A public service that made its debut in 1996 thanks to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation was the innovative Report Card on Georgia’s public schools, highlighted here in a 1996 article in the Macon Telegraph. One of the Foundation’s most popular publications, the Report Card, which ranked schools and education spending, was eagerly awaited by real estate agents across the state as they worked with families on home purchases. The Foundation ceased publication after the state Department of Education began publicizing the data. This year, the Foundation celebrated 30 years of Changing Georgia Policy, Changing Georgians’ Lives.
Quotes of note
“If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
“The Constitution was a product of learned men observing the failures of other experiments in governance. Out of their contemplations of generations of political philosophers, they disaggregated authority across, and among, states and the national government. They protected the minority from the risk of mob rule and laid the groundwork for the ultimate dissolution of the greatest blight on the continent, slavery.” – Ronny Just
School spending up: K-12 public school revenues and spending increased in most areas in fiscal year 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to preliminary data released this week by the Census Bureau. Revenue declined in just two of the 35 states and the District of Columbia that had reported by August 13, and all but five reported an increase in spending. Overall, spending dropped only in food services and student transportation, a result of the pandemic. Georgia numbers had not been reported as of August 13.
Interactive dashboard: Reason Foundation’s new K-12 Education Spending Spotlight, based on census data, includes an interactive dashboard allowing users to examine inflation-adjusted, state-by-state education spending patterns from fiscal years 2002-2019. Nationwide, K-12 education revenues increased by 23.8%, or by $3,005 per pupil, on average from 2002 to 2019.
Funding and FTEs: On October 6, local school systems began to submit their all-important fall student enrollment numbers to the Georgia Department of Education. The State School Superintendent signs off on the numbers on October 27. The full-time equivalent (FTE) count, recording the actual classes students are attending for six segments of the school day, serves as the basis for state funding. Students not present for at least one of the 10 days prior to the FTE count day are not counted. The October FTE count is used to update both the amended mid-year budget and the initial budget for the next fiscal year. While systems with FTE gains will receive more in the amended budget, those with enrollment declines are held harmless.
Homicides up: The nation’s homicide rate rose 30% from 2019 to 2020, marking the highest increase in modern history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The previous high was a 20% increase recorded from 2000 to 2001 as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The homicide rate decreased in just three states: Maine, New Mexico and Alaska. Georgia’s homicide rate increased 29.63%, according to the CDC. Source: News reports
Parting ways: The contract between UnitedHealthcare and Wellstar Health System ended October 3 without a new agreement, affecting about 80,000 United members. Retirees with the State Health Benefit Plan’s UnitedHealth Medicare Advantage plan will still have in-network access. The insurer argues that Wellstar’s demands for higher reimbursements are excessive. The 11-hospital system says it’s seeking the same rates other insurers pay. Source: Georgia Health News
Until death do us part: Rates for all 10 leading causes of death in 2019 were higher among unmarried than married adults, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published this week. “Health research has persistently demonstrated lower mortality for married adults compared with unmarried adults,” the report found. “The mortality advantage for married adults has been attributed to either selectivity in entering marriage (that is, healthier people are more likely to marry) or health-protective effects of marriage, or a combination of the two.”
COVID count: Nearly half of Georgia residents are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Warning of the possibility of another surge in cases and hospitalizations this winter, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is urging everyone to get vaccinated and those eligible to get the booster shot. The Georgia Department of Public Health reports cases, deaths and vaccination rates on its website here.
Taxes and spending
P-card problems: In June, the Office of the State Inspector General (OIG) announced the indictment of two former Georgia Department of Transportation employees and a NAPA Auto Parts employee accused of misusing a state-issued purchasing card (P-card). They were accused of fraudulently purchasing luxury vehicle parts totaling nearly $19,000. This week, the Department of Labor is under fire, accused of using P-cards to buy employees meals totaling more than $1.1 million from March 2020 through June 2021. Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said he had permission to make the purchases, but auditors and the OIG say the practice was carried long past its emergency authorization, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Changing jobs: A massive wave of job changing after more than a year of pandemic working from home will hit some industries harder than others, Inc.com reports. According to ResumeBuilders.com, computer and IT companies will lose 40% of their workforce by 2022. Financial firms can expect to lose 24%; the healthcare industry can expect an 18% loss and the food/hospitality sector will lose 16%. Half the employees planning to leave cite better pay and benefits, 44% want to start their own business and 43% cite their preference for remote work.
Farming follies: Despite $2 billion in U.S. assistance, farming output has barely increased over the past two decades in Afghanistan. Agriculture’s share of the GDP is 20%, down from 70% in 1994, even though two in three Afghans still live in rural areas. In 2010, the U.S. Department for Agriculture paid the American Soybean Association to introduce soybeans there, even though a U.K. government study two years earlier concluded the growth and harvest cycle of the crop and its water needs were unsuitable to Afghanistan. Source: Wall Street Journal
Legislature: The schedule of the General Assembly’s committee hearings can be found online, along with video links to the meetings. Visit legis.ga.gov/schedule/all.
This month in the archives: In October 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “State Must Ensure Georgians Warm up to HOT Lanes.” It noted, “Policy-makers must do better at explaining the difference between the HOT lanes tolls and the fixed toll on Georgia 400. … They must explain that the changing prices on HOT lanes are not intended simply to pay for infrastructure, like Georgia 400’s toll, but to provide ‘congestion insurance:’ the option to use a congestion-free corridor that has a guaranteed minimum speed and a faster trip.”
Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Federal Vaccination Mandate Paves Pathway to High Court,” by Dave Emanuel.
Have a great weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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