Posts Tagged ‘Georgia legislature’

SPLOST – Yes or No?

February 9, 2015

I am against the new SPLOST proposed by the Muscogee County School District School Board; however, I plan to vote for it next month.

I oppose it because it is a continuation of what is probably the most regressive of taxes, a sales tax.  Instead of “a regressive tax,” legislators of old called it the “poor man’s tax.”  A penny means a lot more to someone living on a minimum wage than someone who can afford to travel in his private jet.

So, if I’m not in favor of increasing the sales tax, why will I vote for the SPLOST? Because people, for reasons that I don’t understand, will more readily vote for a sales tax than a property or income tax increase.  The MCSD needs to do things like  building a new Spencer High School, providing better facilities for autistic students, repairing leaking roofs, buying some new busses, and other things.  It appears the only way of financing that is with a  sales tax. That’s reality.

As far as the Frank Myers  and John  Thomas opposition is concerned , I do have to say some of their concerns are worth considering. I see no reasons to pay for another audit when we already have two, but questioning the efficacy of some no-bid purchases is  reasonable; however, I don’t think that consideration should be used to trash the SPLOST. Yes, teachers do need a raise, but that comes from operational, not capital, budgets. You can place a great deal of the blame for the financial stress teachers are facing on a state legislature that has slashed public school budgets for more than a decade.

 

 

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My Dell with Windows Vista Doesn’t Know me Any More

October 8, 2013

Here I was, all set to write a post on my recent visit to Williamsburg, Virginia replete with pictures when BAM! my 6-year-old Dell laptop with Windows Vista decided it didn’t know me any more.  A notice came up saying that my Profile Service service had failed. That meant I couldn’t get to my pictures which had been transferred to my PhotoShop 6 from my camera card.  I have since learned I can get a camera card adapter for my iPad, which fortunately still works fine, and I’ll take care of that tomorrow.  So maybe I’ll be able to to do the post on Williamsburg tomorrow.

Then, again, if the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning class we call What’s Happening, a current affairs discussion class, produces some espeically interesting information on the subject “Why Has the Georgia Legislature Abandonned Public Education?” I’ll probably do a post on that and wait till later on Williamsburg.  Georgia State Sen. Josh McKoon, a Republican, and Rep. Carolyn Hugley, a Democrat,  will participate in the discussion at the CSU Turner Continuing Ed Center.  There is a good chance that someone will try to refute the premise of the subject and tell us that the Georgia Legislature has not abandoned public edcuation.  It should be interesting.

Meanwhile, my ailing Dell with Windows Vista is in the shop,  and hopefully will soon be back on line.  I probably should get a new computer.  6 years is probably considered ancient for a computer by the in-the-know computer aces.  I’m thinking about a MacAir.  I understand there is a learning curve when switching to a Mac, but learning new things is supposed to be good for seniors like me.

The Falcons Win a Big One, but Still…

January 13, 2013

While I am quite happy the Atlanta Falcons pulled off a thrilling win with a field goal in the last few seconds of he game with Seattle and will now get a chance to win the NFC Championship  with San Francisco next week, I am still opposed to the spending of taxpayers dollars to help build a new billion-dollar stadium for the team.  After all, it is a privately owned profitable business and asking for a $300 million dollar state contribution is a bit much.  The issue is scheduled to come up in the state  legislature this year.  Meanwhile, I’ll be pulling for the team next week. 

The Education Solution: Are More Local Control and Charter Schools Really Better?

February 7, 2011

Sen. Josh McKoon, (Rep) Georgia 29th District

There is a hue and cry by some for more “local control” in Georgia’s public school system.  Newly elected Georgia 29th District Senator Josh McKoon tells me he is going to introduce a bill to provide more local control.

In an email he said, “First and foremost is to make it easier for local school districts to elect charter system status. This status allows local school districts to reassert control over their district and frees them from one size fits all state mandates. Every education success story I’ve read about involves heightened local control. So I intend to propose legislation that will allow local boards of education to elect charter system status provided they are meeting or exceeding the state average on the CRCT test.”

