school systems are “chronically underfunded” even though education spending is roughly half of the state budget. When it comes to discussing education as public policy, we can’t even seem to agree on facts, let alone methodologies.

Kyle Wingfield’s column in the AJC takes note of a recent study by Ben Scafidi, a professor in economics at Kennesaw State who’s also a senior fellow at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The study claims that Georgia is under-reporting the amount we spend per-pupil on public education, and that when adjusted for inflation, taxes spent on education

“…grew by 56 percent between 1988 and 2014 (the earliest and latest years for which he could find comparable data). And that’s largely after a sharp uptick in the 1980s, when the Quality Basic Education Act was passed.

Essentially we spend $11,031 per student -which is $2,011 more than the $9,020 we say we spend. The extra money has not gone to teacher salaries, however. “Adjusted for inflation, the average Georgia teacher in 2014 made $26 less per year than in 1988.

We can argue over the study (read the whole thing for yourself at this link) but can we agree on one thing? If it’s true that Georgia teachers are earning less today than they were when Ronald Reagan was President, can we all say that is a damnable shame for which we must hang our collective heads?  Continue reading “Why We Never Seem To Get Anywhere On Education”

Losing Isn’t Permanent; Quitting Isn’t An Option

This week’s Courier Herald column:

When a loss comes suddenly, especially after a long series of victories, the blow can seem overwhelming. Cruel. Even Permanent.

Many an Atlantan can understand that feeling this week. We’re used to our sports teams becoming good when we didn’t necessarily expect it. Remaining good enough to change our expectations. Then, when everyone is finally paying attention, a crushing defeat.

We’re told there’s another season, but first we have to endure the off season. Quitting isn’t an option, and is the exact wrong approach to failure. And that’s all I have to say about sports this morning because this isn’t a column about a championship that wasn’t meant to be. This is about a new season of the Georgia legislature and renewed efforts to reform Georgia’s education system.

Governor Deal has an impressive record when it comes to education funding and reform. Despite PR from educator’s coalitions to the contrary, this is a Governor who has increased funding significantly for K-12 education, dedicating roughly half of all state tax revenue growth into education since the economic recovery began. He’s also the Governor that engineered the creation of the State Charter School Commission, after Georgia’s method of authorizing charter schools was found to be unconstitutional.

Along the way, he’s protected Georgia’s performance standards, revitalized technical education through expanded use of college and career academies, and modernized curriculum such as adding coding and programming as courses earned for foreign language credits. Continue reading “Losing Isn’t Permanent; Quitting Isn’t An Option”

“No funds for you.” – Rep. Earl Ehrhart

As the inauguration of Donald Trump approaches, the push for sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants at colleges and universities around the country is intensifying, but that isn’t stopping state legislators from doing everything they can to stop such actions.

House Bill 37, already being pushed by four legislators, was filed Wednesday. Republicans Terry England, Greg Morris, and Chuck Williams joined sponsor Earl Ehrhart in backing legislation to block the enforcement of any sanctuary policies at private colleges and universities in Georgia.

The bill would prohibit a private institution from enacting, adopting, implementing, or enforcing sanctuary policies while also revoking any eligible state funding, or state-administered federal funding, the private institution may receive should the institution be found to be enacting or enforcing such policies. The bill specifically includes loans, grants, and scholarships on the list of funding that can be revoked. In Georgia, that could amount to tens of millions of dollars for schools like Emory, Mercer, SCAD, Morehouse, Brewton Parker, and many more.

Continue reading ““No funds for you.” – Rep. Earl Ehrhart”

Georgia Voters Are Practical Conservatives

At first glance, Georgia seems like a pretty hard-core Republican state. It hasn’t voted for a Democrat in a presidential contest since 1992, (and 1980 before then.) Every statewide office is held by a Republican. 10 of our 14 congressional districts are Republican, and eight of them have a partisan rating of R+14 or higher. Conventional wisdom assumes that on issues from gun control to abortion to gay marriage, Georgia voters come down on the most conservative side of every issue, and as political shorthand goes it’s not completely wrong.

But it is at least a little wrong, if a recent and extensive poll by the AJC is to be believed, to try to stereotype Georgia voters as unbending. On the contrary, they’ve shown themselves to be far more open minded than the blue-nosed reactionaries they’ve often been pigeonholed as.

