Red Clay and the Challenge of Equality: To Be Mired In or Molded

georgiaredclayThe holiday season is drawing to a close, and soon the legislative session for the Georgia General Assembly will be upon us.  As the state closes out its year, we look to the future and what promise or plague our policy makers will bestow upon us.  I have spent an unhealthy amount of time this season pondering the fate of Georgia, as if I have any real means of addressing it.  I have not blogged in some time, as I have had little hope that the politics of the day are bearing anything other than strange fruit.  It is hard, even for an eternal optimist in these days of constant rain to see the silver lining.  Across the red hills, I see a lot of barriers that not only exist, but are perpetuated without real cognizance of their consequence.

Along with the temperature, I see the passion of Georgia’s people heating up like a kiln.  Many of us in the political sphere refer to this time as “the calm before the storm” of legislative session.  We spend time with our families, count our blessings, and prepare ourselves for the battle of will in government.  Under the surface though, there is something simmering here and in the nation that Presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Black Lives Matter movement have accentuated and possibly exploited.

It is widely assumed that the upcoming session will be brief and not much policy other than education passed.  Incumbents need time to raise money and campaign in their districts.  This abbreviated session may be a mixed bag of course, addressing a big problem, yet not the only one the state faces.  I am grateful to see the QBE funding formula finally addressed (as the last time was almost before my birth), yet I cannot shake the very real feeling I have had for the last five years or so.

The General Assembly is thinking too small. Continue reading “Red Clay and the Challenge of Equality: To Be Mired In or Molded”


I have recently had the joy of attending a number of forums, meetings, discussions, and roundtables regarding policy in Georgia.  I recognize a lot of folks may not enjoy these, but I definitely do.  I like to build consensus, I like having multiple voices heard, new ideas vetted, and innovative solutions considered.  I attend these sort of events to learn, sometimes to share, and most importantly to connect in an area of interest I have, both for the benefit of my clients and (my aspiration) for the benefit of my state.

Unfortunately, I also attend meetings that could have been handled in an email, attend forums that are a waste of time, and discussions that are more echo chambers than actual conversation.  As a result, I thought it might be helpful for me to identify for others what makes a compelling, interesting, and well organized meeting or forum.  Consider this your free #protip.


Continue reading “#Protip”

Public School:  Where the Rights of a Few Trump the Rights of Too Many

One of the foundations of our Constitution is that the rights of many do not impede upon the rights of a few.  I get that, and I think it an imperative cornerstone of America.

But today I am writing about discipline in public school…stay with me; there’s a connection.

All children have a right to a free and appropriate education (FAPE). FAPE gets tossed around a lot.  What it means is that the school is bound by law to serve every child, whether he or she has a special learning need or not.  Again, I agree that we need to ensure the rights of a few.  But when do the rights of a few trump the rights of many?

I’m sure that we have now all seen the video of the South Carolina Resource Officer who flipped a child onto the floor.  Was he wrong?  Absolutely!  Should he lose his job?  Yes!  Was it overkill?  Probably.

What got him to that point, though?  A teacher had to call in an administrator who then had to call in a police officer (and yes, they are trained officers…with vests and guns) to deal with a child who allegedly would not leave a class of 25-30 students. ONE child kept a class of 25-30 kids from learning.  ONE child kept instruction from other students who also have a right to FAPE.

As a mother and an educator, though, I am growing more and more concerned that students who are “average” are being pushed out of public school by those who need special attention.  Gifted students get extra money from the coffers; students who don’t speak the language get extra money from the coffers; students who are medically fragile get extra money from the coffers; so do kids with ADHD if they have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  They get special testing plans and extra time on tests; they get extra resources; some even get their own teacher.

How has it gotten to the point that schools must use resources such as a full time, certified  teacher for one student, or an assistant to a teacher of five students when the “average” child is stuck in a classroom with 30 other “average” kids?  When one reads about student teacher ratios, averages are used.  Meaning, when a parent reads 12:1 ratio, the school or school system is not taking into account that some of the children in that school have their own teacher, or there is a class of three students who are highly special needs.  These children need special attention, and I appreciate that.  I understand that they are either medically fragile or at such a place that their education depends upon those resources.

Brenda Wood has some comments about public school’s discipline problems that I found refreshing.  I appreciate her thoughts, but I don’t think that Ms. Wood understands that students who have an IEP can be as “mouthy” as they want to be because those students can only be suspended ten days of school…period.  If a child who has a special need of Behavior Disorder (BD), s/he can cuss out a teacher or even threaten to hurt a teacher, and before anyone can do anything, a hearing must be called to see if the behavior is a “manifestation of disability”.  That means that if Susie cussed me out and threatened to kill me, it may have been something that set her off, and we as a school just need to be better at handling Susie’s disability.

