Sunday Solutions — June 25, 2023

The solstice has passed and the afternoon rains have returned. However, there’s no summer break for Coastal Georgia when it comes to education, health care, broadband and sea-level rise. We’ve got a few bits of research, items to ponder and a new edition of the Sunday News Quiz.

broadband access map 062023
White areas show counties with broadband coverage serving less than 65% of the population.

Broadband and health risks

When does lousy or no internet service become a health risk? Answer: When rural Georgia and other areas already underserved by medical care can’t get access to telehealth providers because of poor internet speeds or none at all, according to Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Digital Health.

A researcher from Augusta University, along with others, looked at data for 3,100 U.S. counties and found that the continuing gap in broadband services rural and underserved communities translates to higher health risks in those areas. You can read more about how it affects southeast and Coastal Georgia in this story from Augusta University.

Help on the way? On Friday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will distribute $42.5 billion in federal funds through a broadband equity fund. The distributions will be based on a map from the Federal Communications Commission that’s being challenged as inaccurate. The new map could cost Georgia, as well as other states, in money it needs to roll out better internet service to people who need it. Read about the maps and what they mean in a story from Route Fifty.

King tide on U.S. 80 leading to Fort Pulaski and Tybee Island on Nov. 6, 2021. Credit: Shamrock Drones

Working to live with higher tides

Sea-level rise has affected every inch of Coastal Georgia in some way. If you live or travel near the marshes or coastlines, you already know the tide lines are higher and roads and trails that were once easy to navigate are now cut off by water or restricted. Fort Pulaski, on Cockspur Island near Tybee Island, welcomes thousands of visitors every year, and its facilities won’t be able to handle them much longer as tides rise. The National Park Service wants your feedback on its resiliency plan. Here’s a story from GPB News about the effort. Engineers can’t raise the fort’s structure, made of 13 million bricks, but they can look at other ways to keep the property accessible for years to come. It’s a reminder that we all need to take a look at our own resiliency plans, no matter where we live on the coast.

Ready? Here you go.

Thanks to everyone who took last week’s quiz! Here’s this week’s edition. Beware, we’ll make it harder soon.

online remote learning child
Credit: Thomas Park/Unsplash

Education losses

School districts throughout Coastal Georgia are finalizing budgets before the new fiscal year on July 1. For most of them, they’ll include new funds for work on early grade literacy scores to match state goals for 2025. In Chatham County, the new budget holds new positions for early intervention specialists to work with students who need extra help to learn to read. The skill gaps are real across the nation, and they join the learning problems caused by two years of Covid-era upheaval.

In a new story from Chalkbeat, we learned test data show that 13-year-olds have lost ground in math and reading skills, a striking collapse in achievement scores since 2012. In reading, the students tested the same as those who took test in 1971. Math scores are now comparable to those in 1992. Another story from ProPublica assesses the tolls of closed schools on socialization and the extra learning gaps from the pandemic. It looks at the creative efforts to fill in the missing pieces and the deployment of old ideas like year-round school.

Your second cup: Think ahead. Way ahead.

It’s becoming rarer that we make long-term deliberate decisions, like planting shade trees, to effect a future we won’t experience. With a push from technological advances, life seems faster forcing us to focus only on quick-turn decisions useful only for now. BBC journalist Richard Fisher has been exploring how our short-term mindsets could undermine for our children, communities and our own lives. Fisher argues that longer-term thinking could change and save the world. Here’s a fascinating Q&A from Reasons to be Cheerful that just might shift your thinking just the tiniest bit.


Digital divide heightens impact on health care in rural Georgia and South, reveals new study

Large divide between rural and underserved communities and other parts of the country in access to high-speed internet, makes it difficult for people living in those areas to take advantage of online health services.

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Coastal Georgia’s Fort Pulaski seeks public comment on climate resiliency plan, amid sea-level rise

The Civil War-era seaside fort and adjoining park are grappling with the effects of climate change, prompting federal officials to adapt.

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Latest national test results show striking drop in 13-year-olds’ math, reading scores

The results add up to a striking collapse in achievement scores since 2012, after decades of progress in math and modest gains in reading. In reading, 13-year-olds scored about the same as those who took the test in 1971, when it was first administered. Math scores were now comparable to those in 1992

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Despite concerns, Georgia election officials plan to delay voting fixes till after ‘24 election

The decision comes after state election officials urged caution against making rash recommended changes to technology that Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger declares to be secure and battle tested.

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Gang crackdown, other legislation takes effect July 1

Law requires judges to impose prison sentences of at least five years on those convicted of recruiting gang members. It also mandates tougher penalties for recruiting to a gang anyone under age 17 or with a disability, requiring at least a 10-year sentence.

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GBI head steps down

Register stepped down after less than a year in the job. He will remain at GBI through July.

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Camden deputy under GBI investigation for violent traffic stop

Camden County Sheriff Deputy Christi Newman under GBI investigation after January traffic stop in Kingsland GA, where dashcam video showed Newman ramming woman’s head into a police cruiser.

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Federal crackdown on coal ash waste in the works as Southern Co. resists tougher environmental regs

The new policy could force Georgia’s largest utility company to abandon plans to leave coal ash in contact with groundwater at some of its older sites.

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Georgia justices weigh questions about law enforcement immunity in fatal cases

The justices’ rulings will have a major impact on the accused and the families of the dead, but they could also set a precedent for how police officers receive immunity when their actions result in the death of an arrestee and how jailers are treated under the law.

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Susan Catron is managing editor for The Current GA. She has more than two decades of experience in Georgia newspapers. Susan served as executive editor of the Savannah Morning News for nearly 15 years,...