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Georgia’s State Fiscal Year 2011 (SFY2011) already is facing challenges…and it doesn’t even begin until this Thursday, July 1.  The state legislative session which ended on April 29 saw dramatic budget cuts impacting education and other services for children and families.  To add insult to injury, Georgia suffers yet another blow resulting from failure to act by U.S. Congress.

Last week, the U.S. Senate failed to move the Federal Jobs Bill, which in part included a provision that would extend an enhanced FMAP to states for an additional 6 months.  For those of you who do not live and breathe health policy and its associated jargon, FMAP stands for Federal Medical Assistance Percentages. Basically, it’s a break down of how many Federal dollars Georgia receives to help pay for our state Medicaid program.  Given the high unemployment rate and dire financial situations that families in the U.S. were facing, in last year’s Federal Stimulus Bill, Congress instituted an increase in Federal match dollars to all states to help keep their respective Medicaid programs afloat.

Unfortunately, however, many families continue to struggle and Georgia’s financial situation is not much better now as compared to last year. In the recently passed budget for SFY2011, a significant portion of the funding for Georgia’s Department of Community Health was based on the expectation that the increased FMAP rate would be extended for an additional 6 months.  Without the enhanced FMAP, Georgia finds itself short $375 million dollars for SFY2011. Click here to read a policy brief by Georgia Budget and Policy Institute which further outlines this crisis.

Failure to extend the enhanced FMAP puts at risk the health of Georgia’s children enrolled in Medicaid and also puts at risk the fiscal health of our state.  Contact Senator Chambliss and Senator Isakson and urge them to act on behalf of children in Georgia. Remind them that now is a time when so many are looking to their leadership to help protect our wellbeing.

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

There is a lot of news in education these days…

Last Tuesday applications for round two of the federal government’s Race To The Top (RT3) program were due. Georgia plus 34 other states and the District of Columbia applied. If selected as a RT3 winner, Georgia could receive over $400 million.

  • To view Georgia’s application click here. (warning – it’s over 200 pages)

The following day, leaders from the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers descended on Georgia (specifically on Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee) for the release of the Common Core State Standards.

  • For an excellent overview of the issues surrounding the CCSS click here to read the brief from Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (don’t worry – this one really is an overview – only 4 pages).

Both of these endeavors have many vocal supporters as well as many vocal detractors. Both contain many elements we want to see for all our children – a focus on excellence, equality and success. At Voices we want to raise the bar for all children so that every child truly has a chance to succeed first in school and later in life. The concern is that equal isn’t always fair. It’s too simplistic to think that if we give all children exactly the same support, they will all excel in exactly the same way.

The reality is that some children are more vulnerable than others. Think about the impact on learning when a child regularly comes to school hungry, spends their day worrying about where they’ll sleep at night or if dad has gone back to jail. What about when the child fears being beaten when they get home, worries about mom using drugs again or about the gunshots they’ll hear just outside their front door? What is the impact when the peers that surround a child discourage her from doing her homework or him from even going to school?

For all children to achieve, we have to accept that some will need more support than others. During this time of fiscal crisis, it is more important than ever to examine our public spending and target it to the places where it is most needed and can make the most difference. Our vulnerable youth need our support and they will pay us back by succeeding, by joining the ranks of the gainfully employed and civically minded. Yes – let’s continue to improve conditions for all of Georgia’s children but let’s also remember that our most vulnerable youth may need need some extra attention. If Georgia is awarded RT3 dollars or adopts the CCSS or really as we go forward with any major education reform, there has to be special attention paid to vulnerable children if we are going to give them all a chance at success.

On Tuesday the Governor signed the bill that requires a review of Georgia’s revenue structure.  This is not about how we spend money but where the revenue comes from – taxes on property, income, sales,  services, etc.   For many,  HB 1405 is about fairness and jobs.  It should also relate to adequacy.  Revenue policies should ensure sufficient resources to meet the basic expectations of Georgians for safe communities, quality education for youth, and protection of the most vulnerable in our society.  We recommend the guiding principles of 2020 Georgia.   

The bill designates Council members from politics, business and academia.  As voices for children and families, we need to be part of the conversation too.  We need tax and revenue structures that promote family self-sufficiency and that address disparities in access and outcomes.  We need to be there.

 Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children


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June 2010