Gov. Brian Kemp’s announcement last week that Georgia would start easing restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic by opening tattoo parlors, bowling alleys, gyms, hair and nail salons on April 24 and then restaurants and ...
At a press conference Wednesday morning, Gov. Brian Kemp said it was a “historic day” as he named businesswoman Kelly Loeffler as his pick to fill the seat of out-going U.S Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia).
The top executive of one of the largest movie studios in Georgia is making a big bet. Ryan Millsap, CEO of Blackhall Studios, is planning to triple the size of his existing sound stages – from ...
At the urging of Gov. Brian Kemp, Cassius Butts has agreed to temporarily rescind his resignation as chair of the Fort Mac Local Redevelopment Authority and remain in that volunteer position at least through the ...
The Buckhead Coalition welcomed Buckhead's newest resident, Gov. Brian Kemp, Wednesday to keynote the group's 30th annual meeting. "Thirty years of good work is a major accomplishment ... a great success story," Kemp told an audience of ...
I love Atlanta most during the annual King holiday week. It gives us a moment reflect and recalibrate how well we’re doing in light of the lofty vision and ideals that Martin Luther King Jr. shared ...
Project to Include Community Painting Event By MARTA MARTA’s public art program Artbound is calling for artists to design a mural that can be translated into stencils, so the community can assist with painting the design on concrete barriers at a new bus transit center in Clayton County. As part of phase one of transit improvements at the Clayton County Justice Center, MARTA will move bus stop operations from Post Way to within the center’s northwest parking lot. The concrete barriers will serve as a temporary wall between buses and bus shelters and waiting areas until the permanent structure can be built. The transit hub will serve four bus routes with 800 daily riders and this project aims to bring vibrancy and color to the site. You can view a similar project here: NY DOT Barrier Beautification Successful applicants will be muralists and painters who show artistic merit demonstrated in a strong portfolio of work, as well as a willing spirit to work with the community. Required Submittals: Ten digital images of relevant previous work, labeled with title, dimensions and completion date Statement of Purpose describing your general approach and themes you will incorporate into the design Resume with current contact information and to include any community-centered project history Two references Applicants must submit these materials in a single PDF document (not to exceed 10 MB) to [email protected] by May 29 at 5 p.m. The selected artist will be notified by June 5 and must submit a final design for approval before completing commission. Designs may not represent violence or be profane or graphic in nature and may not contain overt political or religious messaging. Artbound will pay an artist’s fee of $5,000 to cover design and creation of the stencils and will host the community painting day tentatively set for Saturday, June 27, with consideration given to current social distancing requirements. One percent of MARTA’s annual budget is allocated to enhance the ridership experience through visual and performance art.
Attributed to Deisha Barnett, Chief Brand and Communications Officer, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Metro Atlanta Chamber It’s been a tough month. Watching what has happened in our own state, our own city and across the country has been painful. We firmly believe that in metro Atlanta, our differences are our strength. In Atlanta, we come together, we engage in tough conversations, we find solutions and we work together to make our community — and the world — better. We are proud to be called the ‘Black Mecca’ and an international community that welcomes everyone, regardless of race, origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion or creed. This is a legacy that we are committed to holding up and preserving.