For instance, when asked if Georgia should legalize marijuana for any use, only 46% of respondents said yes. (That’s not a majority, but it is roughly the same percentage of the statewide vote earned by the strongest Democratic candidates.) But when asked if Georgia’s existing medical marijuana laws “should be expanded to allow the harvesting and distribution of medical marijuana with strict controls within the state,” a whopping 71% of Georgians agreed.

It’s a similar story on other issues. School choice gets 61% support –and that support goes up to 69% even if ‘choice’ means government vouchers to private schools. Casino gambling is supported by 56% of voters –that’s right, a majority of the voters who supposedly took a tee-totaling Baptist’s stance on the Sunday sales of alcohol now support casino gambling, right here in River City. Continue reading “Georgia Voters Are Practical Conservatives”

Education Accountability Question Remains Unanswered

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The sound of a banging gavel signals the beginning of the forty-day legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly Monday, but the echoes of the November election are still reverberating over the din of activity. While much of Washington and even some factions within the state capitol are adjusting to the new realities that come with a somewhat surprising President Elect, there’s another matter from November that has unexplored tea leaves.

On the November ballot there were four amendments to the Georgia Constitution. Three of the amendments passed overwhelmingly, the closest of which – one to reform the oversight of the state’s judges – garnered more than three out of every five votes. The fourth, a measure to give the Governor powers to take over failing schools, lost by an equally strong margin.

The failure of the Opportunity School District amendment was significant for many reasons. Chief among them is that it represented the first significant setback for a Governor that has generally been able to accomplish his policy objectives on his terms.

Equally of note, the campaign for the amendment represents the extremely rare occasion where the opposition was funded better than a policy initiative that was the major priority of the Governor. While the campaign to support the initiative was generally well funded, the opposition had a seemingly open line of credit issued by D.C. based teachers’ unions. Continue reading “Education Accountability Question Remains Unanswered”

Nothing says “waste” like 15,000 unwrapped, unused computers

Everyone knows about the unusual conundrum of government spending: Spend it all by the end of the year so you can get the same amount the next year.

But the Bibb County Board of Education is taking that idea to new heights.

The BOE last week filed a lawsuit against former superintendent Romain Dallemand after it was discovered he spent upwards of $3.7 million on 15,000 computers that are deemed “unusable.”

Continue reading “Nothing says “waste” like 15,000 unwrapped, unused computers”

State Rep. Jeff Jones prefiles Georgia Educator Tax Credit legislation

Georgia House of Representatives member Jeff Jones, a Republican from Brunswick, has prefiled House Bill 13 to grant tax credits to some of Georgia’s teachers. The credit would be directly related to expenses teachers incur to supply and stock their classrooms.

The bill, which defines “eligible expenses” as “a necessary and ordinary expense incurred by an eligible educator in connection with books, supplies, equipment, software, services, or other materials used in a classroom or instructional setting in a qualified school,” was filed in late November.

The credit is outlined as 50% of up to $500.00 of eligible expenses each tax year. Credits cannot carry over into the next tax year.

Full-time teachers at K-12 public schools, private schools, Early Child Education employees, and, surprisingly, homeschooling parents, would all be eligible for the credit.

Jones, who is President of Express Lubes of SE GA, LLC, placed a sunset on the tax credit for December 31, 2021, though the sun rarely sets on a tax credit in Georgia without first passing multiple extensions.

You can read the bill in its entirety here.

November’s Election Impacts January’s Legislature

This week’s Courier Herald column:

With the calendar now having turned to December, we’re roughly half way between last month’s election and next month’s “governing”. An Inauguration is on tap for Friday, January 20th. Congress and the Georgia legislature will begin legislative duties a couple of weeks earlier.

While the professional political class and most of political media likes to remain in perpetual campaign mode, elections are ultimately about governing. Some are still having difficulty coming to grips with the election results. Governing will begin with or without them.

For those who wish to remain in perpetual campaign mode, Donald Trump’s election has already brought some Georgians a bonus. Pending Congressman Tom Price of Roswell’s confirmation as Secretary of HHS, there will be a special election for his North Suburban Atlanta Congressional seat.

Dominoes will continue to fall from there. Several State Senators and Representatives are taking a hard look at a race to succeed Price. Georgia law requires them to resign their seats or have them deemed vacated if they qualify for another position that begins before their current term ends. Continue reading “November’s Election Impacts January’s Legislature”