I have a couple of little people who are “average”, and they sometimes come home and tell me about their day, saying, “No we didn’t have much reading (or fill in the blank) today because Susie was having another one of her bad days.”  I then ask what they did, instead.  Sometimes they go to another classroom until Susie calms down (lost instruction), or sometimes they just wait until Susie calms down (complete waste of instruction).  Sometimes the principal or assistant principal gets called in to remove the child in a way that they have been trained.  But then the principal or assistant principal has to sit with Susie until mom or dad arrives.  Sometimes they do; more often, they don’t.  So what do I do?  I get angry because there’s nothing I can do.  I find it unfair that now the rights of one are impeding the rights of the rest of the class, my child included.  Before I had kids, I was much more inclined to be understanding and inclusive, but that was before my children’s rights to FAPE were trumped by that of one child who was not “average” but special.

One day, some crazy parent might decide to sue because their “average” child is being lost in the masses of “special” children. That crazy parent may just be me.

Warnock Hosts “Members-Only” Meeting at Ebenezer Baptist

MEMBERS ONLYI have been visiting churches lately around Atlanta and Decatur.  For years I have considered visiting, yet have not attended historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.  It sits about a 10 minute drive away from my home, I’ve been to the historic site a number of times, yet until yesterday I had never set foot into a worship service.  That was my mistake.  As a girl who grew up in a Baptist church and sang in the gospel choir in college, this was closer to home for me than any of the stuffier restrained services I’ve worshipped in over the summer.  Dr. Raphael Warnock preached a strong message of goodness yet to come mixed with grace given to those who were struggling to find their path.  It was a good word to begin my week, bookended by the three part harmony of the men’s choir and their praise team.  High drama was used in the sermon, with the senior pastor at times yelling above the “Amen”s and “Hallelujah”s, yet no drama so much employed than that used in a very quiet but clear invitation for a “members-only” meeting of the church after the service.  Members of the media were told they were not welcome in the meeting and members of the church who were part of the media were told the meeting was off the record.

I left my Members Only jacket in 1985 and thus was not in attendance for the meeting. 

It is no secret Dr. Warnock has considered running for U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson’s seat.  My guess is that this was the meeting in which Dr. Warnock discussed what his run might mean for his church and to ask for the congregation’s blessing. Continue reading “Warnock Hosts “Members-Only” Meeting at Ebenezer Baptist”

To Double Dip or Not Double Dip?

I walk a line in Georgia politics.  Many of the policy issues that face the state are ones that are not only passion points for me and for my friends, but also INVOLVE my friends.  As a political consultant, I work to further my clients’ causes and move the state in, what I hope is, the right direction.  More times than not, I find myself on the opposite side of the issue with people whom I admire, value their opinion, and with which I would really love to be on the same side.  In this business, there are professional ethics that are dictated by the Georgia Government Transparency and Finance Committee, otherwise known colloquially as the “Ethics Commission”.  There are also personal ethics that command even a higher standard. I personally take a GREAT DEAL of pride in that I never work for a cause in which I do not fully believe.  It would make me a horrible advocate and I believe would reflect poorly upon my causes.

Earlier this week, the question of Governor Deal’s top education gun, Erin Hames’ ethics came into focus.  The AJC and Creative Loafing posed the ethics question regarding the fact that an open records request has shown Mrs. Hames to have concurrent contracts to continue consulting Governor Deal’s office on education and providing strategies to Atlanta Public Schools for avoidance of being taken over by the Opportunity School District.

I will leave the personal and professional ethical questions to others to debate. 

As a government affairs consultant to Grad High, a statewide charter high school that serves at-risk youth, an Atlanta school district resident, and a person who is glad to see Governor Deal try something new and bold in education reform, I have a nuanced opinion about Mrs. Hames’ concurrent contracts.

Yet what I am more concerned about is the shadow that this focus on Mrs. Hames casts over the ballot initiative to be decided by Georgia voters in November.   The OSD is not a done deal. Yet, education reform is desperately needed in our state.  IMHO, Mrs. Hames has long championed for the Governor the necessary education reforms, and her work is something I am grateful for and I believe has very genuine and noble roots.  However, I have to question why she would wish to cast a pall over these proceedings?
Continue reading “To Double Dip or Not Double Dip?”

Georgia: Filling the Gaps

Gap-AnalysisAfter a weekend of football, and Miss Georgia taking the crown for Miss America, it would be my guess folks around the nation are wondering what other successes and accolades may come from the peach state?  For me, I hope our future is found in growing business and a more developed economy, with meaningful employment for Georgians.  Yet, I cannot help but notice there are some noticeable gaps still linger.  These gaps are not ones that cannot be reconciled, but ones that must be addressed before Georgia is going to be placed on another tier in the marketplace.  Many Georgians speak lovingly of farm life, and of agriculturally based, small town economies.  Yet, if there is one thing I know of growing up on a farm in a small town, I know that you are always busy- there is compelling work to be done for maintenance, repair, and to keep the farm moving forward.

