Monday, February 27, 2006

Burqa for School Vouchers

In yet another veiled attempt to abandon our neighborhood schools, Gov. Perdue Perdue is again pressing forward legislation (HR 1345) proposing a constitutional amendment to make sure that the state does not "discriminate" against faith-based groups in funding.

Translation: School Vouchers.

Undaunted by the failure to move this legislation forward last year, the Perdue Team is again trying put this on the ballot in November. The anti-discrimination language in this resolution is nothing more than a burqa for the real agenda: robbing the coffers of public education in Georgia in order to fund school vouchers.

They have the House. They have the Senate. They have the Governor's office, and they have stripped the Lt. Governor of power. If they clearly want school vouchers, so why don't they just say so? Why bother pretending to support public education?

The only silver lining here is that 20 House Democrats would have to vote with the majority to put this on the ballot this November. Call your reps today, and tell them to vote NO on HR 1345.

Macon Day at the Capitol

Tomorrow is Macon Day at the Capitol. If you have the time to drop by the Depot around 5:30 PM, you will find great food and wonderful Maconites to welcome you to Taste of Macon! So, what message will Macon leaders be carrying to lawmakers?

(1) On March 13, B&W will make its last cigarette, and this summer, the last of the workers will walk out those doors for good. Macon needs jobs. Not just any jobs, but jobs that will provide a living wage.

(2) To attract high-paying jobs, we need a well-trained workforce. Our neighborhood schools need the support of lawmakers. I challenge our representatives: for the first time: fully fund the formula. Plus, employers need to be able to partner with our technical colleges so that workers can be trained to fit the needs of the prospective industry. Lawmakers need to make sure that HOPE is available for students seeking dual enrollment in these programs.

(3) A year after Tort Reform, the MCCG is considering giving up Level I Trauma status. More than 40% of Bibb County residents have no health insurance. Our jail is filled with inmates who would probably not be there if appropriate mental healthcare were more readily available. We are facing a healthcare crisis, and lawmakers need make sure our children have access to healthcare . They need to have to courage to enact insurance reform.

(4) We want lawmakers who work for us, not for special interests. We do not want to have to buy access. We want a level playing field.

At least that's what I'll be telling them. And, notice, no where on this list is anything about Merry Christmas or the Ten commandments.

Making Marriages Stronger

Government can't strengthen marriage by defining it, but this week in Macon, there will an opportunity to learn about the "Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships.". The Armour Lecture Series at Mercer University will host Dr. David Scharch, author of Constructing the Sexual Crucible: An Integration of Sexual and Marital Therapy (1991) and Passionate Marriage: Sex, Love and Intimacy in Emotionally Committed Relationships.(1997)

The lecture on Friday is reserved for clinicians, but the Thursday lecture is free and open to the public. We are very lucky to have Dr. Scharch in Macon. Many thanks to Roland and Mary Anne Armour for making this lecture series possible! I hope that you will all take advantage of this opportunity.


Lecture schedule for Thursday and Friday:
Thursday Mar. 2, 7:30 - "Passionate Marriage@: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships" (open to the public)

Friday Mar. 3, (For clinicians)
9:00 A.M. - Noon - "Resolving Emotional Gridlock: Helping Clients Grow Through Conflict"
1:00 P.M. - 4:00 P.M. - "Resurrecting Sex: Helping Your Clients Turn Sexual Difficulties Into A Passionate Marriage"

You do need to call for reservations for the Friday lectures. Please call Terry at 301 - 4048. There is a cost of $60 for Friday's lectures which includes a box lunch for Friday. Please let Mercer know whether you will be there for lunch also and the lecture.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Chairman's Salary: Who Decides?

Today in the Macon Telegraph, a letter from County Commissioner Bert Bivins, III, stated that decisions about the salary of the Commission Chair should be up to the Bibb County Commission and suggested rather strongly that the local legislative delegation not meddle. This history here is that prior to the 2004 election, the commission acted to change the salary from full to part- time and to hire a county manager. Some thought that the move was an attempt to prevent one particular person from giving up his full time job to run. I recall Bishop stating, during the campaign, that the part-time salary was not a problem for him. Now, I hear that Rep. Freeman is trying to get the legislative delegation to consider raising the chairman's salary. Here's the full text. What are your thoughts?

Let's keep Charlie Bishop's salary a local matter
During the election campaign for county commission chairman in 2004, the commission chairman's salary was made an issue. One candidate accused the other of wanting to raise the salary from $20,000 a year to nearer $100,000 annually. At one time there was talk of having a full-time chairman and a chief executive officer, both making close to $100,000 a year. I opposed that idea because of the cost to the taxpayers, and we don't need both full time.
From time to time, over the last six to eight months, I've heard different individuals say there is an effort under way to raise the salary of the part-time chairman. During the course of the 2004 election, it seemed clear the public did not want to pay two big salaries. The Bibb County Commission could raise the chairman's salary. That would be an attempt which would be public. Having it raised by the state Legislature would amount to an attempt at public deceit. I think it is hoped the public won't be paying attention to what gets done in the state Legislature.
The Bibb County Commission decided to go to a chief executive officer in order to ensure that the work of the county is done by someone who is a professional and experienced at county management. The salary of the part-time chairman was discussed and set by a unanimous vote.
I believe the intent of the board was that the chief executive officer would operate the county on a day-to-day basis, without interference. The part-time chairman would conduct meetings, sign papers and coordinate between the board and the chief executive officer.
I oppose our legislative delegation getting involved in setting the chairman's salary. Let's keep the chairman's salary a local matter.
Bert Bivins III

Friday, February 24, 2006

No Wonder Trial Lawyers Lost the Tort Battle

Check the following AJC article:

Speaker Glenn Richardson's slush fund? By Alan Judd for the AJC:

http://www.blogfordemocracy.org/archives/2006/02/speaker_richard.html

posted over at Blog for Democracy www.blogfordemocracy.org

If you vote. No, whether you vote or not. If you or someone you loves pays taxes, you have to read this today.

