Friday Facts: May 15, 2020

It’s Friday!

This is Week 9 of the Friday Facts’ focus on the coronavirus pandemic across the nation and in Georgia. View previous editions here. View the Foundation’s near-term proposals here. Share your ideas: Email us at info@georgiapolicy.org.

Happy, healthy teamwork: The “new normal” has the Foundation team telecommuting and taking advantage of online tools like Zoom to stay in touch with each other and Georgia.

Quotes of Note

“Families vary in why they want to send their children to different schools, and assuming a specific reason, such as getting higher test scores, and then concluding a program has succeeded or failed based on that reason condemns a program even if it is providing what it should: a good education as determined by families. It also ignores the fact that providing options is itself a huge benefit to many families and children and a laudable education policy goal.” – Russell Rhine

“The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” – Thomas Jefferson (1816)

“Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.” – Joseph Story (1833)

Events

May 19: Register today for “Brexit: The Good, The Bad and The Messy,” a Zoom Policy Briefing Event with Andrew Staunton, British Consul-General in Atlanta, Zilvinas Silenas, President of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), and Georgia Public Policy Foundation President Kyle Wingfield. 12:10 p.m. Tuesday, May 19. There is no charge, but registration is required. Information, registration here.

Government

Policy proposals:  The Foundation has proposed a series of policies for near-term relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as principles to guide and oversee policy reforms and an Issue Analysis tackling fiscal policy considerations for Georgia.

Shutdowns: Georgia was first to begin reopening businesses. Gov. Brian Kemp, who came under fire from some for the move, announced this week that Georgia reported the lowest number of ventilators in use and COVID-19 positive patients hospitalized since hospitals began submitting data to the state on April 8. Kemp has ordered bars, night clubs and live concert venues to remain closed through the end of May and relaxed occupancy restrictions on restaurants and some classrooms. The public health emergency for the state lasts until June 12.

Legislature: Committee hearings continued via Zoom this week. House Speaker David Ralston announced staff could transition back to legislative offices June 1. In-person committee meetings will begin June 2 and the session will resume June 11.

Taxes and spending

Putting on the hurt: The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 led the Georgia Department of Revenue to extend the 2019 income tax filing and payment deadlines to July 15, as did the IRS. Georgia, like many states and localities, relies heavily on the individual income tax, which comprised 23.3% of total U.S. state and local tax collections in fiscal year 2017 (latest data). Georgia ranks 13th in the nation, with individual income taxes making up 28.2% of total state and local tax collections. Source: Tax Foundation

Transportation

More money: According to Apple’s Mobility Trends mapping, Atlanta’s public transportation usage has declined 52% overall during the COVID-19 pandemic. MARTA joined transit agencies from around the nation seeking $33 billion more in federal funds on top of the $25 billion transit agencies have already received to “to address the health and economic consequence of the pandemic,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Georgia got $522 million in the first round of aid, with $298.6 million going to MARTA. 

Brakes on travel: COVID-19-related lockdowns also affected household vehicle travel across the contiguous United States. Travel fell 68-72% in the last two weeks in March and first week of April, compared with the first week in March, the Institute for Energy Research reports. 

Air time: Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, which has more than 14,000 pilots on its roster, sent a memo notifying flight operations employees it expects to have 7,000 more pilots than it needs in the fall because of the pandemic’s effects, Reuters reports. Industry group Airlines for America reports its member airlines are averaging just 17 passengers per domestic flight, even after idling more than 3,000 planes, or nearly half the nation’s active fleet. Last week’s flights were down 93% over a year ago.

Healthcare

Eye on health: The Foundation is among several organizations that signed a letter urging Gov. Brian Kemp to allow online vision care for Georgians. The ability for Georgians to participate in ocular telehealth was prohibited by the Legislature in 2016.

Status updates: Beginning this week, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 status reports are updated three times a day: 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Georgia map provides reports on county-level cases and deaths. Visit the website here.

Education

It’s National Charter Schools Week, and schools around the state and nation are celebrating public school choice!

School choice: While about 4% of K-12 students were in home education settings before the pandemic, a new national poll by the American Federation for Children and RealClear Opinion Research found 40% of families say they are more likely to homeschool or enroll in virtual schools after the lockdowns end.

Back to school: With classroom capacity expected to be lower to combat COVID-19’s spread, a “blended learning” approach the Foundation has long championed could help public schools. An option proposed in a policy paper from Johns Hopkins University is to assign “mentor teachers” for small groups of students. This caregiver-teacher would oversee and interact with students while they learn, perhaps online or in the classroom, from subject-matter “master” teachers.

Hybrid schools: Foundation Senior Fellow Eric Wearne predicts students will learn from home again “in substantial ways” next year. He writes in the Daily Signal: “While many parents have become more open to homeschooling, they may not want five-days-a-week homeschooling for long stretches during the 2020-21 school year. An alternative, he notes, is the hybrid homeschool.

Bridging the gap: With school buildings shut down by COVID-19, students need Internet access to study. Gov. Brian Kemp announced a donation from AT&T that will fund 448 Wi-Fi Rangers to 36 rural school districts and triple the number of Wi-Fi buses in the state. The devices donated to the Georgia Department of Education’s Foundation for Public Education will be placed on buses or other public vehicles and can each enable internet connections for up to 45 devices at one time. Source: Metro Atlanta CEO

Media                                         

Social media: Follow the Foundation on Facebook  (3,658 “likes”) Twitter (1,995 followers) and Instagram (995 followers).

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In May 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Georgia Needs Leaders with a Vision for Innovation.” It noted, “Without visionary leadership, we will continue to merely react to each new crisis. And that, for Georgia, is stagnation.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Simple Change in Law Can Save Georgia Taxpayers Over $80 Million,” by Benjamin Scafidi and Heidi Holmes Erickson.

Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

FRIDAY FACTS is made possible by the generosity of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s donors. If you enjoy the FRIDAY FACTS, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to help advance our important mission by clicking here. Visit our website at georgiapolicy.org.

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