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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.

Kudos to the Division of Family and Children Services for committing resources to the education of children in foster care!

An article in today’s AJC announces DFCS’s plans to use federal stimulus dollars to hire 150 certified teachers to tutor the 3,000 Georgia foster children who are falling behind in school. According to the article foster children in Fulton and DeKalb counties fail the 3rd grade math CRCT at twice the rate and the 8th grade math CRCT at triple the rate of their non-foster care peers.

Children in foster care have experienced trauma and upheaval in their lives that make them vulnerable to many poor outcomes. It is essential that we target resources to help them succeed and this program appears to be a solid commitment to doing just that.

DFCS and the GA Dept of Education have been working together for a while now to share data and to examine ways they can partner to improve student success. Voices commends the efforts of DFCS to share the responsibility for educating these children and we encourage all state agencies and non-profits working with children and parents to do the same.

We also encourage DFCS to collect data on the effectiveness of the program and to openly share the results with the community so successes can be built upon and challenges addressed.

Beth Locker

Policy Director

Yesterday was the most drama-filled day at the Capitol that I have experienced in my nearly 4 sessions of lobbying in Georgia.

The focus of the day was the Senate’s scheduled vote on HB 307 which will temporarily raise needed revenues for Medicaid.  HB 307 implements a three-year, 1.45 percent provider fee on hospitals to generate $169 million in net new revenue. These revenues fund Medicaid services and provider reimbursements, helping to fill a gap in Medicaid funding due to the recession.

HB 307 has been the subject of controversy for most of the session since it was proposed by Governor Perdue.  Originally, hospitals, with the support of key leaders in the House, strenuously opposed the measure.  Yet, when the governor stated that if HB 307 does not pass, the Medicaid program will face severe cuts to provider reimbursements and the Senate refused to consider a tobacco tax increase, the hospital association changed its position and agreed to support the bill.

Yesterday, the Senate recessed twice so that leadership could work to convince members to vote for HB 307.  The Democratic Caucus, in the meantime, resolved to vote against the measure. In the end, the measure passed with an amendment that would eliminate health insurance premium taxes sometime in the future.

 The AJC’s account of the vote gives an accurate picture of what happened yesterday and today’s aftermath in which House Speaker Ralston has said that he will reject the Senate’s amendments and send the bill back to the Senate.

From the beginning of the 2010 session, Voices has spoken out for the need to fill the Medicaid hole and avoid reimbursement rate cuts that would have a devastating impact on the health care infrastructure of Georgia.  We have urged that all options, including the hospital fee and the tobacco tax be considered.

The political drama continues, yet, what remains clear is that the legislature must work together to resolve the looming Medicaid crisis by approving new revenue sources.

Mindy Binderman, Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

Voices for Georgia’s Children

www.georgiavoices.org

Raise your voice for Georgia’s children and families!

Join us at a RALLY FOR REVENUES on Tuesday, March 23rd at 2 pm at the Georgia State Capitol (Washington Street Side).

State budget cuts are already threatening access to health providers, education, child welfare, and quality pre-K in Georgia and around the country. 

This column from New York Time’s columnist Bob Herbert quotes Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician who is president of the Children’s Health Fund in New York and a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Dr. Redlener says:

“We’re looking at all these cuts in human services — in health care, in education, in after-school programs, in juvenile justice. This all points to a very grim future for these children who seem to be taking the brunt of this financial crisis.”

In Georgia, advocates, including Voices for Georgia’s Children, have joined together to call for a more balanced approach to the budget crisis so that Georgia can address the current crisis while also ensuring that our children and our state are well positioned in the future. This crisis cannot be addressed by cuts alone.  The governor and state legislators have already cut essential programs deeply, threatening our state’s progress.  Now, leaders must consider revenue measures.

Raise your voice with us on Tuesday to ensure that revenue options should not be off the table.

Mindy Binderman

Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

www.georgiavoices.org

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.

Two Films, Two Routes From Poverty, that’s the headline on an article written by A.O. Scott in the New York Times back in November. Yes, November. And yes, I know blogs are supposed to be timely. So why am I writing this now? Because I can’t seem to get that article out of my head.

As you can probably guess, the “two films” referenced are Precious and The Blindside and the NYTimes article’s author addresses a variety of tough topics from race to political ideology. The author generally argues that The Blindside represents a more conservative approach to poverty – one that is “individual, charitable and, at least implicitly faith-based;” while implying the approach seen in Precious is more liberal because it is “sanctioned and supported by the state.” I’m not sure that’s right. Yes, the players who help Precious are mostly state employees – teachers and social workers but in many ways they’re going beyond their state-sanctioned role. I think the key sentence in the entire article is

Both movies tell stories that suggest a way out of poverty, brutality and domestic calamity for certain lucky individuals while saying very little about how those conditions might be changed.

