Georgia’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program is a scam

Georgia’s Tuition Tas Credit Scholarship Program, which has no accounatability and no reporting requirements, takes $50 million out of the state’s budget and places it with private K-12 schools, which are free to discriminate basen on religion and sexual orientation.  While the program was allegedly set up to help poor families get their kids out of poorly performing public schools rather than help the public schools (so there’s that, too), that’s not the way it’s panning out.  And now the Georgia General Assembly has plans to expand the program to gut the state budget for $100 million a year.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Jay Bookman explains the deal:

Let’s take a minute to review how the program works: As a Georgia taxpayer or corporation, when you contribute a dollar to a private-school scholarship program, an offsetting dollar is deducted directly from your state tax bill. For example, if you have a state tax bill of $2,500 and donate $2,500 for a scholarship, your tax bill falls to zero. Since 2008, the program has diverted more than $170 million of state tax revenue to private schools.

According to its supporters, the program was supposed to help finance private-school scholarships for poor children stuck in underperforming public schools. Oddly, though, the law contained no means-testing for recipients, and it quickly became obvious why. The program was a scam. Once it was passed, supporters started openly pitching the program as a means for affluent parents of children already in private school to arrange a state tax subsidy.

“You can take this chunk of money and be able to say, “No, I want this money to go to education, and not just education, I want it to go to the school of my choice, and maybe even more detailed, (to) the student of my choice,” one legislator told parents.

Read more.


Chain Gang forces confession

Kelley Nettles

One of the best things about Chain Gang Elementary–maybe THE best thing, once I put my ego aside–is its transformation in the hands of many readers. What I wanted not to be a story about me (Thank God!) becomes, as people read it, about them. If you read the review and confession by Kelley Nettle’s in her popular Kelley’s Break Room blog, you’ll see what I mean.


The book almost read like a true story, even though the plot contains lots of movie-like twists and turns, because it referenced things we see in the news today about PTA embezzlement (gasp!), testing scandals, immigration issues and zero tolerance. In Mr. Grant’s own county in Georgia, the former superintendent has been indicted on racketeering charges, the school system has been put on probation by its accrediting agency and all nine members of the school board have faced a hearing of inquiry into their removal en mass by Georgia’s governor. Chain Gang Elementary is definitely fiction, but it kind of reminded me of historical fiction, where you are entertained but learning things that may be true at the same time. Such a good combo.

It also brought to mind the movie and book, The Help. Remember the group of ladies who wanted to help the children in Africa but turned their nose up against integration in the South? Lots of characters in this book would belong in that group.

Kelley is also hosting a giveaway for 10 paperback copies of Chain Gang Elementary. But wait. There’s more! The ebook is now on sale, ChainGangnam style: Just $2.99. Buy now!

Chain Gangnam style–Ebook now half-price!

chain_gang_elementaryIt’s true! For a limited time, get Chain Gang Elementary—”Required Reading” by PTO Today and Book of the Month at Indie Books List—for only $2.99 (eBook version).

Buy Now!

Delightfully saracastic, yet timely and poignant, this tale of war between a PTA president and a grade school principal has gotten consistently high marks from readers and reviewers.

“Jonathan Grant may be my new favorite writer,” declares Mama Zen.

Get the full scoop on this amazing book.



Forsyth County marchers remember Jan. 24, 1987

Note: Brambleman, the Forsyth County saga, is now on sale for just 99 cents (eBook).

Last year, I posted an account of Hosea Williams’ two Forsyth County marches. This year, I wanted to focus on first-person accounts of participants. Below are the memories of three marchers. I interviewed Joe Beasley of Atlanta and Jo Marsh of Knoxville, Tennessee. Sherri Carbone-Cruz of Oakland wrote her account in response to my request. I’ve also published a guest post by Ronnie Johnson.



Civil rights leader Joe Beasley, founder of African Ascension and the Joe Beasley Foundation marched with Hosea Williams during the second Brotherhood and Anti-Intimidation March in Forsyth County on January 24, 1987. Back then, he was just another face in the crowd of 25,000 marchers.Beasley, born in Fayette County, Georgia into a sharecropping family, enlisted in the Air Force in 1956. He had been an advocate for civil rights in the military, and when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, he decided to devote himself full-time to the cause of civil rights. After his retirement from the Air Force in 1978, Beasley went to work with Rev. Jesse Jackson’s PUSH organization in Kansas City.