The Speaker has his own special bank account, somehow legal, where those who hope for favors can dump cash-with no restriction on amounts. Oh, I am sure that anyone can dump cash there, and I'm sure that the lobbyists who do the dumping and the groups that hire them expect nothing for their contributions. Yeah, and it might snow in Macon this year for Cherry Blossom. I'm trying to imagine my momma's reaction if I pulled a stunt like this. I bet she'd think a trip to the woodshed was more appropriate than a trip to the legislature!

Read this article, and then call your legislator and tell them to do something today to make this nasty, slimy, corrupt practice illegal in Georgia, or that you will punch them a ticket home in November.

Oh, and Georgia Trial Lawyers paid into the fund. I guess they'll be "Exhibit "A" in defense of the lack of relationship between contribution and benefit. What I'm trying to figure out is why they say they'll give again??? Frankly, if this is their best strategy, it's no wonder they lost the tort battle.

Legislating Against Their Own Self-Interest?

SB 123 allows pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription for a drug they believe will be used to cause termination of a pregnancy. Could some legislators supporting this bill be legislating against their own self-interest? Just ponder....

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cattle Prods

A school board member is a county that shall remain nameless has a solution to the problem of how to get little ones to engage in "moderate to vigorous" physical activity as prescribed in the Playground Bill: Cattle Prods.

Maybe this is also a solution for sluggish legislators, too. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What's Good for the Goose....

And by the way, since politicians know better than educators, and better than parents, what needs to happen at school, why doesn't the legislature go ahead and require that in order for a private school diploma to be recognized by the University System of Georgia, that private school will have to meet all the same mandates as our public schools?

The Playground Bill

I'm surprised that The Perdue Team has time to govern. They seem much more interested in micro-managing Georgia classrooms.

Today, the Georgia Senate passed yet another unfunded mandate for local school systems. SB 474 (The Playground Bill) will require systems to focus significant resources (time and money) on physical education. Compliance with this bill may well require longer school days and may require that school systems spend more money hiring PE teachers.

Yes, boys and girls, four in ten of our ninth graders disappear before graduation, and we can predict future need for prison bedspace by looking at 3rd grade reading scores, yet, our priority is to make sure our kids get enough exercise. Where, exactly, are our priorities?

Why isn't making sure children get enough exercise the responsibility of parents?

I don't know about you, but am all for promoting healthy kids, and all for including PE in academic programs, but the primary, uncompromising focus of our schools should be academic achievement. It appears that the Perdue Team is much more interested in athletics.
With Perdue's priorities, Georgia's going to have a great football team, but Johnny won't learn how to read.

Like some of the other education legislation, this bill, at first blush, sounds great- let's make sure our kids get more exercise. But again, like SB 390, the devil is in the the details.

Among other things, this bill requires teacher training in the area of Physical Education, but provides no funds for such training, and remember, teacher training is excluded from the precious 65% mandate.

Plus, the bill requires that children, depending on grade level have between 150 and 225 minutes of PE each week and that this require physical exertion of "moderate to vigorous" intensity. ( I wonder who's going to police the "moderate to vigorous" requirement? Seriously, I am trying to imagine a 5K teacher make Frankie run instead of walk.)
Already, in Georgia, school systems have very little flexibility with regard to academic curriculum. The state prescribes how much of the day will be spent. Compliance with existing requirements, and with this new mandate may well require longer school days.
Politicians don't tell doctors how to do heart surgery, because, thank God, they do not (yet) think that they are experts on heart surgery. Please tell me, why do politicians think they are qualified to tell educators how to run schools?

Tell Governor Perdue to STOP Playing Politics With Our Schools!

Many of you have voiced your opposition to SB390, the Governor's prescription for failure in our classrooms, and your voice has made a difference! Seventy Georgia Democratic House members stood strong for education and voted against this bill. And the Perdue Team knows that you have joined with them to reject this legislation that guts local control while providing no additional money for schools. You told them that school principals, media specialists and teacher training are at least as important as athletics, art and field trips. Now, your help is needed more than ever!

Governor Perdue and his team are feeling the heat. Last week, in a desperate move, Governor Perdue sent an e-mail to Georgia school principals and instructed them to forward an attached letter to their staff. In the letter, the Governor says, "........As excited as I am about this proposal, I am concerned about some of the e-mails and letters we have received from educators about the proposal."

The Perdue Team thinks that it's okay to use state and local resources to lobby this key block of voters. They think that Georgia principals have nothing better to do than deliver his e-mail. Call the Governor (404-656-1776) TODAY, and tell him to use his own campaign money and staff to deliver his mail: Georgia educators are not his personal mail clerks!

