Friday Facts: June 24th, 2011

It’s Friday!

– The largest portion of special education spending goes to special education teachers, who are trained in the law, know how to identify disabilities, and are steeped in theories of learning, according to Nate Levenson, a former Massachusetts superintendent. In “Something Has Got to Change: Rethinking Special Education,” Levenson says these teachers “are not, however, trained in math, English, or reading, even though most of a special education teacher’s day … is spent providing academic instruction.” He flags one district where special ed teachers provided 100 percent of extra reading help even though only 5 percent of the teachers had been trained to teach reading. Source:American Enterprise Institute

Liberty and freedom
Georgia ranks 15th overall 
in the 2011 index of Freedom in the 50 States, a Mercatus Center project that looks at economic and personal freedom in the American states. Georgia ranks 12th in economic freedom and 31st in personal freedom in the index, which examines state and local government intervention across a wide range of public policies, from income taxation to gun control, from homeschooling regulation to drug policy.  Source: Mercatus Center
– Our Kelo?
 When the City of New London, Conn., used the power of eminent domain to take Susette Kelo’s house in order to make way for a private business, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was a permissible “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Kelo lost her case in 2005, but the ensuing outrage allowed Georgia and many states to enact strong property rights legislation to protect individuals from misuse of eminent domain. Now,  the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled state-authorized charter schools unconstitutional, possibly denying thousands of students access to high-quality public schools. As with the Kelo decision, the ensuing outrage has united civil rights leaders, parents, business organizations and a variety of organizations in working to rectify this setback. Let’s hope the result is the same.
– Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has joined a bipartisan, 16-state coalition in filing an amicus brief opposing the National Labor Relations Board’s recent action attempting to block a business’ expansion which would create new, non-unionized jobs in South Carolina, a right-to-work state.

Energy and Environment
– The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0 against six states seeking to sue sources of greenhouse gas emissions for their contributions to global warming under federal common law. Regarding potential government action to address anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can act within its proper discretion, the Supreme Court decided. “The decision contradicts EPA assertions that it is imposing greenhouse gas restrictions because the Supreme Court mandated it must do so,” Steve Malloy, publisher of, points out in the Washington Times. “So long as EPA acts within its reasonable discretion, it can decline to impose greenhouse gas restrictions.”
– Bellwetherman: Bill Gray, a 50-year member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and a professor emeritus at Colorado State University, says he is “very disappointed at the downward path the AMS has been following for the last 10-15 years in its advocacy of the Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis. The society has officially taken a position many of us AMS members do not agree with. … To take this position which so many of its members do not necessarily agree with shows that the AMS is following more of a political than a scientific agenda.” Source:

Health care
– Health policy analysis attracts an unusual breed of thinker, John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis notes in his blog: “They almost universally believe thatif health care has to be rationed, it’s always better to ration by waiting instead of rationing by price – even when the service is something almost everyone could easily afford (e.g., a doctor’s visit). They believe that paying for care with time rather than money is more efficient, even though the most rudimentary economic analysis shows that belief is wrong. And they believe that people who pay for care with time are ‘insured’ while people who pay with money are ‘uninsured’ – even if the same people end up getting the same care under either system.”

– Moving right along: In a bottom-up system, individual transit and highway agencies would be funded by their users, so they would have incentives to provide and expand service where needed by those users, the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole notes. Thanks to our heavily planned and heavily subsidized transit industry, the average urban transit bus uses 80 percent more energy per passenger mile than Amtrak. “But that’s not because Amtrak is energy-efficient: The average Amtrak train uses 60 percent more energy per passenger mile than intercity buses. Unlike both Amtrak and urban transit buses, private intercity buses aim to meet market demand, not political demand.” To achieve a bottom-up transportation system, O’Toole recommends getting the federal government out of transportation decision-making.
Transit 101: Light rail 
operates passenger rail cars singly (or short two-car or three-car trains) on fixed rails in right-of-way that is often separated from other traffic for part or much of the way. Light rail vehicles are typically driven electrically with power drawn from an overhead electric line, or catenary. According to MARTA, light rail typically travels at speed averaging 10-25 miles per hour. The average speed of the Phoenix light rail system is 22 miles per hour. Heavy Rail, or rapid transit (such as MARTA)operates on an electric railway with the capacity for a heavy volume of traffic. It is characterized by high speed and rapid acceleration passenger rail cars operating singly or in multi-car trains on fixed rails; separate rights-of-way and sophisticated signaling. Cobb County transportation officials, who envision a 14-mile light rail line along U.S 41, have not yet said what speed they expect from the light rail project, which is likely to delay auto traffic as rail cars pre-empt traffic signals.

The Forum
– Foundation editor Mike Klein covered the 2011 National Charter Schools Conference in Atlanta this week, where former President Bill Clinton urged educators to putAmerica back into the future business; Children’s Defense Founder Marian Wright Edelman and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said American education has failed the children; and President Peter Groff of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said last month’s Georgia Supreme Court ruling on state commission charters is a dreadful decision. He added: “How we answer will define us for generations.” Visit The Forum, the Foundation’s interactive Web site, to read these articles and more, by clicking on this link:
– Georgia is launching a pilot self-reporting project for parolees that eventually could redefine how the state supervises low-risk adult parolees, editor Mike Klein reported this week in The Forum.

– Save the date: 
The Foundation’s 20th anniversary celebration is scheduled for the evening of Monday, October 24. Details to follow.
– Save the date: The Foundation’s second annual Legislative Policy Briefing is scheduled for Friday, September 30. Last year, more than 250 people attended to hear nearly three dozen experts discuss Georgia public policy. Details to follow.

 – Visit to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “What Mitt Romney Should Be Saying About Mass. Health Care,” by John C. Goodman.

Have a great weekend.

Kelly McCutchen

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