DeKalb sheriff launches job training program for jail inmates

DeKalb sheriff launches job training program for jail inmates

Some of the newest students at Georgia Piedmont Technical College reside in a high-rise less than two miles away. But the towering building is not one of luxury.

It is the DeKalb County jail, and these nine inmates are the first to participate in a job training initiative to make sure they never return…

Eric Cochling, executive vice president and general counsel of the Georgia Center for Opportunity, applauded the initiative.

Cochling’s organization is a non-profit think tank that has focused on making it easier for ex-offenders to re-enter the workforce. It notes that roughly half-a-million Georgians are either incarcerated or under parole or probation and there are millions more with criminal records that could make it difficult to get jobs.

“If you truly want to help returning citizens avoid recidivism, the best thing you can do is training them for work they can do immediately,” Cochling said.

He said that recidivism drops by two-thirds when a person can find and keep a job for at least six months after leaving jail or prison. “There is really no other intervention that has that kind of impact.”

The idea that they’re trying to give practical skills that are in demand in the market, that is exactly the kind of thinking that we need across the board when we think about the men and women who are coming out of prison and even jail,” Cochling said.

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Education designed for everyone and every learning need

Education designed for everyone and every learning need

Education designed for everyone and every learning need

Every day we are greeted by options—from the many products available through local grocery stores to the millions of apps available on smartphones. So, why would we expect anything different in education?

As Georgia’s schoolchildren head back to class this month, it’s a question worth pondering: Should education be a one-size-fits-all issue? For many students, their locally zoned and assigned school is indeed the best option. But other families need alternative options to help their children succeed.


Students in poverty 

Think of students like those in Atlanta’s 30314 zip code, one of the poorest and most crime-ridden areas in the country.

This small slice of Atlanta accounts for six out of every 10 murders in the city. In just this one ZIP Code alone, about 40 percent of people live below the poverty line. And the median household income is just $25,000 a year.

While we all want to see public schools improve in this area, that cause will take years if not decades. Meanwhile, more and more students will fall behind and, in many cases, into a life of crime.

For students in the 30314, we can’t afford to wait another day, another week, another month, or another year. They need options right now—options like Bright Futures Academy, a school specifically designed to give kids a solid shot at getting the good education they need to thrive in life and succeed as adults.


Students with special needs

Or take the example of students with special needs. In many instances, local schools are ill-equipped to handle the unique needs of these students. That was certainly the case for Cammie Alkire and her daughter, Savannah, who has had severe learning disabilities from an early age.

Cammie calls Savannah “her million-dollar child” because that’s how all of the medical care and therapies have cost over the years.

Although the Alkires support the local public school system (Cammie is a graduate of Forsyth County Public Schools), they weren’t willing to subject Savannah to another year of bullying in order to qualify for Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship.

Today, Savannah is enrolled in a small private Christian school that’s meeting her unique needs. But the Alkires struggle each month to meet the cost of her care entirely on their own.

“These are the kids who fall through the cracks. They get bullied. They turn out to be cutters. They are emotionally and mentally struggling, but not screaming loud enough to hear. And our government refuses to extend any type of financial help to these parents,” Cammie shared with us.


A way forward

Every child is different. That’s why we come alongside families to support the best possible choices for their children, rather than pigeonhole them into only one choice.

Learn more about what you can do.

Join our Georgia Parent’s Alliance on Facebook for updates and opportunities to serve.
Foster families in Georgia need better educational options—here’s how to help them

Foster families in Georgia need better educational options—here’s how to help them

Foster families in Georgia need better educational options—here’s how to help them

Gina McCarn will be the first to tell you that being a foster parent is tough. But well worth the effort.

The trouble is, not everyone sees and acknowledges the sacrifices that foster families make. Take the world of education, for example. One of Gina’s foster sons, Michael*, has been in upwards of 20 schools during his educational journey.

Michael suffers from dyslexia and dysgraphia. He has experienced trauma, neglect, and abuse that have also contributed to his learning challenges.

The local public school simply wasn’t a great fit for Michael. The McCarns needed other options.


Hope for Michael

The McCarns’ local public school flagged Michael for reading challenges in the first grade, but they never put interventions in place because he didn’t have a parent advocate. When the McCarns met Michael in third grade, he wasn’t able to read even at a basic level.

Fast forward to today: Thanks to a local private tutor specializing in tutoring dyslexic learners, Michael is thriving. He’s grown from a kindergarten to second-grade reading level. However, he still needs all the help he can get.

“We’re just continuing to lose more time as more years pass,” Gina says. “He’s a really smart kid who can’t advance right now because he doesn’t have what he needs.”

Families like the McCarns are sacrificing so much to foster and adopt children. The least we can do is pull out all the stops to ensure they have most educational options possible.


Solutions for foster families

A big way that Georgia can do that is by updating the Special Needs Scholarship Program to waive the one-year residency requirement for foster families, treating them with the same respect we give to military families currently in the law.

Foster families like the McCarns would also benefit from an Educational Scholarship Account (ESAs), which are an innovative way for parents to pay for non-public educational options for their children. Right now, the McCarns must cover the entire cost for Michael’s specialized tutoring. An ESA would provide a much-needed lifeline to defray the expense.