Last Thursday when Georgia PTA representatives and others erupted in applause following an impassioned opposition speech, Speaker Richardson threatened to expel them from the House gallery. Please call Speaker Richardson at (404) 656-5020 or (770) 445-4438, and tell him that you want representatives who will not expel parents and teachers from the debate on education!

With this bill now headed back to the Georgia Senate for approval of minor changes, there is still time to stop what the Atlanta Journal today called, "the legislative equivalent of non-dairy whipped topping." Check their editorial at:

http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/stories/0217edschool.html

Please call, e-mail or fax your legislators, especially your senators, and the Governor TODAY and encourage others to do the same. Tell them:

In any Teacher's Classroom 65%=Failure.
TAKE ACTION TODAY: OPPOSE SB 390
If you do not know who your representative is, please go to
http://www.vote-smart.org/ .
To find your representative's phone or fax number, please go to http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/house/05alpha.htm .

CALL GOVERNOR PERDUE
ASK HIM NOT TO SIGN SB 390
(404) 656-1776

***Standard and Poors has published a study on the efficacy of this legislation and has found that no relationship can be established between the bill's proposed funding formula and academic success. See the AJC article about the study here: http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/0223metschoolbudget.html

or view the full study here:

http://csd.org/csdrpdc/pdfs/65_paper_schoolmatters.pdf

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Georgia Democrats: Putting Forth Our Agenda

The Perdue Team is still stinging from the paddling they got in the principal's office over SB390, and now they move forward to dig into the politically dangerous ground of immigration reform. Why dangerous? While the polls indicate broad support for reform, some of their big business buddies won't like the implications of the bill for their companies. Even people who favor reform realize that it must includes penalties for those who employee those here illegally. So, it will be interesting to see whether the bill makes it through with those provisions intact.

And the imminent domain legislation is also about to heat up. When Georgia homeowners realize what Staton and O'Neal are trying to do with this bill, I suspect they will be none too pleased.

So, Georgia Democrats have a huge opportunity to hold the ruling party accountable and put forth our own agenda. The question is, "Will we?"

In part the answer is "yes." Remarkable pieces of legislation, like the move to establish a bio-medical commission in Georgia, and the move to support increases in teacher retirement are examples of bills that are languishing in the back room because "the wrong party" proposed the bills. How shameful. If it's good for Georgia, the bill should move forward.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Politics is a Bloodsport

Someone who should know, told me to remember that "Politics is a Bloodsport." Nothing could be more true, and the nature of the fight keeps many good candidates out of races. Once elected, things don't seem to get much better, not if this year's General Assembly is an example. Watching the House at "work" last week was quite an education. This was not my first trip to town, but even in the Murphy days, I had not witnessed the level of rude and arrogant behavior displayed by the current speaker. For example, one member rose to ask a question, and the speaker silenced him by saying "You're not going to vote for this anyway. Why are you asking a question.? Sit down."

It is not about him asserting his rightful leadership role. It is raw, uncensored wielding of power that casts aside any member- republican or democrat- who has an idea that differs from his own. I don't know about the rest of you, but all of these men and women were elected, and they represent the people of Georgia. When he silences one of them, he silences the representation for a portion of the electorate, and it is wrong. Speaker Richardson may think that he and the Governor are the only ones with answers, but he may find that Georgians have an answer for him- at the polls.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Georgia Republicans "Abandoning Public Education"

Today's staff editorial in The Macon Telegraph, "Removing Local School Control an Asinine Idea, is a must-read. The editorial board observes that the real question the Perdue Team is grappling with is:

"How can we appear to promote education without paying for it?"

The Telegraph editorial board is on point when defining SB 390 (Perdue's 65%=Failure legislation) as no more than a "power grab." In fact, during the debate on this bill in the Georgia House, some Republican members even suggested getting rid of local boards of education. Why not County Commissions and City Councils as well? Apparently these folks think that a few guys in Atlanta know better than all the rest of us. Have these fellows forgotten who they work for? Have they forgotten that the people also elect the boards they propose to dissolve? Apparently so.

In Atlanta, the Republican leadership is drunk with power, threatening to clear the gallery of parents and teachers and excluding anyone from the discussion that does not share their point of view. The only check for them, apparently, will be at the ballot box. We need new leadership; leadership that will welcome everyone with a good idea for Georgia to the discussion. Leadership that values public schools and is invested in opportunity for all Georgians.

The Perdue Team, despite election year, sound-bite ready legislation, has yet to present a substantive plan for moving Georgia out of the education cellar. Instead they continue their consistent track record of de-valuing public education.