There is already a law on the books that addresses charter schools, according to Muscogee County School District Superintendent Susan Andrews.  There is a big problem with it for Columbus, she says, because it rules out admission requirements for any school.  She emailed this to me: “By 2014 local school districts must decide to operate under what is described in Georgia Law as IE2 (I,E squared) or become a Charter System.  If systems decide not to select one of these umbrellas under which to operate the Board of Education and Superintendent must sign an affidavit that they will accept the “Status Quo.” Of course, who wants to do that with the negative connotations that brings with it? To operate as an IE2 district, the school district must develop a Strategic Plan which outlines the student achievement improvements which will be made in exchange for flexibility or exemption from State Board rules and/or State laws.  The district in its plan can request the specific rules and/or laws from which it wants to be exempt. 

“To become a charter system, all schools in the district operate under a district charter but there can be no admission requirements for any school in the district.  Currently, we have admission requirements for Columbus High, Britt David Elementary, Hardaway’s, Richards’, and Clubview’s International Baccalaureate Programs, Arnold’s Magnet Program.  Unless we are willing to dismantle those programs, we would not be eligible for Charter System Status. 

“I believe IE2 offers the most flexibility and that is the one we will most likely pursue.” 

Josh tells me that IE2 allows local school boards to apply for charter status.  He promises to give me a fuller  explanation. When he does, I’ll pass it along.  He also has some other interesting plans for public education in Georgia.  More on that, too, later.

Some think the charter school concept is the magic bullet in making schools better. Some think they are overrated.  I’ll deal more with that in my next  The Education Solution series.

THE EDUCATION SOLUTION – A NEW SERIES OF REPORTS

January 25, 2011

THE HOPE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS LIES IN THE HANDS OF OUR EDUCATORS.

 

I agree with those who say public education is the key to a prosperous future for not only individuals, but for the state and the nation.  The scary part is many believe it is broken.  Assuming that it is,  I am going to take a look at why and what some believe we need to do to fix it. 

First of all we have to know which questions to ask to gain perspective.  Here are some of them:

1. Is it true, as billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates asserts in Newsweek, that “Our schools are still organized for the Industrial Age rather than the knowledge economy?”

2.  Should teacher pay be determined by performance rather than seniority?

3. How can it be determined if a teacher is doing a good or a bad job? It takes an adequate evaluation program to judge teacher performance.  Bill Gates maintains we don’t have one.  Test scores are the main measurement now, but many claim that is not an adequate gauge and has many flaws. What would be a good evaluation process?

4. Are teachers being overly blamed for our education system’s comparatively poor performance? 

5. Have, as San Francisco University Rick Ayers teacher education professor claims, right-wing big businessmen and neo-liberals taken over education reform with the goals of privatization, making schools sites of regimentation, driven by standardized tests?

6. Are calls for more local control of education systems the right way to go, or should there be a more centralized approach that uses common curriculum, which is the case in the countries who are the highest ranked in the world in education performance?

In future blog posts, we’ll not only look at the questions on the national level, but at how they apply in Georgia and Muscogee County.  As we proceed with this effort, your input is welcomed. All you need do is to click on the comment button and tell us what you think.

Caution! The Georgia Legislature Goes Into Session

January 10, 2011

Prospects are the worst for those on the low rungs of the socio-economic ladder, and not just because of the immediate effects of budget cuts, but because of long-term damage caused by draconian cuts to public education. Up to another 2 billion dollars will have to be cut from the state budget.  Not only is tax revenue not keeping up with budget demands, but federal stimulus money is ending. That should please all of those who opposed taking stimulus money in the first place.

The council that is recommending “tax reform” reportedly wants to rely even more on  the sales tax, the most regressive of taxes. Regressive taxes take a higher percentage from low-income tax payers than high-income tax payers. For one thing, it is expected to recommend reinstatement of the sales tax on the most basic of commodities, food. 

Another program that truly helps middle-class families, HOPE, is in trouble because college tuition fees have grown more than state lottery income.  Something has to be done to save this highly popular program that enables many middle-class youngsters to attend college. Recommendations include increasing the GPA requirement, rejecting students who are in remedial courses, and using financial need as part of admission criteria. If the legislature fails to save this program, perhaps we’ll get a new legislature when the next election rolls around. 

Already down by three billion dollars over the last eight years, more draconian cuts are planned for the state’s public school system.  This could mean more teacher furloughs and worse.  This is really depressing because the future of the people of this state depends on better public education.   

