Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

The top HOPE Scholarships: Are the best and the brightest in Fulton and Gwinnett? Is rural Georgia shortchanged?

artchangeThe Georgia Senate debated the qualifications to become a Zell Miller scholar this afternoon while discussing House Bill 131, which accords high school students who take dual enrollment college classes the same .5 boost in their final grade that Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate students now earn.

Ultimately, the Senate approved the grade boost for dual enrollment, but voted 33-15 against against an amendment  to change how the Zell Miller Scholarship is calculated so that more rural Georgia students would qualify.

Only one group of Georgia college students — those who graduated high school with a 3.7 or higher GPA  and scored at least 1200 on the math and reading portions of the SAT test or a 26 on the ACT –   now earn full tuition under the changes made to the lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship. These students are known as Zell Miller Scholars. Zell Miller is also extended to all high school valedictorians and salutatorians.

State Sen. Jason …

Continue reading The top HOPE Scholarships: Are the best and the brightest in Fulton and Gwinnett? Is rural Georgia shortchanged? »

Cobb faces drastic actions to cope with school budget crisis. Considers some online high school classes.

computer (Medium)Georgians can grasp just how grave the underfunding of education has become when they read about what’s happening in Cobb County, long considered one of the state’s top school districts and among its most stable.

Tonight, the school chief proposed shifting many high school classes into online courses, cutting five days from the school year, eliminating transportation to several thousand students and giving district staff five furlough days to address an $86.4 million deficit.

This is occurring in one of more affluent counties in the state, a county that lured new residents on the reputation of its schools.

How are the rest of Georgia districts — few with the financial resources and educated middle-class populace of Cobb — coping with drastic funding cuts to their schools? Never mind bake sales. Are they holding blood drives?

I’m not sure how happy Cobb parents are going to be when word of these proposed economies reach them. Many parents will have questions about the online …

Continue reading Cobb faces drastic actions to cope with school budget crisis. Considers some online high school classes. »

Parent trigger on agenda today. Is the bill fatally flawed?

A Senate committee takes up the parent trigger bill today.

Originally, House Bill 123 allowed a majority of the parents or teachers in a failing school to petition the school board for a complete overhaul of a the school by converting to charter school status or another turnaround model. The bill specifies that the parents can remove school personnel, including the principal, or mandate the complete reconstitution of the school. In a feature unique to the Georgia bill, even parents of high performing schools can apply for their schools to convert to a charter school.

But House Bill 123 underwent dramatic change in its move from House passage to Senate consideration. The Senate eliminated any mention of teachers in failing schools being able to petition for a management overhaul. The Senate version limits that power to parents.

I asked the bill’s sponsor, House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, for a comment.

“We’ll see what the Senate committee does with my bill.  …

Continue reading Parent trigger on agenda today. Is the bill fatally flawed? »

President of Agnes Scott and college trustee: Cutting aid to private college students will cost more than it saves

Here is a guest column on the planned cut to tuition assistance given by the state to Georgia students who attend private in-state colleges. The authors are Beth Holder, a trustee and alumna of Agnes Scott College, and Elizabeth Kiss, president of Agnes Scott.

According to the AJC:

House budget writers reduced the  Tuition Equalization Grant — money paid to all private college students — from $700 to $500. The subsidy program has been around for about 40 years and is meant to help private college students pay tuition.

The $6 million saved by reducing the grant would be plowed into the Technical College System of Georgia. Deal proposed a $24 million cut in technical college funding because of an enrollment drop at the schools. Technical colleges, like University System of Georgia schools, are funded largely based on enrollment.

The cut has alarmed private colleges, which contend that the money is often a factor in a student’s ability to enroll.

By Beth Holder and …

Continue reading President of Agnes Scott and college trustee: Cutting aid to private college students will cost more than it saves »

State monies to help struggling districts going to Gwinnett, Clayton and Paulding. Many small-town systems get nothing. Why?

As many of you often point out on the blog, state equalization grants are not going to the presumed targets, poor rural districts, but to the mighty Gwinnett County Schools

And you always wonder why.

The AJC looked at the grants that are supposed to help struggling districts with weak tax bases in a Sunday story by AJC reporter James Salzer. The story explains how the grants are awarded, detailing a formula that benefits districts with booming enrollments and eroding property values. In other words: Gwinnett.

But an expert suggests that the calculus of the equalization grants needs to look beyond the property wealth-to-student ratio to personal wealth in a county, which would send more money to struggling south Georgia districts that may have stagnant enrollments but also have persistent poverty and historic school under funding.

Here is an excerpt of the news story: (See list of where grants are going.)