Here is the entire article:

"It was too much to expect from the Georgia Legislature to get through the 2006 session without doing something really stupid. That said, they have outdone themselves.
Thursday, the House passed its version of Senate Bill 390, 102-70, which requires the state's 180 school systems to spend 65 percent of their revenue in the classroom. Proponents say the 65 percent rule will put $192 million in the classroom instead of going to pay for administration and other items.
On the surface the 65 percent rule appears to be a good idea. Lawmakers speaking for the bill talked about bloated bureaucracies siphoning off money that should have been spent in classrooms for education. They pointed to the 64 systems already meeting the 65 percent threshold as examples of higher SAT and CRT scores. Again, it sounds really good.
Most citizens are probably unaware that the state already mandates where money can be spent, and, according to opponents of the measure, the percentage spent in the classroom has little relationship with higher scores.
Here are some of the expenses the bill, which has to go back to the Senate for minor tinkering, would count toward the 65 percent rule:
• Teacher salaries.
• Costs for supplies and instructional materials.
• Physical education, including athletic competitions.
• Music and art instruction, field trips and tuition paid to out-of-state school districts and private institutions for special needs students.
More interesting is what does not count toward the 65 percent mandate:
• Administration, principals, guidance counselors, social workers, librarians (Media center specialists) and school nurses.
• Transportation, maintenance costs and plant operations.
• Food service.
• Teacher training.
Here's the question that proponents of the bill have failed to accurately explain: Since salaries make up the majority of any school system's expenses - will the remaining 35 percent a system can spend for what the state deems as "non-classroom" expenses - be enough? The simple answer is "no."
Citizens should ask their legislators a few simple questions:
• Why include athletic teams and field trips and not the buses to get students to their off-campus activities?
• How can costs for materials count and not the janitorial services needed to keep the buildings clean or to pay the power company to keep the lights on?
Whether the state allows systems to count school lunches or guidance counselors or media specialists or principals really isn't the question legislators were dealing with. They understand that those expenses will still have to be met. The real question they were grappling with is, "How can we appear to promote education without paying for it?"
They also know that this effort, while couched as a way to "improve" education, is a power grab. The state mandate applies to all funds school systems receive, local, state and federal. So much for the local control espoused by Gov. Sonny Perdue in the past. He obviously doesn't have faith in that concept now. PAGE, GAE, the National PTA and the Georgia PTA, oppose the bill.
In a letter to teachers from his office dated Feb. 15, Perdue said: "As excited as I am about this proposal, I am concerned about some of the e-mails and letters we have received from educators about the proposal. One of the most frequent assertions we have heard is that this bill is intended to tell local systems how to spend their money, but this claim simply cannot be supported. In fact, if a school system is making student achievement gains and meeting benchmarks, they are exempt from the 65 percent requirement all together. The "Classrooms First for Georgia" simply encourages school systems to examine their budget and determine where efficiencies can be made so that most of the resources go into the classroom. Also, within the 65 percent and 35 percent categories, school systems are free to spend the dollars as they wish."I also want to reassure you that the great work of our support personnel such as media specialists, counselors, and nurses does not go unnoticed. These valued employees should not feel excluded by this proposal. Everyone certainly understands that no education is complete without instructional support personnel; however we also can all acknowledge that teachers and paraprofessionals are on the frontlines for educating our youngsters."
The double-speak included in that letter is almost silly.
Also silly were statements made by House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, when he angrily stepped into the well Thursday and said, "Don't ask them," meaning people in the gallery watching the debate and opposed to the measure. "Ask the mamas and daddys," he said.
Mamas and daddys may send an answer he doesn't expect once they realize what the state is really up to: Abandoning public education."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Perdue is Math-Challenged

Apparently, the Governor needs some help making his budget add up. Today, the Atlanta Journal reported that the Governor's budget may be as much as 70 million in the red, neglecting seniors and the disabled as the attempts to mend fences with teachers- fences he obliterated over the last three years with over a billion in cuts to education. Yes, during this election year, the Governor is suddenly trying put put on the mantle of "The Emperor of Education" It's impossible not to laugh. The Emperor has no clothes.

I hope, I hope , I hope that Governor Perdue wants to make this election about education. What a gift for Democrats- Democrats who continue to support teacher raises; Democrats who continue to support class size reductions; Democrats who just introduced legislation to help address the issues with teacher retirement; Democrats who gave Georgia The HOPE Scholarship. Please, Governor Perdue, please make this election about education.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Twisted Republican Logic

I have marveled at the Republican Party's ability to point at a black wall, repeatedly call it white, and get 52% of the public to agree with them. I don't know how they do that, but they do. So, it should've come as no surprise today when the man the VP shot, apologized to the VP for getting shot. Go figure.

Seventy Democrats Stand Strong for Our Schools!

You have voiced your opposition to SB390, the Governor’s prescription for failure in our classrooms, and your voice has made a difference! Yesterday, seventy Georgia Democrats stood strong for education and voted against this bill. The Perdue Team knows that you have joined with them to reject this legislation that guts local control while providing no additional money for schools. You told them that school principals, media specialists and teacher training are at least as important as athletics, art and field trips. Now, your help is needed more than ever!

Governor Perdue and his team are feeling the heat. This week, in a desperate move, Governor Perdue sent an e-mail to Georgia school principals and instructed them to forward an attached letter to their staff. In the letter, the Governor says, “........As excited as I am about this proposal, I am concerned about some of the e-mails and letters we have received from educators about the proposal.”

The Perdue Team thinks that it’s okay to use state and local resources to lobby this key block of voters. They think that Georgia principals have nothing better to do than deliver his e-mail. Call the Governor (404-656-1776) TODAY, and tell him to use his own campaign money and staff to deliver his mail: Georgia educators are not his personal mail clerks!

Yesterday, Georgia PTA representatives erupted in applause following an impassioned opposition speech, and Speaker Richardson threatened to expel them from the gallery. Please call Speaker Richardson at (404) 656-5020 or (770) 445-4438, and tell him that you want representatives who will not expel parents and teachers from the debate on education!

