Friday Facts: January 29, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Today’s Friday Facts has an education focus, to mark the 11th annual celebration of National School Choice Week, which kicked off January 24.

Memory Lane: Education options for Georgians have always been in the forefront at the Foundation, and this article from the Fall 1992 Georgia Policy Review is one example. As the Foundation celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2021, each Friday Facts will include a little trip down Memory Lane from our three decades of “Changing Georgia Policy, Changing Georgians’ Lives.”

We’re hiring! The Foundation is adding an external affairs manager to the team. Find out more and apply here.

Investigative journalism

Where Have All the Children Gone?” is the first in a series of articles the Foundation is commissioning as part of a new investigative journalism initiative in 2021. Student enrollment in public schools has dropped about 36,000 in the new school year over last year’s numbers. Investigative journalists Chris Butler and Cindy Morley examine what happened.

Quotes of Note

“Those who step into the public square are choosing to subject themselves to the rigors of public debate. That’s how democratic government works. But civil, responsible government requires civility and responsibility. In its absence, we may find ourselves unable to stand shoulder-to-shoulder even in the face of sedition and insurrection.” – Frederick M. Hess

“Education means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light by which men can only be made free.” – Frederick Douglass

“Our freedom of choice in a competitive society rests on the fact that, if one person refuses to satisfy our wishes, we can turn to another. But if we face a monopolist we are at his absolute mercy. And an authority directing the whole economic system of the country would be the most powerful monopolist conceivable … it would have complete power to decide what we are to be given and on what terms. “ – Friedrich von Hayek

Education

New Georgia ESA study: Education savings accounts, also known as education scholarship accounts or ESAs, allow families to use state education funding for a variety of alternatives to public schools, including private school tuition, homeschooling materials and tutoring services. The Foundation published a new study Wednesday that shows if Georgia implemented an ESA program, it would increase graduation rates and workers’ lifetime earnings as well as reduce crime and its related costs.

Choice matters: The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program, established in 2007, provides eligible special education students with the opportunity to attend another public or a private school. The program saw a 9% increase in participation in the 2019-2020 school year, according to its annual report, with 5,203 students enrolled. Thirteen private schools joined the program, bringing the total number of schools participating to 254. Source: Governor’s Office of Student Accountability

Student loans: One of President Biden’s first executive orders was to extend the interest-free period on federal student loans. Those loan holders also have the option to not make any payments. In October 2020, it was reported that only 11% of borrowers continued to make payments, taking advantage of the zero interest to apply their payments in total to the principal. The student loan debt load is $1.68 trillion. Data from the U.S. Department of Education on the $1.566 trillion held by the federal government (about $100 billion more is held by private lenders) show that 18.6% of borrowers holding 22% of all debt are over age 50.  Source: Nonprofit Quarterly

Opportunity

STEM jobs: Atlanta ranks third in the nation in a WalletHub study of best areas for professionals in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. WalletHub compared the 100 largest metro areas across 20 metrics, including percentage of the workforce in STEM, STEM employment growth, quality of engineering universities and annual median wage for STEM workers. Seattle was first, followed by Boston, Atlanta, Austin; and Minneapolis. WalletHub also points out, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis, that STEM professions are expected to grow 8% between 2019 and 2029, compared to just 3.4% for all other occupations.

Healthcare

Safe at school: As many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the United States as well as internationally, some school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported. But there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission, according to a new study cited in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  

Teacher revolt: After a week of remote learning because of rising COVID-19 numbers in Cobb County, public schools returned to in-person classes Monday. Many teachers were unhappy about returning to class and about 120 teachers called out sick, “due to testing positive for COVID-19 or quarantining because they were exposed to the coronavirus,” Patch.com reported.

COVID-19 status update: As of Thursday afternoon, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported another 36,000 cases of COVID-19 in Georgia and 769 deaths in the past week. The number of cases reported since the pandemic began is at 737,205; there have been 12,280 deaths. The department updates the information daily at 3 p.m. Visit the website here.

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In January five years ago, the Foundation published “Five Reasons for Education Optimism in Georgia.” It noted, “Some insist that what the state needs is more money for education. It’s worth noting, however, that Georgia’s K-12 spending per student already is higher than all but one of its neighboring states. The Foundation believes that innovation and choice should be in Georgia’s toolbox to educate with flexibility.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, It’s School Choice Week: Embrace More Education Options,” by Benita M. Dodd.

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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