Senator Perdue Cosponsors Cyber Scholarship

Georgia is getting serious about training students for careers in cyber security. In January, Governor Nathan Deal announced a $50 million investment in the FY2017 amended budget for the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Facility in Augusta. The new center will complement the U.S. Army Cyber Center for Excellence at Fort Gordon, which has been in operation since 2010. On Thursday, Senator David Perdue announced that he is cosponsoring S.592, the DOD Cyber Scholarship Program Act of 2017.

S.592 (a bipartisan bill with Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia as the first signer) reauthorizes funding for and “reinvigorates” the Information Assurance Scholarship, a federal program first instituted by the 2001 National Defense Authorization Act that fell by the wayside. Although a summary is not yet available for S.592, the original scholarship program prepared undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students for information security careers and then required them to pay back the DOD for each year of funding with a year of service. S.592 will presumably direct students into cyber training courses like those that will be offered in Augusta. It will also expand cyber scholarships for students earning associate’s degrees at community colleges and 2-year program students at schools designated as Centers of Academic Excellence by the NSA and Department of Homeland Security.

Several of Georgia’s leaders in higher education have praised S.592. Comments from these leaders were highlighted in Senator Perdue’s press release and can be found below the fold. Continue reading “Senator Perdue Cosponsors Cyber Scholarship”

Ralston Puts “Other Georgia” In The Spotlight

This week’s Courier Herald column:

There was a time in recent Georgia history when it was impolite to talk about the concept of “Two Georgias”. There was the thriving and growing Atlanta – the economic engine of the state.

Then, there was everything else. The “Other Georgia”. The people that could see the writing on the wall. The people who knew their rural grip on power was slipping. The people who could see that economic and population trends were shifting against them. The people who liked things the way they were, but knew times were changing whether they liked it or not.

With the assistance of UGA professor and Georgia political master Dr. Charles Bullock, we believe the term was popularized during the administration of Governor Joe Frank Harris by the late Doug Bachtel. “Two Georgias” was not a term of endearment. It was, in essence, perceived as a threat to those at the Capitol that they were spending too much time courting the favor of the business interests of Atlanta, and not the greater population that lived outside the area.

The 80’s were several lifetimes ago in Georgia politics. Time did march on, and political and demographic trends did shift. Continue reading “Ralston Puts “Other Georgia” In The Spotlight”

Serve The Patient, Serve The Student, Starve The Bureaucracy

This week’s Courier Herald column:

In my day job, I spend a good bit of time working on policy solutions in the areas of medicine and education, among other topics. They are complex areas, without singular problems nor singular silver-bullet solutions. The fields appear to have very little in common. And yet, many of the barriers to success in each field have a similar root cause.

My mother spent the first ten days of this year in the hospital. It was not a pleasant visit, not that hospital stays usual are. The information we received about her condition and reason for hospitalization was incomplete and contradictory. We had difficulty getting basic questions answered. All communication, we were told, was to come from the doctor. “The”, singular, doctor, who we saw for a couple of minutes per day. She eventually made it clear to us in no uncertain terms that she had already answered our questions and didn’t care to be asked again, nor to have her orders questioned.

After firmly requesting she be replaced by my mom’s doctor from a previous and very recent stay, that doctor said “Had I seen you on your first day here, you wouldn’t be here now”. By that point she had a new infection (that she predicted she would get on day 2 of her stay – a prediction doctor #1 ignored) and she remained in the hospital four more days.

My mother, a registered nurse, made it clear as my sisters and I worked the hospital’s bureaucracy that the nurses and techs were giving her great care and were very responsive to all her requests. That much was evident. And yet, despite all of their efforts to go above and beyond, the net effect of the first several days of her stay was that she was arguably worse off for having been there than not. Continue reading “Serve The Patient, Serve The Student, Starve The Bureaucracy”

Politickin’ High School Sports: A Brief History

“I get more phone calls on this than I do every piece of legislation y’all ever introduce. and basically, I am sick of it…When I say that I get more complaints about you than I do about every bill that 236 people introduce, I’m not exaggerating that.”

That’s a quote from the House Rules Chairman to his colleagues, from a story that ran just 4 days before Crossover Day in the Macon Telegraph. The ‘this’ Chairman Johnny Meadows is talking about isn’t guns, or abortion, or gerrymandering. It’s not even religious freedoms, teachers, or taxes.

It’s high school sports.

Folks that read this blog see fall as election season. Folks that don’t, see it as high school football season. The latter, apparently have Chairman Meadows’ ear. Or both ears. So in return, the powerful chairman and a gaggle of fellow legislative heavy hitters in both chambers have grabbed the Georgia High School Association by theirs.