With this bill now headed back to the Georgia Senate for approval of minor changes, there is still time to stop what the Atlanta Journal today called, “the legislative equivalent of non-dairy whipped topping.” Check their editorial at:

http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/stories/0217edschool.html

Please call, e-mail or fax your legislators and the Governor TODAY and encourage others to do the same. Tell them:

In any Teacher’s Classroom 65%=Failure.
TAKE ACTION TODAY: OPPOSE SB 390
If you do not know who your representative is, please go to
http://www.vote-smart.org/.
To find your representative’s phone or fax number, please go to http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/house/05alpha.htm.

CALL GOVERNOR PERDUE
ASK HIM NOT TO SIGN SB 390(404) 656-1776

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Teachers Take Perdue to Task

Apparently, some teachers are not pleased with Governor Perdue's decision to use state and local resources to lobby for his legislative agenda: See the story in today's AJC: The AJC wrote about it yesterday
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/0216metcampaign.html

This bill is headed for a vote. If you have not already done so, please:
Please call, fax, or email your State Representative today and ask them to oppose SB 390. If you do not know who your representative is, please go to http://www.vote-smart.org/. The emailaddresses are listed below. To find your representative’s phone or fax number, please go to http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/house/05alpha.htm.
Also, please call Governor Perdue that you oppose SB 390 and ask him not to sign it.
Governor Perdue
Office Phone: 404-656-1776

School Principals or Campaign Staffers?

At least now I understand why Governor Perdue did not include principals in his 65%: They're going to be too busy distributing his e-mail to run instruction in schools.
Here's a question for you. Was it appropriate for Governor Perdue to send an e-mail to school principals and ask that they forward it to their staff? Apparently, that is exactly what he did, and some Georgia educators are none to happy with his appropriation of state resources (the e-mail system) and state and local resources (time of school principals) to send a letter that essentially lobbied for support from this critical block of voters. Of course, from the text of the letter, we know that part of his agenda was to counter the negative reaction of teachers to SB390. He had counted on classroom teacher support for this controversial bill. Following the FCE memo, he apparently hoped to divide teachers and administrators on this one-splitting the powerful education vote.He miscalculated.Organizations representing teachers, administrators, school boards and parents have all looked separately at this legislation and determined that this is poor education policy- not good for our schools.At least now I understand why the Governor did not include principals in the 65%- they're apparently going to be too busy distributing his e-mail to have time to run instruction in their schools.

Time is Short/Act TODAY!

It is possible that the Georgia House will vote on SB390 as early as today. If you have not already done so, please contact your representative or the Governor today!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Teachers are Making Their Voices Heard! Obviously...

Tomorrow it is likely that SB390 will reach the House floor for a vote. This bill is on a fast track in the House Rules Committee . But it does appear that many are voicing opposition, even groups that the Governor counted on for support- like classroom teachers. Today, Governor Perdue sent a letter to educators in Georgia defending SB390, the 65%=Failure bill. It is clear from the excerpt below (referring to SB390) that he has been getting some not so supportive feedback from this key group of voters:
........As excited as I am about this proposal, I am concerned about some of the e-mails and letters we have received from educators about the proposal. (and) .............................. I also want to reassure you that the great work of our support personnel such as media specialists, counselors, and nurses does not go unnoticed. These valued employees should not feel excluded by this proposal. Everyone certainly understands that no education is complete without instructional support personnel; however we also can all acknowledge that teachers and paraprofessionals are on the frontlines for educating our youngsters.".............RIGHT, GOVERNOR PERDUE, but you are telling us how to spend local money (and state money and federal money), and I'm not clear how professionals who are left out should not "feel" left out??? If you have not contacted your representative and the Governor, please do so TODAY!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

SB390 is Bad Policy: Just Ask Gov. Perdue!

Opponents of SB390 (the bill that provides no additional money for local schools, but provides more state control of local tax dollars) found a new and surprising supporter today:
Governor Perdue

A check of his website revealed that he has formulated the best arguments to date- against the passage of this egregious legislation. For example when writing about education, Governor Perdue says that his mission is to:

"...Ensure a Public Voice and Responsive Government
  • Bring decision-making closer to those citizens who are affected through local control and recognition of public sentiment on the issues of great concern to the citizens of Georgia.

With regard to achievement in Education, the Governor says:

  • ...The Governor believes the best way to achieve these goals is to promote local decision making, accountability, discipline in the classroom and respect for educators...
  • ...Local teachers, administrators and parents know the needs of their children better than anyone. We must make flexibility a permanent component of our education policy to empower our local school systems to make the right decisions for their students.
  • ...Governor Perdue supports flexibility and accountability in education.....Flexibility is particularly important with schools having to meet the requirements of the federal "No Child Left Behind Act." This legislation allows school systems to distribute financial and human resources to the students who need them the most.
  • Governor Perdue believes that

...local educators know the specific needs of their students far better than the state....

Amen, Governor, Amen. But please tell us how that squares with

SB 390, the 65%=Failure Bill:


"To amend Part 4 of Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to financing for quality basic education, so as to require local school systems to spend a minimum amount of operating funds on direct classroom expenditures; to provide a short title; to provide for definitions; to provide for incremental compliance; to provide for a one-year waiver to compliance; to provide for sanctions for noncompliance; to provide for the submission of budget and expenditure information; to provide for rules and regulations....."

