Friday Facts: February 23, 2024

It’s Friday! Get the facts

In 1996, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation published its first “Report Card for Parents” to shine a light on the performance of Georgia’s public schools. The Foundation continued to publish this Report Card through 2010 as the state began publishing a wider and deeper trove of data on these topics. 

But since the beginning of the pandemic, the state has sought and received a series of waivers from the federal government that have disrupted the reporting of timely, relevant and meaningful information about a schools’ academic performance. Four years later, with students having long since returned to their schoolhouses, this trend has continued in a worrying direction. The latest development was the Georgia Department of Education’s request to waive permanently the federal requirements to publish its overall, 0-100 score for the state, local districts and individual public schools.

We believe it is helpful for parents, and taxpayers, to have a single, easily comprehensible score that reflects academic progress. That is why we compiled the data the Department of Education did not release and have made it available for you. What do the data tell us? As we feared, we have seen academic declines across the board, even as spending per pupil increased by 27.5% between 2019 and 2023, or by 10.0% when adjusted for inflation.

Please check out this week’s commentary, where you can find not just statewide data, but data from every school and district in the state, with the changes from 2019 to 2023. We also have the latest news and analysis from the last week, including:

  • Senate moves forward with the amended budget totaling $37.5 billion
  • Why the Supreme Court declining to hear a Port of Charleston case regarding union work could have a big impact on Georgia’s ports
  • Gun manufacturer is leaving New York for Georgia after more than 200 years
  • Braves play first spring training game of 2024 on Saturday 

Have a great weekend,

– Kyle Wingfield

Friday’s Freshest

Metro Atlanta’s population to reach 7.9 million by 2050

The headline was jarring for those who live in metro Atlanta – but should also provide a jolt to those who don’t: “Metro Atlanta population to reach 7.9 million by 2050.” If that projection is realized, it will continue a trend that may not be sustainable much longer. Again, that goes for metro Atlanta and the rest of the state. 

Congress, don’t legislate a takeover of the nation’s rental housing market

To be fair, the housing shortage that policymakers are looking to solve is real. However, doubling down with more government subsidies for new apartments isn’t the answer. The root cause is government regulatory failure – and no amount of money can fix that.

Even more COVID-19 relief money gets wasted

Officials with the Telfair County Board of Education took nearly $44,000 of COVID-19 relief money and gave it out as a bonus to unspecified people who did not work for the school district. This is according to a report that the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts published in January. This, and more, in our recap of waste, fraud and abuse in Georgia. 

Will the Georgia legislature cap property tax increases?

One cruel irony of our current housing market is that rising home mortgage interest rates have made even the prospect of downsizing more costly, as potential homebuyers contemplate a higher monthly payment for a smaller home – that is, even if they wish to move. In a time of inflation, property valuations are one inflationary measure that needs to be limited. 

6 reasons to empower Georgia parents

Three states that border Georgia – North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida — now have universal or near-universal education savings accounts that allow parents to use the funds associated with their child’s education to choose the right educational setting for their child. Georgia should join them. 

At the Capitol: Week of February 19

Things are as busy as ever at the Capitol, as we are now only one week away from Crossover Day. Here are this week’s updates:

  • There were personnel changes in each chamber this week. Rep. Penny Houston, R-Nashville, announced that she will not seek re-election. Rep. Houston represents Georgia’s 170th district, and has served since 1997. Her colleague Rep. J. Collins, R-Villa Rica, also announced he will not seek re-election to the seat he has held since 2017.
  • Also, the Senate swore in former Rep. Tim Bearden, R-Carrollton, who won a special election earlier this month for District 30. This special election came following the departure of former Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan.
  • Georgia Public Policy Foundation President and CEO Kyle Wingfield testified before the House Ways and Means Committee about a tax-reform study the Foundation published in conjunction with our sister think tank, the Buckeye Institute. Read the study here.
  • The Ways and Means Committee approved HB 464, a revision of the state’s income tax. This bill, authored by Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, eliminates the cap on taxpayer money that can be reserved for a “rainy day” economic downturn and would allow for some of the reserves to be used for tax relief.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the state’s amended budget for FY 2024, or HB 915. The “little budget” totals $37.5 billion, which includes $5 billion in new spending.
  • On Wednesday, the House Health Committee heard HB 1339, a revision of Georgia’s certificate of need (CON) laws. Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro, the bill’s author, outlined several revisions and exemption expansions proposed in the bill. After lengthy testimonies in support of and opposition to the bill, the Committee adjourned without taking action on the bill. The Foundation has previously released a report on the need for CON reform in Georgia
  • The House Regulated Industries Committee took up a few bills related to occupational licensing. One was HB 880, by Rep. Bethany Ballard, R-Warner Robins. This allows spouses of service members serving in Georgia to practice their profession when that individual is licensed in good standing in the state of licensure (the relevant licensure would have to meet or exceed the requirements in Georgia). The bill cleared committee.
  • The House Education Committee on Thursday approved HB 1221, authored by Rep. Tyler Paul Smith, R-Bremen. This bill defines procedures for K-12 students who want to transfer from their district of residence to another. It would provide that only the receiving local school system can grant or refuse permission for such transfers. The committee also approved HB 1186, sponsored by Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, which would require the state to calculate and publish a single score for its CCRPI rating system.
  • Last week, we mentioned the “Boundless Opportunities for Georgia Students Act”, SB 147 by Sen. Shawn Still, which would allow public school students to take virtual courses in a different school system. After not taking action last week, the Senate Education and Youth Committee voted 5-4 in favor of the bill.
  • Many states around the country have taken action in the interest of keeping minors safe on the internet. HB 1296, authored by Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, was introduced on Monday. This would provide for age verification and other restrictions on minors’ social media account activity.

