Honorable mention: Noel Khalil, founder and CEO of Columbia Residential and Columbia Ventures, died October 25 after a long illness. He was 70. Khalil founded Atlanta-based Columbia Residential 30 years ago to provide high-quality, affordable housing where people would be proud to live. His work created nearly 10,000 homes for families from very low-income to market-rate, a spokesman said. He spoke at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s annual dinner in 2014, discussing his family’s journey from Jamaica to the United States. This year, as we mark 30 years of “Changing Georgia Policy, Changing Georgians’ Lives,” the Foundation’s newest initiative seeks solutions to the challenge of housing affordability across the state. We extend our condolences to Khalil’s family, friends, colleagues and tenants.
Quotes of note
“For a discipline known for its disagreement, the strong consensus among economists on the economic impotence of sports stadiums and events is striking. The findings may seem puzzling: How can the dollars spent on tickets, concessions and patronizing nearby restaurants and stores not benefit the local economy? The answer is quite simple: most people who attend sporting events live and work near the stadium. Rather than inducing new spending, patrons are reallocating their spending from other local consumption options (movies, restaurants, shopping, etc.) to attend games. … The studies show that net impact is a reshuffling of local dollars, not increased economic activity.” – J.C. Bradbury
“It is not true that Congress spends money like a drunken sailor. Drunken sailors spend their own money. Congress spends our money.” – Art Laffer
November 9, 12: The Foundation’s 2021 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum takes place next week. Have you reserved your spot? Attend online November 9 and in-person November 12. Find out more here.
November 9: Join America’s Future Atlanta Chapter for the 2021 Learning Liberty event with speaker Hannah Cox, 7 PM at Bold Monk Brewing Co. The event is open to young professionals under age 40. Attire is business casual. Free food and drinks; invite your friends!
Enrollment: Statewide public school enrollment for the 2021-22 school year as of October 5 is 1,740,812, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Education. That’s 10,846 more students than the same time in 2020 (1,729,966) and 17,685 more than the second count districts take in March (1,723,127) but down from October 2019 (pre-pandemic) enrollment, which was 1,769,621. Read the Foundation’s January investigative journalism article, “Where Have All The Children Gone?”
District data: COVID-19 regulations may have taken a toll on many Georgia public school districts, with student enrollment fluctuating since the pandemic hit. Atlanta Public Schools’ enrollment, for example, dropped steadily. It was at 49,994 in October 2021, dropping from 51,012 in October 2020 and a pre-pandemic 52,416 in October 2019. DeKalb County, which had 98,800 enrolled in October 2019, had 93,470 in October 2020 and 93,473 in October 2021. Cobb County had 106,970 in October 2021, down from 107,379 in 2020 and 112,097 in October 2019. Forsyth County enrollment climbed, going from 50,544 in October 2019 to 51,152 in October 2020 and 52,757 in October 2021.
College enrollment: Much like K-12 public school numbers, community college enrollment has dropped in the past two years, as an effect of the pandemic and now vaccine mandates, according to FEE.org. A community college professor in New England noted the majority of her students are low-income and people of color, communities often resistant to the COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccine mandates may drive them out of school. The Technical College System of Georgia reports an overall decline in enrollment over the past two years, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports a 2.1% decline in undergraduate enrollment at Georgia’s public universities.
Farm woes: Georgia’s farmers started the year on a bad note with crops hurt by a late spring freeze. Now, at harvest time, they struggle to find parts and equipment because of a nationwide John Deere strike, according to the Center Square. About 10,000 workers in 14 plants are striking over pay, health insurance and profit sharing. Agriculture accounts for about $74 billion in economic benefits to Georgia.
Competition: The competition between downsizing Baby Boomers and first-time homebuyers is making the housing shortage even more acute, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reports housing inventory in the 1,400-square-feet or less category is near a five-decade low. In 2020, buyers aged 55-plus downsizing their homes accounted for 28% of real estate transactions.
Redistricting: Georgia lawmakers began a special session November 3 to address redistricting. Ahead of the session, the state House and Senate released proposed new electoral maps based on the Census population estimates, WABE reports. The schedule for the session and legislative committee hearings can be found online, along with video links. Visit legis.ga.gov/schedule/all.
Taxes and spending
Tax votes: Special-purpose local-option sales tax elections (SPLOSTs) and education sales tax votes (e-SPLOSTs) passed resoundingly across the state Tuesday. Off-year elections typically have low turnouts and interest. In Cobb County, where 72.09% of voters approved a five-year penny tax for education purposes, turnout was just 50,157, or 9.46% of Cobb’s 530,097 registered voters. Fulton and DeKalb voters were among those to approve e-SPLOSTs. In Columbus, just 8.5% of the 126,045 registered voters cast a ballot: Nearly 5,800 voters (54%) said yes to a penny SPLOST that will raise the city’s sales tax to 9% beginning April 1 – the highest in the state. Half of the anticipated $400 million collected over 10 years will fund a new judicial center. Voters in Oconee County bucked the trend, rejecting a transportation SPLOST by a vote of 52.7% to 47.3%.
Pediatric vaccination: After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5-11, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has announced it and health districts throughout Georgia will offer Pfizer’s pediatric version for children. About 987,000 Georgia children are eligible for the vaccination, two doses taken three weeks apart. The DPH reports cases, deaths and vaccination rates on its website here.
This month in the archives: In November 25 years ago, the Foundation published, “Why Georgia Needs a New Approach to Testing.” It noted, “Despite the large amount of money being spent on testing in Georgia, the vast majority of the tests do not yield individual student scores.” Today, Georgia Milestones assessments help bridge that gap.
Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Propane Prices Hit the Gas and the Wallets,” by Benita Dodd.
Have a great weekend! And congratulations to the world champion Braves!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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