By Jim Durrett – executive director, Buckhead Community Improvement District I tend to wake early. As I lie in bed, trying not to disturb my wife Pat and hoping that it is after 4 a.m. and (please!) closer to 5 o’clock, where once I reflected on my good fortune and opportunity, I now sometimes experience a twinge of anxiety as I consider the day ahead, how to navigate this sui generis moment and deliver on my promise to improve conditions in my orbit. In the world of community improvement districts, the time it takes to get from idea to implementation of a solution can take multiple years, if not decades. When the world suddenly changes, as it has in the past few months, you should ask yourself the question, “Is what we are working on right now the right thing to do given the uncertain future before us?” In other words, might future conditions in the public realm require some other response inconsistent with what you are about to do? My conclusion regarding our mission in Buckhead – to make meaningful improvements in the transportation network and public realm that connect people and places, and thereby create and maintain a safe, accessible and livable urban environment – is that what we are doing is still absolutely necessary in a COVID-19 world. So, what are we doing? A LOT! You can go to our website to learn about everything that we invest our tax dollars in to improve our 2.5 square miles. But I want to focus on seven capital improvement projects underway right now that you can see from Peachtree. East Paces Ferry, between Roxboro and Lenox roads, has long been known as a bumpy ride. When the City of Atlanta proposed repaving of the road using Renew Atlanta funding, the CID jumped at the opportunity to partner with the City and combine resources to repave the road from Roxboro to GA 400 and redesign it for people – not just cars. As of last week, it is now 100% complete, with final road striping just applied. Also included in the Renew Atlanta bond program was funding to address Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements throughout the city. Again, we jumped at the opportunity to partner and by mid-summer we will have finished repairing and upgrading sidewalks, ramps and street crossings on Maple Drive, Pharr Road, Piedmont Road, Roswell Road, Lenox Road, and Peachtree. We call the area bounded by West Paces Ferry, East Andrews Drive and Roswell Road the West Village. Sidewalks are in poor condition, if not absent, the streets have needed re-paving for a while, and the area has experienced severe flooding in recent years due to a lack of sufficient stormwater infrastructure. Construction is now underway to vastly improve the walkability of this area, improve the streetscapes and address flooding. Work should be substantially complete by November. The Buckhead CID’s creation 20 years ago was spawned out of a desire to address the traffic sewer that Peachtree, Atlanta’s “Main Street,” had become. The CID was behind the transformation of Peachtree from Maple Drive, just west of Piedmont, up to Peachtree Dunwoody Road. This month, we will kick off the construction of the third phase of Peachtree’s transformation from Maple Drive to Shadowlawn. This project should be complete by September of 2021. Travel a block north on Peachtree and you arrive at the intersection with Piedmont. We have almost finished redesigning the Piedmont corridor between Peachtree and Lenox roads to improve traffic flow while better accommodating people on foot and on bicycles. Construction of this project is projected to begin in the summer of 2021. I will be writing more about this project in a few weeks to give you a view into how complicated and complex a project of this magnitude can be. Lenox Road is a major artery into Buckhead from the south and from GA 400. We are in the process of redesigning Lenox Road, from the Lenox MARTA station, on East Paces Ferry Road, all the way up to and across Peachtree. I am very excited about this project because of a particular element that we are incorporating: a generous bicycle and pedestrian facility on the west side of Lenox Road right next to Lenox Square (see the rendering). In the coming years, we will carry the effort further north, but for now, the project’s design is 60% complete with construction targeted for late 2021 or early 2022. Head toward Brookhaven on Peachtree, past Phipps Plaza, and you come to the Wieuca Road intersection. Turn left on Wieuca and you come to a confusing and unsafe intersection where Wieuca splits off to the right and Phipps Boulevard bends to the left. We are partnering with the City of Atlanta to design and build a multi-lane roundabout at this location. We spent nearly two years determining that a roundabout was the best alternative here and we are now close to completing the preliminary design. Construction could begin as early as the end of 2021. When all of these projects are completed in just a few more years, Buckhead will be more walkable, accessible and safe for people on foot, on bicycles and in vehicles. To deliver these seven vital projects, from initial studies through construction, we will have spent $52 million in local, state and federal tax and bond dollars with $32 million coming from the CID, resulting in a better built environment for the people of Atlanta and those who come to visit us here in Buckhead.