“When (Hosea Williams and his small band of marchers) made their first visit up there, they were attacked by the Klan. I wasn’t there at that time. But the second time, I think there was a lot of enthusiasm because people from all over the country gathered, people that don’t hardly even get involved in marches, and they were very energized by what had happened up in Forsyth County. Because black people were run out of the county (in 1912) and their land was taken, it just incensed people to the extent that they just weren’t going to take that.”

He discussed some similar events that occurred in Alabama about a decade before the Forsyth County marches, in Decatur, Ala., when a small civil rights protest resulted in Klan violence that nearly killed the Rev. Joseph Lowery and his wife. “Outrage over that led to people from all over the country converging in a demonstration there. That’s the first march I was involved in after leaving the military,” Beasley said.

Nearly a decade later, a similar dynamic led people of good will (and bad) to converge on Forsyth County.

Beasley said he rode a bus from the King Center, traveling with a group led by Cameron Alexander, pastor at Antioch Baptist Church. “There was a lot of enthusiasm. People were saying, ‘We’re not going to be intimidated. We’re going to push back.’ The Klan didn’t know what to think. We had so much police protection.”

Beasley said he marched in the middle of the mile-long crowd and called it “a day of high energy. What we wanted to prove was that we were citizens of the United States and we wanted to go and live anywhere in this state and not be intimidated by haters. We were able to accomplish that and we felt vindicated. It was a great day. The police did a great job and the Klan looked like a bunch of idiots, which they are. People showed they weren’t going to tolerate that kind of foolishness, so I think it was a great day. I was glad to be a part of Georgia history.”

Beasley said, “The march helped to cement Hosea Williams’s legacy of being a great man. I went on to become quite close to Hosea. I was the last guest on his television program before he passed on.” Hosea Williams died in

Beasley went on to say, “We’re at a very precarious point in history now. On the one hand, we’ve got an African-American in the White House. On the other hand, I don’t know that we have the kind of society Dr. King was envisioning, or that Hosea envisioned. He wanted people to live wherever they could afford to live.”


Jo MarshNot only was Jo Marsh a veteran of the Forsyth County marches, but he also participated in the street demonstrations during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. How’s that for a progressive pedigree?During a recent conversation, Jo said:

“I was in Knoxville, and I read that the group was attacked. I thought: This isn’t right. I’m going to get involved in the second march. I called the SCLC and actually talked to Hosea. Somehow–I don’t know how—he was in the office.” (Marsh said he’d met Williams back in the late 1960s during a civil rights event, but that Williams didn’t remember him.)

“I told him I was going to Cumming. He said to me, ‘Do not go to c by yourself. Come to Atlanta and meet us and go with us.’ My friend Mike heard about it, and he wanted to go, too. Anyway, we took off from Knoxville around 3:30 that morning (Jan. 24, 1987), and we drove down to meet the SCLC people at the King Center. When I got there, there were a lot more people than I anticipated.

” I talked to somebody from the SCLC and asked, ‘Where do I put my truck. And he said, ‘Park it right here.’ So there was my red Toyota pickup with Tennessee tags and dice hanging from the mirror parked on the sidewalk a few feet away from the reflecting pool (and Dr. King’s tomb).

He remembers seeing a line of charter buses at least two blocks long and wild numbers about participation being thrown around—up to 100,000, “but I think the number was closer to 25,000. 100,000.”

“We got everybody on the buses and took off. As we headed up the highway toward Forsyth, police moved everyone off so it was just our caravan of buses heading up there. On every overpass we went under, there were officers with rifles guarding us.

“Some of the older guys– I was about 40 at the time—our role was to remind people of Dr. King’s nonviolent protests, because when these (younger) guys saw the Klan outside yelling, they had a tendency to jump out of their seats, stick their heads out the windows, and yell back. And that’s not what we wanted to happen.

