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Children need lobbyists.  I’ve blogged about this before.  Individuals and nonprofits that care about children’s issues should storm the state capitol every January.  We must do so, in order to give the interests of children a fighting chance for the attention and commitment of lawmakers. (YES, non profits can lobby legally!  Just follow the IRS rules.  The Alliance for Justice will tell you how.)

But lobbyists for children, whether Moms, Dads, volunteers or nonprofits, rarely have the resources for the tickets, restaurants, trips and entertainment that often are offered by lobbyists in the corporate sector.  I don’t believe that most legislators “sell” their votes.  But the familiarity, even friendship, that develops over a good meal, cheering the Braves, walking the links, create pressures.  We all experience it, not just in politics but in organizations, neighborhoods, anywhere.  It doesn’t mean that legislators don’t care about kids or other social issues.  But the kids’ lobbyists don’t get the same amount of face time, nor time that breeds a sense of obligation. 

This is why the opinion piece by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver today in the AJC makes sense.   In speaking to your representatives about the rules on gifts from lobbyists and other ethics legislation, you are asking for a level playing field for all the interests addressed by our elected officials.  I’m asking for it for children. 

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children

The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) today released three policy briefs explaining their position on key education reform bills before the Georgia legislature.

  • Click here to read the Partnership’s statement on school vouchers, an issue that is currently being proposed by Senate Bill 361.
  • Click here to read the statement on tiered high school diplomas, an issue that is currently being proposed by House Bill 215.
  • Click here to read the statement on growth-based accountability and school grades, an issue that is currently being proposed by House Bill 1100 and Senate Bill 352.

Voices for Georgia’s Children invites you to attend their
6th Annual Legislative Breakfast on TUESDAY FEB 23.

The breakfast if presented as part of the
2010 Children’s Policy Watch at the Capital

This year’s theme: Investing in Young Children: The Value of Partnerships

The breakfast brings together more than 100 legislators and child advocates from across Georgia to focus on current policy issues affecting children in our state.

REGISTER NOW!
www.georgiavoices.org

DETAILS:

Tuesday, February 23
7:30 – 9 a.m*

NOTE: Following the legislative breakfast, from 9:40 – 10:20 a.m., JUSTGeorgia and Georgia CASA will present a briefing on issues related to safety and fairness for Georgia’s youth. This is presented as part of JUSTGeorgia/CASA Day at the Capitol. February 23 is also Georgia PTA Day at the Capitol and a lobby day for the Georgia League of Women Voters.

The Georgia Freight Depot – Blue Room

65 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30303

Legislative Breakfast speakers include:

Philip A. Peterson
(see bio below)
Senior Vice President, Aon Consulting
Advisory Board, Partnership for America’s Success

Dr. Beverly Tatum
President, Spelman College
Co-Chair, Early Education Commission

Rep. Penny Houston (R- HD 170-Nashville, GA)
Chair, House Appropriations Human Services Subcommittee

REGISTER NOW: www.georgiavoices.org

*Philip A. Peterson, Senior Vice President and a human resource consultant and actuary for Aon Consulting, specializing in global retirement strategies, stock option valuation and human capital metrics development. As a member of the Advisory Board of the Partnership for America’s Success, Phil is part of a group of influential corporate leaders who seek to highlight importance of early childhood investment as a strategy for America’s long-term economic competitiveness.

Phil currently serves on the board of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, and on the state board of the Pennsylvania Economy League. Phil helped co-create with Child Care Matters, the Aon/United Way of Southeastern PA Hand-in-Hand Award for quality child care in the business community. Phil is the co-chair of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, and Pennsylvania delegate to the Telluride Economic Summit on Early Childhood Investment.

For the last few months I’ve been developing a policy agenda for Voices for Georgia’s Children that centers around disconnected and vulnerable youth. A lot of that work will focus on the education system but Voices is committed to an even broader approach when it comes to our most disenfranchised children. Included in any definition of disconnected and vulnerable youth would certainly be children involved in the state foster care system and therefore Voices is supporting HB 1085, a bill dropped earlier this week by Representative Katie Dempsey (R-Floyd) on behalf of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

One issue of particular concern to Voices is that of connection; connection to family, to community and to educational supports to ensure youth enter adulthood ready and able to thrive. For that reason, Voices supports the proposed HB 1085. We believe that the addition to the juvenile code of provisions specifically addressing the needs of children in foster care related to sibling relationships, educational stability and the development of written transitional living plans are good for the children of Georgia.

A key impetus for HB 1085 is compliance with the Federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351). For more information take a look at the website of the Fostering Connections National Resource Center.

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See Jim Galloway’s Political Insider Column Renee Unterman and the fight over child prostitution at http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2010/02/03/renee-unterman-and-the-fight-over-child-prostitution/?cxntfid=blogs_political_insider_jim_galloway

Actions on Tuesday by the state legislature and the Georgia Board of Education demonstrate pretty vividly the schizophrenia we have about how to make our schools better.  We clearly zigzag between wanting to give lots of control to some local schools in hopes of making them excellent and holding on to control of the minutiae for most schools for fear we will not be equitable.

The Board’s Charter Schools Committee on Tuesday considered ways to handle appeals of the decisions of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.  Charter schools are designed to turn over control of many decisions that otherwise are written in stone.  We hope they are a vehicle to promote creativity and responsibility among parents, communities, and educators for improving student learning.  They are free to control class size and teacher credentials, focus on special curricula, broaden the school day, engage new partners, etc.  Seven schools were approved by the Charter Schools Commission but the decisions are being challenged by local boards or those whose applications were declined.

Likewise on Tuesday the Georgia Senate expanded the definition of a textbook and the House decided that a school could be defined as a middle school with only two of the three grades, 6, 7 and 8, that serve our early adolescents.  What?  Local schools can’t decide to spend their “textbook money” on items like kindles and computers that support student instruction?  Local boards can’t expect the state to fund children as “middle schoolers” regardless of what building they are in?  How can we unleash the creativity, energy, and common sense of our educational professionals when formulas are so prescriptive and definitions are so tight?

It must be frustrating for educators who want to aim for the stars, even the tree tops, but have to mess around in the weeds.  

Come to think of it, it may be just as frustrating for elected officials who run on platforms of hope and change and vision to spend their time micromanaging these decisions.

Good morning!

When will we see a copy of the Governor’s proposed budget?

While we had hoped to have details by now, the Governor indicated during his “State of the State” address that he would share some details about the budget on Friday, January 15.  He is constitutionally required to give the budget to the General Assembly by the 5th legislative day which will be Tuesday, January 25. Voices will work to analyze the impact of cuts to kids and will share them with you here.

What about the rest of the legislative schedule?

According to the schedule that was adopted this week, the Georgia General Assembly meets today for its fourth legislative day of business. They will then be off tomorrow and Monday for the Martin Luther King weekend.

Budget hearings will be held the remainder of next week, and we’ll post a schedule of the hearings of agencies affecting kids here.

The Legislature will reconvene on January 25 and meet through January 28th for legislative days 5-8. February 1 is scheduled to be legislative day 9, and the legislators will be in session through February 5 which will be legislative day 13.

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