IS THIS THE DREADED PERDUE FLIP-FLOP???
Don't take my word for it....go to http://www.gov.state.ga.us/issues_gov/index.shtml

Monday, February 13, 2006

65%=Failure: Fact Sheet for SB390

SB390 FACT SHEET

SAY "NO" TO "65%=FAILURE BILL"
  • According to Standard and Poors, no empirical data exists to support that this legislation will have the desired effect of increasing student performance.
  • The State of Georgia provides approximately 40% of operating expenditures for local districts, yet wants to control how 65% of those funds, gutting local control.
  • SB390 does not provide a single additional state dollar for local school districts.
  • Services are arbitrarily excluded from the 65% and are at risk for cuts, for example:

Physical Education personnel are included; Media Specialists are not.

Transportation for Field Trips is included; Transportation to get children to and from school is not.

Coaches are included; School Counselors are not.

Arts are included; School Nurses are not.

Music is included; Principals are not.

Field Trips are included; Teacher Training is not.

Band Directors are included; School Social Workers are not.

Magnets for the classroom bulletin board are included; transportation to Magnet Programs is not.

  • Georgia is the only state to include federal money in the total. Virtually all such funds come earmarked for specific purposes.
  • The attempt to control expenditure of earmarked federal funds and the failure to consider the individual circumstances of each district may result in litigation, the cost of which will be borne by the taxpayer.
  • Local property taxes may be raised to meet this obligation.
  • Some high poverty districts will not be able to raise taxes enough to continue to pay for services this legislation excludes.

Parents, teachers and education experts including PAGE, GAE, National PTA and the Georgia PTA oppose this legislation.

AND SO SHOULD YOU!

To View a Copy of This Bill, Go To http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2005_06/sum/sb390.htm

Saturday, February 11, 2006

65%=Failure: Distribute the Resolution

On February 7th, the Bibb County Board of Education unanimously passed the following resolution opposing the Governor's 65%=Failure legislation. The resolution does a good job of explaining why this is a bad bill. This is a political move, not an effort to improve our children's schools. The bill, passed by the Georgia Senate, is likely to make it's way to the House floor very soon. Recent committee revisions have made the problems with the bill worse, not better. What could make a difference at this point is if PTA and PTO organizations and other elected Boards of Education joined together by passing similar resolutions, to show the Governor that we are not fooled and that advocates for our children's schools are opposed to this arbitrary, politically motivated legislation. Say NO! today by contacting your representatives and Governor Perdue.

Here is the full text of the Bibb Resolution. This is a good template for other groups:

A Resolution

Whereas, a bill entitled Classrooms First for Georgia Act has been introduced in the 2006 Georgia General Assembly; and

Whereas, this proposed legislation provides that beginning in Fiscal Year 2008 each local school system shall spend a minimum of 65 percent of its total federal, state, local and other operating expenditures each fiscal year on direct classroom expenditures; and

Whereas, direct classroom expenditures are narrowly defined in the proposed legislation as those expenditures for salaries and benefits for teachers and paraprofessionals; costs for instructional materials and supplies associated with classroom related activities such as field trips, music and arts; and tuition paid to out-of-state school districts and institutions for special needs children; and

Whereas, there are many other costs that directly support teaching and learning in the classroom but which are excluded from the 65 percent requirement; and

Whereas, virtually all federal funds allocated to the Bibb County School District are designated for specific purposes; and

Whereas, current state statutes require that over eight-three percent of state funds allocated to the Bibb County School District through the state funding formula be spent on direct classroom expenditures; and

Whereas, the state currently requires that 100 percent of formula earnings for media services be spent for media services and that 90 percent of formula earnings for professional learning be expended for professional learning neither of which is included in the 65 percent definition; and

Whereas, the Bibb County Board of Education is constitutionally charged with control and management of the Bibb County School District; and

Whereas, such control and management should reasonably include discretion in the expenditure of property tax revenue derived from the levy on taxable property in Bibb County; and

Whereas, the Bibb County Board of Education is currently required to expend a significant portion of local property tax revenue to offset austerity and other reductions in education funding by the State of Georgia in areas such as pupil transportation and facility maintenance and operation; and

Whereas, no credible research exists that demonstrates a cost-benefit analysis demonstrating that the 65 percent threshold is the point at which positive educational returns may be expected from the investment of funds; and

Whereas, the Bibb County Board of Education has as its unwavering goal the wise expenditure of all available financial resources required to provide for the educational, physical, social, and psychological needs of every students in every classroom in every school in our school district.

Therefore be it resolved, that the Bibb County Board of Education and the Superintendent of the Bibb County School District are opposed to enacting into law in the State of Georgia the Classrooms First for Education Act.

Bibb County Board of Education, this 7th day of February, 2006.