Rep. Calvin Smyre, GA House District 132

Representative Calvin Smyre puts it this way in his online legislative report:  “Although state revenues have increased by 7.4 percent through the first five months of fiscal year 2011, balancing next year’s budget will be more difficult because Georgia will not be able to take advantage of federal stimulus funding as we have the past two years. Gov.-Elect Deal, who is proposing a tax cut for corporations, has already put local public school systems on notice to brace for further funding cuts. Over the past eight years, the state has already slashed more than $3 billion in funding to local schools, causing larger class sizes, fewer school days, teacher furloughs and layoffs and higher local property taxes.”

In transportation, the legislature is expected once again to ignore the need for commuter rail. This means the Atlanta area gridlock nightmare will probably get worse.

Well, the legislature certainly has one thing going for it:  very low expectations.

Sen. Seth Harp on 7 Crucial Days for Georgia

April 9, 2010

After publishing remarks from Columbus Democratic Rep. Calvin Smyre’s online report about the upcoming crucial seven last days in this year’s Georgia legislative session in which two state budgets must be adopted, I asked Columbus Republican State Sen. Seth Harp, who is giving up his seat to run for Insurance Commissioner, for his perspective on this year’s enormous  challenge to state lawmakers. 

Sen. Seth Harp, Republican, Dist. 29. Georgia Senate

 

Since the Legislature adopted the budget for the State in 2008 for the 2009 fiscal year, we have seen a huge loss of tax revenue for the state.  Our projected revenue for 2009 was $21.4 Billion.  The actual revenue that the State collected for 2009 is about $16 Billion.  The revenue amount in 2010 fiscal year has continued to shrink to the level of $15 Billion.  Simply put, our funds have shrunk by almost one-third (1/3).  Being the state’s first priority, education is 67% of the total state budget with salaries being 80% of those expenditures.  K-12 and Higher Education have received the smallest cuts.  

For the first time in over 16 months, we saw a slight 1% increase in revenue funds in March 2010.  We are a very long way from recovery. 

We are trying to craft legislation that will generate some relief and prevent making the cuts that will have to occur if we don’t have additional revenue funds. 

The first is the hospital bed fee, that will generate funds to help compensate the doctors and hospitals that treat the indigent.  The fee will generate $128 million, which will go to the Indigent Care Fund.  That amount, which will be matched by Federal Funds at a ratio of 3 to 1, will go directly to indigent care providers and maintain rural healthcare. 

The second is fee increases for State services, such as filing fees for filing court cases.  

These state services fee and the hospital bed fee revenue funds will allow a balanced budget to pass. If these bills don’t pass, then the deep across the board cuts that have received so much attention will have to occur.  

Our Constitution requires a balanced budget.  The “pie in the sky” idea that we will collect $1 billion from sales taxes is just that.  Most of the offenders are no longer in business and have no assets.  The idea that we will solve the shortfall by collecting unpaid sales taxes in 3 months is just dreaming.  The effort to collect these taxes is going on as we speak. 

Instead of playing politics, we MUST work to come up with ideas that allow our State to educate our children, protect our citizens from criminals and grow jobs for Georgians. 

This requires bipartisan support, not pitting one side against the other for political gain for the upcoming elections.

7 Crucial Days for Georgia

April 7, 2010

 When the Georgia legislature goes back into session on April 12th,  it will have only 7 legislative days to pass two extraordinarily important state budgets, the one of the rest of 2010 and the one for 2011.  Rep. Calvin Smyre is not happy with Governor Sonny Perdue’s plans.  He puts it this way in his report: 

Rep. Calvin Smyre, Georgia House District 132

The governor’s proposal to cut health care funding is a continuation of the misguided strategies by the current administration and legislative majority in dealing with a state budget deficit that is now estimated at $2.4 billion for FY 2011. Previously, they cut another $281 million in Quality Basic Education funding from the 2010 supplemental budget and just last week ordered the Board of Regents to cut an additional $300 million from the University System budget for next year. Earlier in the session, it was revealed they will eliminate the back-to-school sales tax holiday, an initiative that helps working families and Georgia businesses and, according to studies, has a positive effect on state revenues.

