January 22: “National School Choice Week: A Capitol Choice,” a noon Policy Briefing Luncheon on Tuesday, January 22. The event is in the Empire Room, 20th floor, Sloppy Floyd Building in Atlanta (opposite the State Capitol). Speakers are Dr. Ashley Berner, deputy director at the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Education Policy, and Georgia Public Policy Foundation Senior Fellow Dr. Ben Scafidi, professor of economics at Kennesaw State University. $35. Information and registration here.
February 7, 2019: Mark your calendar for “Romance of the Rails,” a Policy Briefing Luncheon with Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute. Details to follow.
Quotes of note
“In truth, aside from the Washington hysterias, 2018 was a most successful year for Americans.” – Victor Davis Hanson
“As we incorporate new technology into traditional transit systems, we provide a more cost-efficient, integrated and environmentally friendly experience. These new transportation modes can be layered on top of legacy transportation networks to allow them to be nimbler and more sustainable. Ultimately, as these services expand and technological innovations become more widely utilized, the global transportation landscape will continue to evolve to meet passenger needs.” – Chris Barker
On a personal note
Honorable mention: Former Georgia State Rep. Bob Hanner died January 2 at age 73. A longtime friend of the Foundation, Hanner spent 38 years in the Georgia Legislature, representing South Georgia’s House District 148 and co-chairing the Joint Comprehensive Water Study Committee, tasked by Gov. Roy Barnes with developing a statewide comprehensive water plan. He left office in 2013. Our sincere condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and constituents.
Energy and environment
By the numbers: Atlanta, which averages 117 “rain days” a year, received a total of 70.3 inches of rainfall in 2018. That’s a 20.9-inch surplus over the 30-year average annual rainfall of 49.71 inches and the second-wettest year since record-keeping began in 1878. In Seattle, Wash., which has more “rain days” than most cities (150), the total rainfall in 2018 was just 35.8 inches! Source: News reports
Gassed up: The United States is on track to have the world’s third-largest capacity for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports in 2019, behind only Australia and Qatar, as the first wave of LNG development goes into operation. Expansion projects include Georgia’s Elba Island LNG facility. LNG export capacity is expected to reach a peak of 65 million tons annually by 2019’s end. Source: Argus Media
Moving I: Texas topped the list of U-Haul’s Growth States in 2018 for the third year in a row. Florida, South Carolina, Utah and Idaho rounded out the top five, while Michigan and Illinois were at the bottom of the list, which compares the number of U-Haul trucks pulling into a state versus those leaving. Georgia was No. 35, also lagging neighbors Tennessee (No. 8) and North Carolina (No. 24).
Moving II: United Van Lines moving company reports its top inbound states of 2018 were Vermont, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona and South Carolina. Outbound moves were highest in New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, New York and Kansas. Georgia was in the middle of the pack, with 53 percent of moves inbound and 47 percent out of the state.
Loan default: Recent data suggest 4.6 million Americans are defaulting on student-loan payments, R Street reports. Georgians have an 11.3 percent default rate on federal student loans. Once a loan payment is delinquent by at least 270 days, a borrower’s occupational license can be suspended if the Georgia Higher Education Loan Program or the federal government requests it.
The case for choice: Public charter school graduates from the lowest-income households are graduating from college at three to five times the national rate, a 2017 study found. In the KIPP charter school network, which tracks students from ninth grade through college graduation, 39 percent of the ninth-graders graduated from college within six years of graduating high school, a rate that is four times the national rate for their peer groups. Source: ExcelinEd
Confirmed: The U.S. Senate confirmed dozens of stalled Trump administration nominees Wednesday, just hours before the close of the 115th Congress. The list excluded federal judges despite Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to secure a deal with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Seventy such Trump nominees await confirmation. Source: News reports
Criminal justice reform
Good news: During his two terms in office, Governor Deal oversaw expansion of Georgia’s accountability courts, which deal with nonviolent offenders who are drug addicts, mentally ill, veterans and juveniles. A state study found recidivism rates for graduates of such courts are about 10-15 percentage points lower than similar defendants who did not participate, WABE reports. The state’s prison budget is about $1.2 billion a year, about what it was when Deal took office, and has declined as a share of the overall state budget, to 4.6 percent from 6.9 percent. (Deal pledged that the savings from the reforms would be allocated to criminal justice reform programs.)
Telehealth’s time has come: This is the year telehealth will become ubiquitous, predicts Dr. Toby Cosgrove, former CEO of the Cleveland Clinic and executive advisor to the Google Cloud health care team. More patients are interested in using video conferencing with their physician as a way to save a trip to a hospital. Telehealth also helps patients with chronic conditions, who may need regular monitoring. “Kaiser is seeing over 50 percent of their patients distantly,” Cosgrove told CNBC.
Transparency: As of January 1, hospitals are required to post online their “standard charges” for various procedures. Source: CMS.gov
GIGO: IBM’s Watson supercomputer, once hailed as a revolutionary cancer treatment tool, reportedly gave physicians inaccurate advice, and “multiple examples of unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations” were cited, Becker’s Hospital Review reports. In a classic case of “garbage in, garbage out,” documents blame IBM engineers and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – an early adopter of Watson for Oncology – for poorly training Watson’s software.
This month in the archives: In December five years ago, the Foundation published, “Clearing the Air on Saving Americans’ Lives.” It noted, “Numerous estimates have been offered of deaths due to air pollution; most have great uncertainty.”
Have a great weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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As an employer, and a parent and a graduate of Georgia public schools, I am pleased that the Foundation has undertaken this project. (The report card) provides an excellent tool for parents and educators to objectively evaluate our public high schools. It will further serve a useful purpose as a benchmark for the future to measure our schools’ progress.