ESAs empower parents to direct the money the state would have spent on their child to things like tuition, tutors, adaptive technology, therapy, and curriculum to truly customize an education that best meets each child’s needs.

For families like the McCarns, the help can’t come soon enough.

*Not his real name to protect his identity and safety.

Learn more about what you can do.

Join our Georgia Parent’s Alliance on Facebook for updates and opportunities to serve.

The impact of healthcare costs on upward mobility

The impact of healthcare costs on upward mobility

The impact of healthcare costs on upward mobility

For high-income individuals and families, a visit to a doctor’s office is a financial non-event. They typically have robust health insurance to cover the out-of-pocket costs, and their co-pays are low and easily affordable.

But for poor and even middle-income families lacking health insurance—or trapped in plans with poor coverage and high deductibles—a simple visit to the doctor can be financially devastating.  

As the recent government shutdown revealed, nearly 80% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck. Given this reality, it’s no surprise that high healthcare costs are all-too-often the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back and drives people facing overwhelming medical costs into bankruptcy.  



Georgians lack any health insurance


The American Dream is at risk   

Tragically, the inability for many to afford quality healthcare is the primary reason why fully 13.3% of Georgians lack any health insurance today. Indeed, the exponentially exploding cost of healthcare significantly discourages poor and even middle-class people from visiting the doctor—resulting in longer term, poorer, and ultimately more expensive health consequences.

The bottom line is that despite its name, the ACA has not improved the health insurance system, nor has it achieved its two primary goals—universal coverage and affordable healthcare.

Indeed, in the nine years since passage of the ACA in 2010, not only is a significant percentage of the population not insured, health insurance premiums have grown 60 percent faster than the general inflation rate—while medical care services have increased 90 percent faster and hospital services more than three times as fast.

Simply put, when 17.9% of our nation’s GDP is spent on healthcare—totaling $3.5 trillion, or $10,739 per person annually—how can people in the lower and middle income levels ever hope to move up the ladder of economic mobility and achieve the American dream?

Will be pushed below the poverty line due to medical expenses

Healthcare costs are devastating for the poor

One study from 2018 in the American Journal of Public Health showed that 7 million people who make above 150 percent of the poverty level were pushed below the poverty line due to medical expenses. And 4 million of that number fell into extreme poverty (50 percent below the poverty line). Other facts throw even more fuel on the fire:

  • Medical debt is a major cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.
  • Poor and middle class people spend a higher percentage of their income on healthcare than the rich do.
  • A significant story—often overshadowed by rising premiums—is the fact that health-insurance deductibles have also risen. This means that even when people need to use their high-cost health insurance plans, they still end up paying more and more out of pocket before their insurance benefits kick in.

Given this reality, it’s clear that when poor and middle-class Georgians are buried under an avalanche of medical expenses they have a much harder time pursuing the things we know increase upward mobility, including getting a better education, which leads to landing a better job with better medical insurance and a greater ability to save money, buy a house, and not be forced to live month-to-month.


Encouraging upward mobility through healthcare reform

Here at GCO, our mission is to remove barriers that keep people from thriving. In a very real sense, the overwhelming costs associated with healthcare are a burden that prevents both poor and middle class Georgians from moving upward on the economic ladder and achieving their dreams.

This is why we are calling for a comprehensive set of consumer-driven, market-based reforms to stabilize the current safety net program and achieve universal coverage for all Georgians by:

  • Untethering healthcare from its close association with employment so that people won’t lose their insurance because they lose or change a job.
  • Making shopping for health insurance just like buying any other insurance product so that consumers can identify coverage and price options—and compare apples to apples.
  • Providing subsidies from the government—run by the Georgia Gateway—to allow low-income individuals and families to purchase insurance on the private market. This system would be means-tested by an eligibility engine that eliminates welfare cliffs and marriage penalties.

Thanks to federal waiver applications offered through the Trump Administration that allow states to come up with their own solutions to the healthcare crisis, Georgia has a unique opportunity to enact meaningful health-insurance reform that not only addresses access to high quality insurance coverage, but also keeps families from falling down the economic ladder into poverty because of a medical crisis.

Read more:

A Real Solution for Health Insurance and Medical Assistance Reform

What Does an Ideal Solution to the Health Insurance Crisis Look Like?

DeKalb sheriff launches job training program for jail inmates

Georgia Gov. Kemp calls for state budget cuts

State agency officials in Georgia will have until Sept. 6 to come up with a plan to cut spending by 4 percent in 2020 and by 6 percent in 2021.

Gov. Brian Kemp has instructed agency heads to submit amended budget proposals that reflect the cuts along with their 2021 budget proposals….

Corey Burres, spokesperson for the nonprofit, free market Georgia Center for Opportunity, said it is possible that the tax revenues could decrease or stay flat in future months.

Tax revenues peaked in June 2018 when they finished up by 7 percent, nearly $146 million. But May’s revenue saw a 0.1 percent increase ($1 million) over May 2018.

Burres said there’s also concern over the scaling back of federal support for state programs “in the near future.”

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