Susan Y. Middleton, President Lynn Farmer, Vice President

William T. Barnes, III, Treasurer Tom Hudson, Secretary

Albert Abrams Gary Bechtel

Robert Nichols Terry Tripp

Sharon Patterson, Superintendent

Education Leaders Oppose the 65%=Failure Legislation

When it comes to our children's schools, Governor Perdue is apparently counting on Georgia Voters not doing their homework. The "65%=Faliure legislation, like his Hope(less) Chest Legislation are long on great sound-bites yet, in the critical details continue his legacy of shortchanging Georgia's children. Sonny is counting on you-and particularly counting on that powerful voting block of teachers-being swayed by fancy names and gift cards. In Bibb our education leaders have come together to pass a resolution opposing the 65%=Failure bill. Later today, I will post the full text of that resolution and urge you to forward it to every educator, and every parent you know. Sonny might want to remember that educators sent Barnes home in 2002 and can do the same for him! To learn more about the stand the Bibb School Board- democratic and republican members alike-took, check the Macon Telegraph article at:

http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/living/education/13808530.htm

Friday, February 10, 2006

PROTECT HOPE

THE FOLLOWING LEGISLATIVE ALERT IS FROM THE YOUNG DEMOCRATS OF GEORGIA. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO READ AND ACT:

ACTION ALERT!! Preserve HOPE, Ask your Representative to Oppose SR 655!
TAKE ACTION!SUPPORT THE FUTURE OF THE HOPE SCHOLARSHIP OPPOSE SR 655!!
THE ISSUE:
The Governor has introduced SR 655, the so called HOPE Chest amendment. His claim is that this amendment will protect HOPE, but in fact is nothing more than an election year ploy that actually weakens the HOPE program. To read the full text of the proposed amendment, please go to http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/fulltext/sr655.htm
Since HOPE always has been and always will be a Democratic program and a Democratic priority, we care very deeply about securing the future of HOPE in Georgia. To this end, the Democrats have introduced a constitutional amendment that will truly take serious measures to secure HOPE for the future. To read the full text of the proposed amendment, please go to http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/sum/sr801.htm
We expect SR 655 to come to the floor of the House as early as Tuesday of next week for a vote. Please call or email your Representative BEFORE TUESDAY and ask them to vote against SR 655.
ACTION TO TAKE:
Please email or call your State Representative before Tuesday to tell them to oppose SR 655, the HOPE Chest Amendment and that you support SR 801, a constitutional amendment that actually protects the HOPE Scholarship for all Georgians! The email addresses for the members of the Georgia House of Representatives is below. If you would like to find your Representative's phone number, please visit http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/house/05alpha.htm
If you do not know who your Representative is, please http://www.vote-smart.org/

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Adelman and Stem Cell Research

Senator Adelman's proposal to create a state commission to organize, oversee, and fund stem cell research in Georgia is, in a word, brilliant. This is an opportunity for Georgia to lead in a promising area of bio-medical research. Adelman, in characteristic style, has proposed substantive legislation that would create economic opportunity while serving the public good. This initiative stands in stark contrast to the "Merry Christmas" and "Ten Commandments" legislation that this assembly has spent time dealing with this session. One more thing. With this commission in place, could Georgia Democrats clone David Adelman?

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Hecht in Macon Tonight

Greg Hecht spoke to the Bibb Democratic Women's club tonight. I have not personally taken sides in this race and actually like both Democratic candidates. Jim Martin, like Greg Hecht, is a smart, experienced leader.

Tonight, I thought that Hecht's remarks were substantive and insightful. It is very easy to imagine him doing well in a head-to-head with Ralph Reed- or any other candidate. Hecht focused on priorities in education, mental health, and elder care. He demonstrated depth of understanding on these issues, but I was most impressed with his remarks about parting ways with Governor Barnes on some important aspects of the A+ Education Reform Act . I spent some time in Atlanta during the hearings on this legislation, and, trust me, parting ways with the Governor on this bill was not an easy call for a Democratic member-especially a freshman member. In committee hearings it seemed that while the Republican members freely raised issues that were of concern to them, Democrats-even those who did not agree with aspects of the bill-were eerily silent. If he really stood up to Governor Barnes on any aspect of the legislation, that took significant brass-something Democrats could use more of these days!

For those of you who know them both, what are your thoughts on this race?

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

A Call to Courage

I did not get to see the coverage of Ms. King's funeral today, but I understand from those there it was a moment in history that should not soon be forgotten. The words of leaders, and her life, call all of us to grasp the courage required to protect civil rights. May she rest and be at peace. May we refuse to rest so that there might be peace.

Perdue on Education

In a classic case of polls driving policy, Gov. Perdue was on the local talk radio this morning touting the benefits of his 65% = Failure Plan for our children's schools. He claimed to rely on "the data" to conclude that this is what we need to do to "fix" education and that there is no room for compromise on "educational excellence." I feel like I am in a Twilight Zone episode. Is this the same guy who has made unprecedented budget cuts to education, cutting into the here-to-fore sacred instructional dollars? Is this the fellow who canceled school for two days in case there was a fuel shortage? And then traveled himself that weekend to GOP grassroots training in Athens? For him to claim that those who oppose this plan "simply are against educational excellence" sells students, teachers and parents short. Let's set the record straight on a couple of issues:

1) Current law provides for 100% accountability for education dollars. This bill simply changes the definition of "classroom instruction" and by reducing the controls to 65% of the revenue, is a huge step backwards.

2) Ask any elementary teacher what it would be like to do his or her job without a competent counselor, a competent media specialist and a great principal in the front office.

3) None of the other states that have adopted this formula have included federal dollars- dollars often for special needs students.