It is most unfortunate that those in control of the budget process are shirking the state’s responsibility to educate our children and damaging our health care system without even considering proposals that would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue – without raising taxes. Several Georgia cities participated in a pilot program for the local collection of sales taxes and showed the state was failing to collect sales tax revenue that consumers were paying but was going unreported.

The state is losing up to $1 billion per year because the Department of Revenue in this administration has been unsuccessful in cracking down on sales tax cheating. Legislation that would authorize local governments to collect sales taxes and help make up for these losses has been stuck in committee since last year because of partisanship by the legislative majority. Meanwhile, the people of Georgia continue to suffer.

GA Attorney General Candidate Still Has to Deal with State Budget Crisis

March 8, 2010

AS THE GEORGIA LEGISLATURE RECONVENES TODAY, THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IN THE STATE IS AT STAKE, WHICH MEANS THE FUTURE OF GEORGIA IS AT STAKE.

Rep. Rob Teilhet, Cobb County, GA, Democratic candidate for Attorney General

I was interested in what Cobb County Rep. Rob Teilhet had to say about his bid to become Georgia’s next attorney general, but I was just as interested to what he said to me before his talk to Muscogee County Democrats, because we discussed the financial disaster facing public education, Medicaid, and other state services.

These are issues he still must deal with because he still represents the people of his area of Cobb County, and, actually, he and all legislators represent all Georgians.  The problem, he says, is that the proposed budget is about $20 billion dollars,  about $2 billion more than revenues will provide, so something has to give.

The legislature can cut the education budget even more, including $300 million for higher education, which will mean teacher layoffs,  fewer courses being offered, and larger class sizes for the teachers that remain. There is talk that the elementary and high school year will be shortened from 170 to 160 days.

Rep. Teilhet tells me that the legislature is considering cutting state Medicaid payments by 17  percent.  He says if that happens, some hospitals will probably close, especially the smaller ones in rural areas.

It appears that, even though it’s a hard thing to do, taxes are going to have to be raised, I suggested.  He agreed, pointing out that a bed tax for hospitals could keep the Medicaid program at its current level. That’s what Governor Perdue is suggesting. A $1 cigarette tax is something that Georgians appear to be willing to support he said.  That would raise $400 million, enough to prevent destroying higher education.

Now, back to the reason he came to Columbus, to get local Democrats to support his bid for the attorney general job.  He promises to be tough on crime –  it seems candidates for attorney general always promise that – and tough on those who prey on the state’s consumers.  He also wants a stronger ethics law. I pointed out that’s a legislative matter. He said that the attorney general can also recommend legislation  to the General Assembly.  He also said that, as attorney general, he would prosecute violators of that law.

Wild Hogging it Again

January 11, 2010

I didn’t go this year so I had to depend on the AP story in the Ledger-Enquirer to tell me about it.  Actually, after reading the story, I got the impression that this year wasn’t much different from last year, the one I attended.

Last year the budget was the main concern of just about everyone I talked with when the politicians and lobbyists and media folks gathered at the Georgia Railroad building in Underground Atlanta, a stones throw from the Capitol.   It appears that’s the same main topic this year.  Last year the state had to cut spending and this year it’s going to have to do the same thing.

With the legislature struggling to balance the budget, does the Capitol really need a lavish gold dome? Gold is expected by some to go to $1500 an ounce this year. Why not melt it down and use the proceeds to help balance the budget?

Last year, gubernatorial candidates were smiling big and shaking a lot of hands. That was no different this year, from what I read. It will be interesting to see how legislators handle the huge problems of water, transportation, and education. With elections looming, their decisions could very definitely have an impact on who wins. 

I received this comment today from a person identifying himself as Norman on the post I did last year about the Wild Hog affair.  “Who pays for this dinner of 1500 or more people? If the budget is as bad as they tell us, be nice if things like this could be cut, not police, fire fighters, and teachers.”

According to what I learned last year, the state doesn’t pay for the Wild Hog Dinner. The affair is hosted by Agricultural Commissioner Tommy Irvin.  State Rep. Carolyn Hugley told me last year that it was paid for by “sponsors,”  which probably translates to lobbyists.  It’s pretty safe to assume that’s what happened this year, too.  So you don’t have to worry about the state paying for it, but those teachers, fire fighters, and police could decide to take retribution at the polls when the budget slashers who cut their compensation run for reelection?