“We got up there and it was a full day. We marched into Cumming and went to the courthouse. The Klan was primarily on one side of the road. And what they were hollering were racial epithets and things like that. Everybody was shocked at what they were yelling in front of their children. You know, just hollering and screaming. (The marchers) were well behaved.”

Marsh recalled Dick Gregory speaking as several helicopters hovered overhead.

“Things were tamer as we marched out of Cumming. We hadn’t had anything to eat all day, and I remember stopping at a convenience store up there. The three white guys working there were shocked at the sight of four busloads of black people getting off and coming into he store, but we had a good laugh.”

Needless to say, it was a long day. By the time we got back to Atlanta, it was dark. I really felt good about the day.”


Sherri Carbone-Cruz writes:

“I am originally from Atlanta, now living in Oakland, CA. At the time of the March, I was 26 years old and lived in Meriwether County (Georgia). I rode up on a bus with a group of church members, including Rev. Wright, from Tennessee, and was the only white on the bus. I will never forget the banners of support and people cheering from the overpasses of the interstate. We had one scare going up, as apparently someone threw something at one of the buses ahead of us and the State Patrol initially thought it was a gunshot. The atmosphere on the bus was very tense after that, and one of the instructions Rev. Wright gave was for the men to keep the women in the middle of the line, and “you protect our ladies.”

Arriving there was almost a surreal experience. I will never forget some of the signs that some of the residents were holding up: “Niger (sic) go home!” Some of the more hateful ones were being held by small children. But the one I will always remember most is the local with duct tape over his mouth, holding a sign that said “Forsyth Resident Not Allowed to Speak Out Against Racism.”. The march itself was quiet on our end, but you couldn’t miss the sound of the KKK chanting and ranting at the courthouse. There were a couple of people injured from being hit with objects thrown at us. And I will definitely never forget who brought up the rear..the Guardian Angels.”

DeKalb School Board has 30 days to change its identity

DeKalb County School Board members went through a hearing before the Georgia School Board  yesterday afternoon and got a reprieve, of sorts.  Because the local system is under probation from its accrediting agency, the Governor has the authority to remove school board members based on the recommendation of the state DOE board.  That decision was put off. The locals had hoped for a 90-day window to show improvement; the  state board decided on 30 days—which really isn’t much time, given the depth-of-hole issues DeKalb County faces.

The Atlanta Journal Constituion has more.

“We don’t benefit from ignorance”: Obama moves to overturn ban on gun violence research

AR15Last week, I posted a letter from the University of Chicago Crime Lab, signed by dozens of academic experts, to Vice President Joe Biden’s Gun Violence Commission urging politicians to lift a ban on research of gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Insititutes of Health.

Well, if you believe in knowledge, here’s some good news. President Obama is moving on this issue as part of his wide-ranging proposal to reduce gun violence (from Inside Higher Ed):

Obama issued an order to the Department of Health and Human Services to have the CDC as well as the National Institutes of Health study issues related to gun violence, and asked Congress to appropriate $10 million for additional work in the area. Obama said in his public remarks that research is part of the solution to gun violence, and he sharply criticized the past limits on studies.

“While year after year, those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it — and Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds,” Obama said in introducing his new policies. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”

Read more.

 Why is this controversial? Here’s the crux of the biscuit, courtesy of Inside Higher Ed:

It is unclear whether the National Rifle Association — which is leading a campaign against President Obama’s proposals — will focus on the research issues. The NRA press office, asked about the issue, only released the association’s general statement of opposition to the White House policies.
A 2011 article in The New York Times, following the shootings in Tucson, detailed NRA criticism of social science research on guns, and the rationale offered for the limits on the use of federal funds to study gun violence. The article said that NRA members were alarmed when CDC-supported research in the mid-1990s found that having a gun in one’s house significantly increased the chances of homicide by a family member or acquaintance. These findings ran against the NRA view that having a gun in one’s home increased security.
The article quoted an NRA lobbyist as saying that the problem was one of bias. “Our concern is not with legitimate medical science,” the lobbyist said. “Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated.”

Read more.

And by the way, if you want to see how messed-up (as in both lax and hamstrung) federal policy and enforcement has been, check out last night’s Daily Show segments on gun control, here and here. Comendy Central’s Jon Stewart puts the mainstream news media to shame.