According to Chairman Meadows’ public statements, as well as public testimony by GHSA officials, there’s been consternation over a number of issues at GHSA for some time. Complaints of lack of transparency, favoritism, and illegal recruitment have marred the reputation of the organization and irked folks like Meadows for some time. These frustration came to head last year when it was determined that the GHSA incorrectly set the basketball goals in the 2016 state championship tournament. Oops.

So, the General Assembly, as they tend to do, is responding. They’ve decided to just scrap the GHSA. Or at least they’re saying they are to see how high they’ll jump.

The GHSA jumped. High. During a hearing on one of the bills proposed to abolish and replace the century old organization, a spokesperson for GHSA announced that their Executive Director was resigning immediately.

So that’s where we are. The GHSA has called a last minute meeting for next week in Thomaston to begin a hunt for for a new Executive Director.

While there may be a lot of frustration with the GHSA, and hitting the square in the chin might sound like the best political move after a slew of emails and calls, a cautionary tale from the not so distant past tells us, it ain’t that simple.

Chairman Meadows has been around a long time. Before being elected to the General Assembly in 2004, he was mayor of Calhoun. It’s a fair bet he remembers who the late Tm Murphy was.

Speaker Murphy was the longest serving Speaker of any House in the history of the country. He was also a committed Blue Devil who was in the Bremen High School bleachers every other autumn Friday night.

In 2000, Speaker Murphy got pretty fed up with the GHSA, too. According to him, the private schools were recruiting from as far New York to come down to Bremen to beat the “soup out of us.” So, much like Meadows, he decided to take a swing at them. He used his political muscle and proposed a bill that bumped all private schools up one division.

Speaker Murphy, a seemingly unbeatable titan in Georgia politics, lost just a year and half later, in part, because this activated a pocket of voters. He messed with the status quo of the high school sports world. And whether he was right or wrong, a faction of folks did not like that.

It’s worth wondering if that’s why one name you won’t see on the Senate version of this year’s swing at the GHSA, Senate Bill 203 belongs to the man who beat Speaker Murphy, now Senator Bill Heath. It’s especially worth a thought if you’re one of the ones whose name is on that computer screen beside a bill that abolishes the GHSA.

Author’s Note: You can’t spell ‘champ’ without MP. As such, it is important to note that I have a conflict of interest that creates a strong bias should we decide to discuss which high school football team is worse than Dan Pitts’ Mary Persons Bulldogs.



Quality Schools Key To Economic Development

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The sales pitch for investment in education is tried and true. We can pay now, or we can pay more later.

Most often, this equation is linked to the rising expense of our criminal justice system. Most education advocates can quickly equate the cost of educating a student versus the cost of housing one prisoner. Those without a quality education are significantly more likely to end up behind bars. Thus, the sales pitch is made that we can spend more now on education, or end up spending much more later on prisons.

Governor Nathan Deal used the groundbreaking of the new Cyber Innovation Training Center in Augusta to change the sales pitch a bit. The Center, which will train Georgians for positions supporting the Army’s new Cyber Command based at nearby Ft. Gordon, is a strategic investment to leverage the Command with Augusta University as a foothold to incubate a community of private sector employers to co-locate nearby.

The Governor didn’t mince words when it comes to the weak link in the plan. According to a report by WJBF’s Anne Maxwell, Governor Deal said of Richmond County “They have too many failing schools…people do notice…the military takes note of that.”

Richmond County Schools have some of the worst performing schools in the state. A double digit number would have been eligible for state takeover had the Opportunity School District amendment passed. It didn’t, and many school systems (including Richmond County) are pretending that we no longer have a problem. More on that later. Continue reading “Quality Schools Key To Economic Development”

Casinos: Georgia Is Leaving Significant Money On The Table

Two weeks ago I wrote a column debunking the thought that we don’t have significant legalized wagering going on already in Georgia. We do, and it’s available at every corner store, fully backed by the Georgia constitution, and sanctioned and governed by the Georgia Lottery Corporation.

We’re more than a little pregnant on the issue.  We have institutionalized legal gaming in Georgia.  This fact is not debatable. It is a settled question.

Open for debate is how to spend the revenue generated by a new tax on gaming revenue.  The original bill dedicated all the money to the HOPE scholarship fund.  Newer versions of gaming bills include money to ensure HOPE loses no ground, but include projects such as needs-based college scholarships, rural healthcare, and rural broadband.  This debate is wide open, and everything seems to be on the table.

In between is the most important question that is being debated but has a clear answer:  Is the state financially better off by legalizing casinos in a limited “destination resort” format?  The answer is yes. Continue reading “Casinos: Georgia Is Leaving Significant Money On The Table”

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”