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Debt, Failure to Educate Are Biggest Threats to U.S. World Power

Mike Klein

Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers predicted the economic future of the United States will be decided by how the country educates children when he addressed a Georgia Public Policy Foundation audience.  “We cannot continue to nibble around the edges when you consider the problems we are facing,” Rogers told Foundation guests last week at the Georgian Club.

Rogers’ presentation can be viewed on the Policy Foundation’s YouTube channel: http://tinyurl.com/286fk8x.

“I can say unequivocally the United States is the greatest nation on earth today and the greatest nation God ever created,” Rogers said.  “American exceptionalism is a reality.  I really believe we were divinely inspired as a nation and put here to do many good things which we’ve done.

“Do we get it right every time?  Absolutely not, but when you consider that we live in a nation that has given more treasure and more human lives to the purpose of freeing other people around the globe, there is no shame to that.  That is what American exceptionalism is all about.”

As state Senate Majority Leader, Rogers already had a platform from which to influence how Georgia spends education dollars. Then this year Rogers was selected to join the national Digital Learning Council established by former governors Jeb Bush of Florida and Bob Wise of West Virginia.  The DLC goal is to advance digital learning as an important national initiative.

“We have the opportunity to continue to be the greatest power that the earth has ever known and a cause for what is good and right.  We have been given, as individual Americans, one simple requirement… That is, to take this incredible treasure we have been given known as the United States of America and leave it better off than we found it.”

Rogers said two factors threaten U.S. superpower dominance:  Public debt, now $13.8 trillion at the federal government level, and failure to educate children.  Last year the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said American students’ rank 27th worldwide in math, 22nd in science and dead last in reading among the 32 most developed nations.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers

“I’m not exactly sure how we remain the nation the rest of the world wants to immigrate to because of freedom when we will become simply economic slaves to our debt holders,” Rogers said. “Thirteen point eight trillion dollars of debt is not going to be erased when we are near the bottom of the world in those things that prepare our child for a global economy.”

Rogers told 75 Public Policy Foundation guests the United States “will crumble under debt that is going to be accumulated because we simply cannot compete on the worldwide marketplace in the next generation if we don’t prepare our children to do so.  These numbers are inexcusable and frankly, they are an embarrassment.

“For us to simply stand here and pat ourselves on the back and point to a single educational facility that may be doing a halfway decent job, or at least in our mind we think they are, and say ‘We’re doing okay,’ we’re not doing okay,” Rogers said.

National Assessment of Educational Progress tests show one-third of American 4th graders and one-fourth of 8th graders are functionally illiterate.  “We’re not even close to doing okay.  If this country’s future matters to you, if you believe as I do that we have one single responsibility to leave this (country) for our children better than we found it, then you have to admit we’re failing.”

Rogers grew up during the 1960s in what was then rural Cobb County.  Education was available in two styles: one private school and Cobb County schools. It was brick-and-mortar or brick-and-mortar.  You just had to choose between the public version and the private version.

Education today comes in evolutionary styles: traditional brick-and-mortar schools, virtual schools, hybrid public schools that blend traditional and online learning, home schools, private schools and home school hybrids that mix home instruction with brick-and-mortar school classes. “Wouldn’t it be nice if every parent had a choice from among all of them?” Rogers said.

“We’ve got to provide educators – whether they are public, private or parents – with the tools they need through digital learning and then we have to give parents the opportunity to choose that setting that is best for their individual child.   No longer can we ignore students’ abilities (and) their interests, by simply giving them one option and that is a brick-and-mortar setting based on (their address). That is foolish, has been for some time and it has got to stop.

“I don’t know how else to say this but literally our future depends on this,” Rogers said.  “Again, (the United States is) 27th in math, 22nd in science, 32nd in reading among industrialized nations, $13.8 trillion in debt, mainly to foreign nations who now don’t even want to use our currency.  We are in a whole world of trouble and the only way we get out is to produce the next set of children who will compete in the global marketplace and maintain American superiority.”

Rogers noted that long-ago American President John Adams asked, “Why do we spend money on education?”  Adams answered his own question:  “It’s because an educated society is a lot cheaper than an uneducated society.”

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Washington, Georgia Hotel Project Will Get No Public Money

Mike Klein

The Washington, Georgia city council has decided it will not appeal a circuit court judge’s ruling that prevented the city from selling $8.1 million in municipal revenue bonds to finance construction of a hotel alongside its under-performing Pope Center. The city would have been obligated to $17 million in principal and interest repayments over 30 years.

The project was controversial from its outset. Washington city officials said bond debt would be retired by revenue from the hotel – conference center. Opponents said the project would not break even.  They feared that the city’s general revenue fund would be stuck with the bill, meaning local taxpayers.

Toombs Judicial Circuit Judge Harold A. Hinesley strongly agreed with the citizens group when he ruled in late October that the city “abused its discretion in relying on an obviously flawed feasibility study.” Hinesley said “glaring deficiencies” in the city’s proposed model resulted in “defective and unreliable” conclusions about “the feasibility of the project.”

Washington could have appealed Hinesley’s decision to the state Court of Appeals but last week it voted 4-0 to forego an appeal. “There are some fairly relieved people over in Washington,” said William deGolian, one of several attorneys who represented the citizens.

DeGolian said Hinesley’s ruling was so strong that reversal would have been unlikely. “The other factor had to be cost,” he said, adding, “It would have been very, very expensive” for the city to file a challenge before the state Court of Appeals.

Washington could still pursue construction of a conference center hotel financed with private capital but Hinesley’s ruling and the council decision to forego an appeal means the small community will not be allowed to obligate public monies to a seriously flawed business venture.

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment