Category: Commentaries

Governor Announces BRT Funding for SR 400

On June 19, 2018, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced $100 million in General Obligation bonds for Bus Rapid Transit infrastructure, part of the SR 400 Express Lanes project. The plan includes four BRT interchanges as part of a $1.8 billion project for express toll lanes up the highway. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation has long promoted BRT as a cost-effective alternative to rail. In the Foundation’s Agenda 2002: Guide to the Issues, for example, the Transportation section noted: Traditional train-type transit can be very effective in the downtown ares of certain cities. London, Paris, Tokyo and New York City fit this description. In these densely pupulated cities, rail-based transit provides a high-capacity, convenient transit solution that makes… View Article

School Choice Progress Far from ‘Bad Policy’

By Kyle Wingfield A summertime surprise is roiling the Georgia GOP’s gubernatorial primary. A defeated candidate recently released a recording in which Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said he supported a school-choice bill he deemed “bad policy,” merely to prevent a big campaign donation to a rival candidate. Now Cagle, who faces Secretary of State Brian Kemp in next month’s runoff, is on the defensive. Whatever one makes of the politics of it all, was this bill truly “bad” policy? Not in the least. House Bill 217 raised the cap on the state’s popular tuition tax-credit scholarship program to $100 million from $58 million. The program allows donors to non-profits awarding scholarships for private-school tuition to claim a dollar-for-dollar credit against… View Article
By Benita M. Dodd Eighty percent of Georgia’s students graduate from high school. What happens to the one in five who don’t? Michael Boggs, now a Georgia Supreme Court Justice, was co-chairman of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform when he remarked that he counted just 34 high school graduates among the first 6,000 criminal defendants he dealt with in felony criminal court in six rural counties. Twenty-five years ago, concerned about a report that declared high school dropouts the greatest domestic threat to national security, U.S. Sens. Sam Nunn of Georgia and John McCain of Arizona formed the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. Today, 40 Youth ChalleNGe Academy programs exist in 27 states and territories, turning around the… View Article
By Dave Emanuel As the hue and cry for expanded public transit in metro Atlanta reaches a crescendo, many options are being discussed, but chatter about extending heavy rail predominates. You have to wonder why. The only thing lacking in the proposals to expand heavy rail is a specification to use steam locomotives. Add that, and you have the perfect 19th-century solution to a 21st-century problem. An outmoded form of transportation at best, heavy rail (defined as rail service elevated, subterranean or otherwise separated from street traffic) is expensive to build, operate and maintain, and inefficient in its use of resources. Consider that a single MARTA passenger car weighs 89,000 pounds and accommodates 64 passengers. Consider, further, that the typical… View Article
By Ryan Streeter Do you know why most people are poor, and what would make them better off? Mauricio Miller is pretty sure you do not. In “The Alternative: Most of What You Believe About Poverty Is Wrong,” he argues that people involved in anti-poverty work today regularly do more harm than good. In fact, he fires staffers within his organization who simply “help” poor families. Low-income families, Miller says, need to be aided to solve their own problems, not temporarily rescued with outside resources. “Helping” people may sound charitable, but it keeps the helper in control, makes the beneficiary dependent and only offers short-term boosts. In Miller’s view, it doesn’t matter if someone is dependent on government aid or… View Article

Embrace Student Loan Debt, Don’t Erase It

By Jeffrey Dorfman The total of all student loan debt just hit $1.5 trillion, so prepare for a slew of stories telling you how student loan debt is out-of-control and we must reform the program to avoid a crisis. Ignore the hype. The reality is that most borrowers are using student loans responsibly, graduate with a perfectly reasonable amount of debt, and are making a smart investment. Given the excellent return on investment from college educations, why is society acting like student loan debt is a problem? Instead, we should be glad so many people are acting in a way that will make the country better off in the long run. Since the start of the 2007-2009 recession, the… View Article

Take a Deep Breath before Blaming Ozone for Asthma

By Harold Brown The American Lung Association emphasizes the bad news and mentions the good. Its State of the Air 2018 report (using 2014-2016 data) claims that “ozone pollution worsened significantly.” It is clear, however, that the air in Georgia has become cleaner and healthier. Atlanta had an average of 66 days per year from 2000 to 2010 that were “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” but only 21 days per year from 2011-2016 (see chart). The two pollutants most blamed for the “unhealthy” air have decreased. Ozone (4th maximum 8-hour concentration) decreased 27 percent from 2000 to 2017, while tiny particles (PM2.5) dropped by 50 percent. Respiratory disease causes, changes in the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations and environmental advocates’ claims have… View Article
By Martha Nesbit May 7-11 is National Charter Schools Week. This commentary, celebrating Georgia’s first start-up public charter school and the 20th anniversary of the state’s 1998 legislation, is based on remarks by Martha Nesbit at the Georgia Charter Schools Association Annual Conference on March 7, 2018. The story I will tell you sounds like it could not possibly be true, but it is, because it happened to me! From 1974 to 1986 I was food editor of The Savannah Morning News. Then I gave up my wonderful job to become a stay-at-home mom for our two little boys. But we really needed money, so I agreed to teach preschool at the church less than a mile from our home… View Article
By Kyle Wingfield As students know all too well, spring isn’t just the time when baseball returns and flowers bloom. ‘Tis also the season for testing. It’s important to know if students are learning as they should, and to hold schools accountable if not. But since the No Child Left Behind Act became law in 2002, ushering in an era of “high-stakes testing,” students and parents as well as teachers and administrators have wondered: Are these tests telling us anything accurate about student performance? The short answer is, yes – but it’s worth parsing the numbers to understand them better. Take the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, dubbed the “nation’s report card.” Between 2003 (the first year the… View Article
By Kyle Wingfield Few bills gave liberty-minded folks more heartburn during this past legislative session than the so-called distracted driving bill, which would ban most motorists from holding a mobile phone while cruising down Georgia’s roads. There were many reasons for this. First, it didn’t cover all distractions: Holding a hamburger or a mascara brush would still be OK under this legislation, even though either can take a driver’s eyes off the road and at least one hand off the steering wheel. Second, not all distractions created by mobile phones are created equal: The recent spike in accidents and fatalities came well after people started phoning a friend while driving, yet the bill would outlaw holding a phone to talk… View Article

Finally, a one volume resource from an independent source that gives those of us in public life a new view on which to make public policy.

Governor Roy Barnes more quotes