The Latest


Supreme Court rejects Port of Charleston case in labor battle

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by South Carolina’s ports authority, letting stand a lower-court ruling that effectively requires the Port of Charleston to use an all-union labor force at a new container terminal. Georgia’s Port of Savannah, which operates under a similar model to Charleston, has said this could jeopardize its plans to build a 395-acre terminal that will allow it to handle an additional two million containers per year.

Expert discusses whether self-employed workers face more government hurdles

As Georgia officials look to lessen business regulations, one change policy makers could weigh is a state law allowing local jurisdictions to levy licensing fees on home-based businesses. State lawmakers passed legislation roughly 30 years ago allowing cities to impose business and occupation requirements. 

Nation’s oldest gun manufacturer leaves New York for Georgia

Remington, the nation’s oldest gun manufacturer, told union officials late last year that company chiefs at RemArms, the current version of Remington Arms, made the decision to end its New York manufacturing come March. The remaining operations located in Ilion, New York will move to Georgia, where company leaders say the firearms industry is supported and welcomed. 


Georgia adding 60 literacy coaches to elementary schools. 

Last week, the Georgia Department of Education announced via news release it would add a coach to 60 elementary schools which are in the bottom 5th percentile. Through a tiered and tailored model, teachers and leaders throughout the state will receive training in structured literacy and the science of reading.

Biden cancels $1.2 billion in student debt six months ahead of schedule

The White House this week announced that President Biden has canceled another $1.2 billion in student loan debt for more than 150,000 borrowers earlier than expected. Biden has now unilaterally wiped away nearly $138 billion in federal student loans for almost 3.9 million borrowers without a single act of Congress after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Biden’s initial debt cancellation plan last year.

Half of college grads are working jobs that don’t use their degrees

Roughly half of college graduates end up in jobs where their degrees aren’t needed, and that underemployment has lasting implications for workers’ earnings and career paths. That is the key finding of a new study tracking the career paths of more than 10 million people who entered the job market over the past decade.

Government accountability

Boating groups argue legislation can limit Georgians’ recreational use of small rivers and streams

A coalition of recreational boating and river conservation groups is seeking to confirm what they term as the right to float all of Georgia’s rivers and streams in this year’s General Assembly session. At issue is the language used in House Bill 1172. They argue the bill as it stands could allow for limits to boating, fishing and hunting rights on the state’s larger streams.

City council votes on ordinance to discourage homeless people at Atlanta airport

The Atlanta City Council voted to approve a plan to restrict access to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as complaints continue about a growing number of homeless people in the terminals. There are already rules restricting access from late at night through the early morning hours. But those restrictions could be extended around the clock.

Women at Clarke County Jail learning construction trade while behind bars 

A new program is paving a way forward for women in the Clarke County Jail, via  construction. The women at the Clarke County Jail are part of the new Future Foundations Jail Resident Construction Program. The women will rotate days learning in the classroom and building outside in the jail yard. 


Marietta council tightens new restrictions on downtown housing

Marietta City Council members have approved changes to the zoning code that gives them greater control over new proposals for downtown residential development. Going forward, developers will need explicit approval from the council to construct residential buildings downtown.

After Supreme Court denies cases, Clarence Thomas offers hope to rent control critics

Hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court might strike down rent control this term were dashed today when the Court declined to take up the two remaining rent control cases on its docket. But a short statement from Justice Clarence Thomas does provide rent control critics some optimism that the Court might reconsider the issue at a future date.

Townhome community approved in the City of Cumming

Following a recommendation for denial from the City of Cumming Planning Board, the Cumming City Council voted to approve the development of approximately 180 townhomes on Veterans Memorial Boulevard.


Stanley cups maker facing multiple lawsuits over presence of lead in tumblers

The company behind the viral Stanley tumblers is now facing multiple lawsuits from consumers over the presence of lead in its products, with one alleging that it marketed them as “safe” for years but failed to “disclose its use of lead in manufacturing” until just last month. Seattle-based Pacific Market International is facing lawsuits filed in courts in California, Nevada and Washington state.

Braves open Grapefruit League play on Saturday

The Atlanta Braves are in North Port, Florida, to begin preparations for the 2024 MLB season. The Braves will open their Grapefruit League schedule on Saturday, February 24, on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Braves have 32 games scheduled and will wrap up spring camp on Tuesday, March 26.

Hawaii bound? Visitors could soon pay a climate tax

Tourist taxes and fees are commonplace, but people visiting Hawaii could potentially face something new: a $25 climate tax. This would be part of a piece of proposed legislation meant to tackle the “compelling and urgent need to increase funding to prevent climate crises and fully respond” to crises like the deadly Maui wildfires “when they occur.”

Quotes of the Week

“Knowledge is proud that it knows so much; wisdom is humble that it knows no more.” – William Cowper

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” – Soren Kierkegaard

“Freedom cannot be achieved by looking for it, but in looking for truth. Freedom should not be a purpose but a consequence.” – Leo Tolstoy

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