This is not good policy, but at first blush it sounds like a good idea and polled very well. He-yes, him, the guy who until this year demonstrated no commitment to the classroom-intends to make this a campaign issue. This is like Bush claiming that the NSA spying program is designed to protect civil liberties. Republicans have become masters of spin, masters of the sound-bite and masters at framing their negatives as positives. But our children's schools should never be a political football. Education is too important, too basic to the wellbeing of individuals and communities.

Today the Bibb School Board will take the bold and politically dangerous step of passing a resolution opposing this law. Parents, teachers and students ought to be there to support them.
They are taking this step to protect the precious local dollars that allow Bibb to do things like offer transportation to magnet programs.

Sonny wants you to believe that he is the "education governor." That's like Ralph Reed trying to convince you that he is a Democrat. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Please do what the Governor is counting on you not doing-check the facts behind the sound-bite. To do that, please go to:

Georgia Association of Educators: http://www.georgianea.org/content.asp?ContentId=854

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Golf Trips With Strippers?

Remember this? Somewhere in the history of lobbying in the State of Georgia, someone thought that it was a good idea to offer to take legislators on a golf outing with strippers. And more than one legislator took them up on the offer. While there is no word of this particular type of entertainment on tap this year, we do know that in 2005, lobbyists spent more than a million dollars wining and dining your public servants. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/2/2006) All fifteen of the top "getters" were Republicans this year, and Macon's own David Graves is at the top of the list of recipients at gifts totaling $8,787.00. Graves explains that as chair of the Regulated Industries Committee he was often invited to speak, and that the lobby covered his expenses. Given Graves' convictions for DUI last year, I am not so sure he is wise to raise that defense.

In all seriousness, is this what we want? This is out of control with the current leadership but not a new problem. I remember when I was much, much younger, and much, much more naive, going to Atlanta during session to beg for money for a small non-profit child advocacy center. I walked into one senator's office and saw a bag of peanuts on one corner of the desk and a jar of peach jelly on the other corner. I told him that I supposed I should've brought him a child. We must remove the temptation that comes with the gifts. We must enact legislation, as Florida has, that makes these gifts illegal. Your thoughts?

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Mary Long to Speak at "Politics and Lunch"

On Friday, February 24th at Noon, Ms. Mary Long, chair of Georgia's WIN List, will be the keynote speaker for "Politics and Lunch." Her topic will be "The Power of Women in the Political Process." "Politics and Lunch" is a monthly lecture series that is open to the public with not requirement of membership. The goal is to more fully understand how the political process impacts day to day life in Georgia. The luncheon will be held at The Willow on Fifth in Macon, Georgia. The cost for lunch is $10.00, inclusive of tax and tip and is payable to the restaurant at the time of the luncheon. (Cash or Credit Cards only)

For reservations, please contact Amy Morton at amymorton@aol.com or (478) 741-1138. All are welcome to attend.

Let's Pay Our Legislators

Just over $16,0000.00. That's what a freshman legislator makes in Georgia. This is the salary we taxpayers offer for up to 40 days of service, sometimes spread over as many as four months. How many of you could afford to give up your job for this compensation? Haw many can leave the job you have for four months a year? Let's get real. The compensation limits the pool of potential candidates and increases the likelihood that legislators will accept gifts, dinners ,drinks, trips etc. From lobbyists. Plus, if the legislative salary were a person's entire wage for the year, then legislators who have a family of three would live below the poverty line. Is this good public policy? I don't think so.

It seems to me that the Georgia tradition of part-time legislators, born in a farming culture, was intended to make sure the people were not served by "professional politicians." Well, I don't think that has quite worked out! In fact, the average working person- school teacher, factory worker, healthcare professional- anyone who actually has to make a living and support a family, cannot afford to serve.

Here's a radical suggestion: let's make it illegal for legislators to accept any gift from a lobbyist and at the same time raise the compensation level to $35,000.00 per session. That way, a more diverse group could afford to become candidates and those elected would actually work for the people of Georgia, and not for the lobbyists. I am all for the public servant concept- I just want to make sure we are the public being served.

Clearly, a current legislator proposing this would be political suicide-apparently because the public has trouble thinking past the sound-bite. So, if this is going to happen, voters will have to be the driving force. What do you think?

Friday, February 3, 2006

65% = Failure

In most classrooms, 65% is a failing grade, and that is exactly the grade Governor Perdue deserves for his cookie-cutter, politically timely proposal that school districts spend a minimum of 65% of all revenue on “classroom instruction.” This is the same governor who has cut over a billion dollars from education funding while bestowing a billion dollars in tax breaks to corporations, so when he adopts a sound-bite-ready proposal steeped in election year rhetoric, we have a reason to be skeptical. Hatched from a partisan think-tank and designed to shore-up republican credibility on education, this initiative is long on political strategy and short on the details that would make implementation beneficial for our children.
Governor Perdue guts local control by insisting that the state control 65% of all the funds school districts spend, while providing only about 40% of the total revenue. His failure to include critical services like transportation and nutrition will particularly penalize low-wealth school districts where poverty is high and more dollars must be allocated for getting students to the classroom and feeding them once they arrive. The priorities reflected in including coaches but excluding librarians, counselors and school nurses are emblematic of the kind of thinking that keeps Georgia near the bottom of the educational heap.
If the goal is to facilitate quality public education, this legislation falls far short and should be rejected. 65% is not nearly enough for Georgia’s children. We must make a 100% commitment to excellence in our children’s schools.