By James Salzer

Gov. Nathan Deal won praise in January when he announced …

Continue reading State monies to help struggling districts going to Gwinnett, Clayton and Paulding. Many small-town systems get nothing. Why? »

Tea Party explains its opposition to Cobb education SPLOST vote on Tuesday

J.D. Van Brink is a Cobb County resident, businessman and chairman of the Georgia Tea Party, Inc.  In this essay, he explains the Tea Party’s opposition to the Cobb Education SPLOST IV referendum.

On Tuesday, Cobb taxpayers will decide whether to renew a 1 percent special sales tax.

The special purpose local option sales tax was created in 1996 as a way to fund capital projects. Of the 562 education tax referendums held statewide since 1996, 94 percent have been approved by voters, according to the AJC.

While Cobb’s first proposal for an education sales tax failed, the three campaigns since have been successful.  Cobb voters passed their last SPLOST in 2008 with 60 percent approval.

According to the AJC:

The Cobb and city of Marietta districts would use the projected $773 million collected from the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, for hundreds of projects including repairing or replacing dilapidated buildings and athletic facilities and …

Continue reading Tea Party explains its opposition to Cobb education SPLOST vote on Tuesday »

Are school boards under siege? Bill would defang Bibb board by ending its taxing power.

Are school boards under siege this year in the General Assembly?

A bill in the General Assembly would strip the Bibb County school board of its power to to tax citizens.

There seems to be a general sense among state legislators that school boards are inefficient and wasteful, although I have to point out that the General Assembly has its own moments of inefficiency and waste.

But because school boards deal with children, lawmakers seem to feel they have a moral imperative to act when they see what they deem serious failings. (See mess in DeKalb.)

And there are troubled school boards out there. But some of their troubles owe to the continued slashes to their state funding by the governor and state Legislature, a fact that we must acknowledge in any discussion on why school districts are in financial free-fall.

But I do get a lot of emails from readers about Bibb. However, the emails are often focused on the Bibb school chief rather than the school board.

I have written about …

Continue reading Are school boards under siege? Bill would defang Bibb board by ending its taxing power. »

Private school tax credit: A $170 million tax diversion that Georgia lawmakers cloak in secrecy. Why?

State Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, met with the AJC Friday for a general discussion on education issues in the state.

By design, it is impossible to know how the $170 million in private school tax credit has been spent or on whom (AJC file photo)

By design, it is impossible to know how the $170 million in private school tax credits have been spent or on whom. (AJC file photo)

Among his concerns: Whether the private school scholarship tax credit is working as it was presented to the General Assembly  — as a means to help low-income kids whose parents had no other way to afford private schools.

“I want us to make sure the money is going to the kids I have envisioned so they can have better choices,” he said. Lindsey said he disagrees with state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, who recently said the scholarship “was never sold” as a program to benefit only low-income students.

“Rep. Ehrhart and I don’t always agree,” said Lindsey.

The AJC has done several good stories on the tax credit and the challenges — deliberately injected into the law –  in figuring out how the money was being spent and …

Continue reading Private school tax credit: A $170 million tax diversion that Georgia lawmakers cloak in secrecy. Why? »

Feds release College Scorecard announced by President Obama during State of the Union address

As promised by President Obama last night, here is the info on and link to the new federal College Scorecard.

The easy-to-use site provides basic information — the tuition costs, the grad rate,  average loan amount, repayment rate and some employment information.

From the U.S. DOE:

Following President Obama’s State of the Union address, today the U.S. Department of Education released an interactive College Scorecard, which provides students and families the critical information they need to make smart decisions about where to enroll for higher education.

The College Scorecard – as part of President Obama’s continued efforts to hold colleges accountable for cost, value and quality – highlights key indicators about the cost and value of institutions across the country to help students choose a school that is well-suited to meet their needs, priced affordably, and is consistent with their educational and career goals.

“Through tax credits, grants and better loans, …

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Obama cites Georgia as proof that pre-k works. Calls for College Scorecard and redesigned high schools. Real goals or rhetoric?

President Obama praised Georgia for its pre-k program in his speech. (AJC)

President Obama praised Georgia for its pre-k program in his speech. (AJC)

In his fifth State of the Union address, a buoyed President Obama called for making “high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”

Citing Georgia as an example, the President said states that have treated early childhood as a priority have children who “grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.  So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”

He called proposed cuts to education and job training a terrible idea, saying, “Most Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents, understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.” While saying that …

Continue reading Obama cites Georgia as proof that pre-k works. Calls for College Scorecard and redesigned high schools. Real goals or rhetoric? »