So what might Georgia do next? Continue reading “Georgia: Filling the Gaps”

Über: Disrupting More Than Just Transportation

uber_appThis past week I had a flat tire, unexpectedly.  I was rushing out the door to a meeting and as I turned the corner, saw very plainly that the tire was not a slow leak, but an all-out flat.  Curses were said, patience tried, then I moved on.  Being undeterred, I decided to take Über- my go-to for any event where I avoid driving.  At the end of the day, I had very different drivers, all with a story to tell, all with an interesting perspective, and all who had strong feelings about their commitment to something large than themselves.  Some had children which motivated them, others did not.  Yet all felt compelled to do something- to go beyond the basic and I was left feeling that these were my kind of people.  It was an eye opening experience for me, and I hope it will be interesting for you as well.

First off, I do not typically talk casually about what I do.  For a long time I used to tell people I encountered and was certain I would not meet again I was a secretary or an events planner.  I did this because whenever I say I work in politics, people always want my opinion. Or, more accurately they wish for me to affirm their opinion as right because I am (in their eyes at the moment) some subject matter expert.  I’m not, and I tire of this easily.  It was especially difficult in my early twenties at bars in Buckhead when the boys buying drinks wanted to talk about the latest Presidential election or to impress me with their lack of knowledge of foreign policy. But those are posts for another type of blog; just know that I do not bring up what I do in conversation unless I am asked directly and I try to offer the most basic explanation possible before switching the conversation back to them.  It saves us all some headaches.  Trust me.

My first driver was a fellow Jeep driver, so I felt some level of connection to him with this.  We spent the first part of my thirty minute ride discussing Jeeps and other makes and models we had driven and considered driving.  I learned he was a musician and did some video production as a primary job with Über as his back-up.  Cool.  Made me think of all the film productions going on here in Georgia and I silently thanked the tax credits that have encouraged that sector’s growth.  The driver then asked me what I did and my answer seemed to engage him far more intensely than I had expected.  This could go south, quickly.

…But it didn’t. Continue reading “Über: Disrupting More Than Just Transportation”

Tax Reform in Georgia: Codified Elitism?

Last week, the Georgia House Ways and Means Committee hosted a meeting in which they discussed Rep. John Carson’s (R, 46th) “More Take Home Pay” Bill.  The bill is the first attempt at tax reform in Georgia since 2010, so let’s all be grateful for an attempt at addressing the behemoth that is Georgia’s Swiss cheese tax code.  You may find the bill, as introduced by clicking here.  However, it is my understanding that the bill is a “working document” and has not been updated online.  For whatever reason, the Georgia General Assembly’s process of policy exists largely outside of the sphere of modernity.  The bills are not updated in a timely manner online for easy dissemination.  The fiscal note is not readily available online in conjunction with the bill itself, and if the bill is discussed between sessions of the legislature, it would seem it is perfectly normal and acceptable to not include those discussion documents online in one central area.

Clearly, I am not of the same accord. 

In the #gapol Twitter feed, I posed my questions and graciously Rep. Brett Harrell (R, 106) informed me that (as always) I may contact the Ways and Means staff for any of the documents shared in the meeting.  I have chosen to share them with you below. Continue reading “Tax Reform in Georgia: Codified Elitism?”

Alpharetta: THE City for Female Entrepreneurs

wemadethat_630x420-300x200I love Georgia, business, and promoting women.  So when I see a headline that embraces all three- I’m tickled pink!  It would seem that Alpharetta has been named by as THE city in the US for female entrepreneurs.  Here’s the full article regarding the stats and other cities that made the top ten. Continue reading “Alpharetta: THE City for Female Entrepreneurs”

Georgia: Somewhere Between Koinonia and “The City Too Busy To Hate”

I am somewhere firmly in the middle.

Growing up in the bustling metropolis of Social Circle, Georgia was idyllic.  I grew up on a farm where the gravel meets a road named after a Primitive Baptist Church.  My parents believed very deeply in education as a key to my future success, and whereas my clothes and toys may have been limited by budget, my parents never allowed my love of books to be.  The problem with rearing me was that I always asked questions and wanted to understand the hows and whys of things.  My mother is a spitfire optimist who fiercely believes in the potential of all children, especially her own precocious one.  When she hears of something new, she often wishes to try it, much to my father’s consternation.  In me this fostered a love of innovation and an innate curiosity about whether a different method might be more effective.  My father is a resolute pessimist who enjoys stories of yesteryear, traditions, and the quality of developed ritual.  From him my love of folklore, politics, and ambition in business was cultivated.  He is the steady; she is wide open.  As I have aged, I am a strong representation of both and, like my geographical location, I am caught somewhere in the middle of hope and reluctance. Continue reading “Georgia: Somewhere Between Koinonia and “The City Too Busy To Hate””