Sunday Solutions — April 2, 2023
As March slid into history, so did the 2023 meeting of the Georgia General Assembly, leaving some uncertainty and change in its wake. In other news, Coastal Georgia has more people, area colleges have less money and we look at an important industry in freefall: child care.
Your elected reps’ time under the Dome
Coastal Georgia’s state officials are just returning from their 3 months in Atlanta as your elected voices. Majority-party representatives and senators would likely tell you they had a successful turn, and minority-party Democrats would have another, less optimistic answer. In the local issues they addressed together, there were wins, including hotel-motel tax increases and funding for ongoing projects. State policy items they agreed on, like gambling and additional funding for mental health services, fell short. The Current’s Craig Nelson summarizes the results for the sometimes tense session.
Coastal Georgia on the grow
The new U.S. Census updates for 2022 are in, and Coastal Georgia is beefing up. Those numbers come from the months before the announcement of the Hyundai Metaplant in north Bryan County, along with its supporting industries. From April 1, 2020, to July 1, 2022, every coastal county showed a gain. Births outnumbered deaths in coastal counties except McIntosh and Glynn where growth came as more people moved into the counties. To see the national picture and download the state and county numbers, go here.
State higher ed budget: More than paper cuts
While the governor has expressed concern about “holes” in the new state budget, it’s uncertain where those might be. But, University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue is certain he knows where one rupture is: The legislature cut $66 million from the system’s budget. In an interview with GPB News, he called the cuts “unfortunate” and “disappointing” and said smaller schools wouldn’t be able to shoulder the deficit. If that’s true, Coastal Georgia’s state institutions of higher education won’t fare well. According to a release from USG, Savannah State University stands to lose $564,000; College of Coastal Georgia, $464,000; and, albeit larger, Georgia Southern University, $3.879 million.
- Libraries now face downsizing: Activists have turned their attention to challenging funds for school and city libraries as a new way to ban books.
- Can Americans catch up on their knowledge of civics? A story from Governing looks at how the public’s lack of knowledge of how things work in a democracy affects the ability of leaders to govern. States have cut back the teaching requirements for civics and some don’t focus squarely on the fundamentals of citizens and government at all.
War casualties without uniforms
If you’re an early adopter to this newsletter and The Current, you may remember a story at the 50th year following the deadly Thiokol explosion in Woodbine. The Camden County blast in February 1971 killed 30 who were working at an assembly factory for explosive trip flares for the military. The families of the dead and survivors continue to seek help from their elected representatives to get Congressional Gold Medals for the risks they took to help American soldiers fight in the Vietnam War. Savannahnow.com, along with Savannah filmmakers Patrick and Ann Longstreth, recently produced an impressive series of 6 podcasts, “Tripwire,” about the explosion and its tragic legacy for generations. A panel discussion last week at Savannah State brought the effort for remembrance back to the forefront with a vision to create a visible national monument a few miles from the site.
Your second cup: Prioritizing child care
While the Georgia legislature gave business and development tax credits some additions and reviews, a child care income tax credit failed to get a vote. Child care as a business and necessity is in crisis, according to a bevy of recent studies. In 34 states, child care costs more than in-state college tuition; for Georgia families, costs are $9,000 a year per child. Nearly 16,000 centers and home-based day cares closed between December 2019 and March 2021. In economic terms, demand is increasing but the supply of child care dropped 9% overall and 10% for family child care homes, a more affordable option for many families, according to a report by Child Care Aware, a leading child care advocacy organization. Waitlists for day care have grown 28% to an average of 236, according to one nationally based list manager. As a result, women are leaving the workforce and/or choosing to have fewer children because of the shortage of child care options. The nonprofit news site, The 19th, does a comprehensive dive into the topic and potential solutions for the crippling problem with very long-term ramifications for children, women and the future workforce.
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