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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why does Georgia care more about it's children than Florida

From the Times Union

by Walter Jones

ATLANTA - The calls for a tax increase to end education cuts has picked up support from a group connected with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Friday, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education called for a tax increase when it issued its annual report, "Top Ten Issues to Watch in 2011: What Georgia Must Do to Become a National Education Leader."

Report author Susan Walker, the partnership's policy and research director, wrote, "To solve our state's long-term financial challenges and to restore public funds to the vital service of education, Georgia's policymakers must be willing to consider new sources of public revenue."

The partnership was created by the Georgia Chamber, which continues to provide its support, including office space.

The chamber, though, has long fought tax hikes as being harmful to employers' ability to create jobs.

"The Georgia Chamber opposes any tax increase that would threaten the state's economic competitiveness," notes chamber spokeswoman Joselyn Baker when asked about the partnership.

"That said, we believe that the education and training of our state's current and future workforce should be one of the state's highest priorities and that funding these programs should be taken into consideration both as part of this year's budget negotiations and as the legislature considers the recommendations recently released by the Special Council on Tax Reform."

The tax reform council, which included Chamber Chairwoman Suzanne Sitherwood, recommended sweeping changes in Georgia's tax structure but no overall increase in what the state collects.

Governor on tax cuts

Democrats last year began calling for a tax increase. Since then, other groups that advocate for increased spending on social programs have issued similar calls.

But Gov. Nathan Deal campaigned on tax cuts, primarily for businesses. And leaders in the House and Senate have said often that they oppose raising taxes when unemployment is high and businesses are still suffering from the recent recession.

The Partnership for Excellence's Walker noted in the report that some of the budget cutting has forced educators to find cheaper ways to do things, such as relying on electronic materials instead of costly printed textbooks and larger classes.

Half of the nation's local school districts laid off personnel in the current school year, and two-thirds expect to do so in the coming year. One in three plan furloughs next year.

"Our public education system will soon reach a point at which budget cuts, no matter how much efficiency they create, will negatively impact the core work of schools to educate our citizenry," she wrote.

The report also called for childcare and transportation subsidizes for low-paid workers, support for greater access to vocational classes and an analysis of the effectiveness of the state's school-choice options., (404) 589-8424

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