And that is the point I can’t get out of my head. Why don’t we do more to change conditions, not just individual lives? The story of Michael Oher, the young man who makes good in The Blindside is a great story. He’s a great hero and someone clearly worth cheering for. The Tuohys, the family who help him out and eventually become his legal guardians, are also clearly good people – people you’d want on your side and people who deserve a thank you for making the world a bit better place. That said, if our only approach to grinding poverty, child abuse and so many other social ills is on an individual level, then I fear there will always be another Michael Oher in desperate need of a helping hand.

I’m not okay with that. I don’t want there to be any more children in desperate need. I want to live in a state where everyone and every family has the ability to make it, has the resources they need, the roof over their head, the access to health care, to a high-quality education. I am an advocate and proud of that title because we need systems change. I am eternally grateful to those out there who “help one” but I also encourage you to speak for all. Keep following Voices’ blog, sign up for our action alerts and when the word goes out that your senator or representative needs to hear from you, take the time to act. Help us change the way things work so that all kids have a shot, not just the “lucky” ones.

In many ways, Massachusetts has held the spotlight throughout the majority of the national health reform conversation. For one, Massachusetts is unique in having passed legislation aimed at covering all within their state. For another, one of the most fervent champions for health reform is the late Senator Ted Kennedy who hailed from the state of Massachusetts.  And in the aftermath of this Tuesday’s Senatorial election in Massachusetts, our collective gaze turns once more to this attention-grabbing state.

But what is the level of significance that Massachusetts’ election has on the entirety of U.S. politics?

With the election of Senator Brown, a Republican, Senate Democrats have lost their supermajority. Technically speaking, Democrats had only comprised 58 of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate. But with 2 Independents caucusing with the Democrats, they had totalled 60–the magic number needed to override any filibuster on the health reform legislation. (For those who need a refresher from your courses in high school civics, a filibuster is a process used by legislators to either slow or completely block passage of legislation)  And following the election of Senator Brown, they total 59.

So now what?

Now the leaders who drafted and introduced the legislation must consider a variety of options on how to move forward with health reform. Check back with Voices’ website to read up on some of the options detailed within our forthcoming weekly legislative update.

Regardless of whatever option is chosen, the health reform process continues. I’m sure many of us in the health policy field had assumed that something concrete would have happened by now. Many of us who have been watching closely grow weary with each day, week, month that passes while the debate continues.

But we have to remember that the reforms of today will impact not only our generation but those to come as well.  It is not in vain that we continue to advocate for meaningful reform to our current health care system.

We must be determined.  And tireless.

Voices for Georgia’s Children was showcased in the Savannah Morning News recently.  The article quotes Executive Director Pat Willis, Government Affairs & Advocacy Director Mindy Binderman and incoming boardmember Becky Cheatham.

Becky is the Executive Director of the St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital Foundation based in Savannah.  She was also named a 2009 Big Voice for Children Award honoree.  Becky is working to develop new partnerships between Voices and the Junior League of Savannah, just one of dozens of communities around the state where Voices has contacts and coalition partners.

Voices is always working with media outlets all over Georgia to showcase new partners and innovative programs.  If you know an individual, an agency or an organization that you think deserves some media attention, let us know!  As advocates, we want to help you get your story told to the widest audience possible.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Edward McNally-Voices for Georgia’s Children

Isn’t it time Georgia looks for alternatives to how we treat our troubled youth?

Georgia currently spends about $200,000,000 locking up kids, most of whom have not committed violent offenses.  What results would we see if we tried out the Missouri model and used some of that money for programs located within local communities that actually provides counseling and rehabilitation

As the Project Manager of JUSTGeorgia, I hope to serve as a resource for you, sharing timely and important information about what’s going on in the juvenile justice and child welfare fields in Georgia and on the national front while at the same time, building a coalition of advocates committed to justice and safety for our children.

To that end, I read an editorial in last week’s New York Times titled “Juvenile Injustice” calling for a new way of delivering justice for kids, citing the Missouri model which calls for smaller regional facilities that focus on rehabilitation and keeping kids closer to home so parents and the community are involved in their rehabilitation.  The Missouri Model has received a lot of attention as a promising model of juvenile justice reform by reducing the costs of confinement and decreasing recidivism rates.  What do you think would be successful?  Let us know.

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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