By ANDPI Just as a chorus of voices had begun to move the needle on new resources for affordable housing in our region, the COVID-19 pandemic has blunted our momentum. Unlike the housing and financial crisis that became the Great Recession, this situation unfolded very quickly. Will recovery come as quickly? How are housing credit markets reacting? What will this mean to developments underway and those seeking capital? What will the post-coronavirus environment look like for the affordable housing movement? Will there be an unexpected opportunity to establish policies designed to produce more equitable results for low-income households? At the next Atlanta Regional Housing Forum, moderator Bill Bolling will speak with several sector and industry leaders to understand the depths of the damage and to ask how we pivot quickly to recovery. We’ll hear from experts on residential mortgage markets, government intervention, affordable housing development, vulnerable populations, and more. Join us online Wednesday, June 10 at 9:30 a.m. for the next Atlanta Regional Housing Forum. This virtual Forum will be live-streamed on the internet. The link to the live event will be emailed to registrants and posted at www.AtlantaRegionalHousingForum.org. REGISTER NOW
Featured Image: Parks are critical infrastructure that build the resilience of cities and people, especially in times of crisis. By Michael Halicki, Park Pride’s Executive Director It’s June: the unofficial beginning of summer. In a normal year, we’d be looking forward to this season with excitement, with kids enjoying a break from school, families planning reunions and vacations, and communities preparing for barbecues and block parties. Unfortunately, there has been almost nothing “normal” about 2020. What does summer look like when schools have been shut down since March, popular tourist destinations are closed, and people are encouraged to keep their distance from each another? For those of you asking this question, I encourage you to look no further than your local, neighborhood park. Where accessible, parks have been one of the few places to recreate and get a daily dose of nature safely and close to home. Parks and recreation centers have also served essential functions as distribution points for food banks and COVID-19 testing sites. I predict that through the summer, they will continue to serve both of these functions, providing much needed support to the communities of which they’re a part. While many of us have perhaps never thought of parks and recreation centers as critical infrastructure, that is, in fact, the exact the purpose for which they were originally created. While the modern idea of parks has become associated with playgrounds, baseball fields, and park benches, parks in America actually began as an initiative to improve public health during past pandemics and increase urban resiliency. You only have to look around at some of Atlanta’s most well-known parks to see that this is true. For example: Historic 4th Ward Park and the newly constructed Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park incorporate green infrastructure elements, absorbing millions of gallons stormwater that would otherwise flood surrounding communities. Linear parks, like Olmsted Linear Park and the Atlanta BeltLine, double as transit corridors, connecting communities and making alternate modes of transportation feasible. Cascade Springs Nature Preserve and Blue Heron Nature Preserve are urban oases of nature, serving as habitats for native plants and animals and contributing to the ecological health of urban areas (and the health of the people who live there) beyond the parks’ boundaries. At Park Pride, this is what we refer to as the power of parks. These flexible public spaces have emerged as the cornerstones of our communities and contributed to the resiliency of our city and people during this COVID-19 crisis; we know that parks have played a critical role in sustaining Atlantans’ mental and physical health… at least for those who had easy access to them. Now, our recovery as a city demands that we focus on achieving access to parks and recreation for all. While Atlanta has made considerable strides on this front (as illustrated by our climb in The Trust for Public Land’s 2020 ParkScore), it’s true that thousands of Atlanta’s families still do not have a park or recreation facility within walking distance of their home. Park Pride believes that everyone deserves to have a great park nearby, and for over 30 years, we’ve worked alongside communities to increase access to quality parks, to elevate community voices in shaping their local greenspaces, and ensuring that parks meet the needs and reflect the culture of the communities they serve. Still today, though safety and necessity have dictated that we shift to a virtual model of engagement, we are working to bring great, community-centered parks to every neighborhood throughout the city. In 2019 we made enormous strides toward this goal, as shown in our newly released Impact Report. But the work isn’t done and we need your help to get there, as well as that from government, businesses large and small, and other nonprofits. As we launch into a summer unlike any other in living memory, let’s think about the critical infrastructure that parks provide and the foundation of societal support upon which they were built. Parks are not just fun and games, and a return to the status quo isn’t an option. As much as each community needs schools, roads and sidewalks, and fresh food, so too do they need parks. “Great parks for all” is not just a want, it’s a need. And when do we need them? If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that they’re needed now.
By Operation HOPE For many Americans, navigating the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming. We are proud to serve as a financial advocate and intermediary for these affected homeowners, renters, and small business owners in facilitating financial recovery. Since our HOPE Inside Disaster COVID-19 response began five weeks ago, we have provided over 14,500 virtual financial recovery services, including credit and money management coaching, small business counseling and loan application assistance, and mortgage and student loan deferment. Many thanks to our corporate and alliance partners for their ongoing support! Organizations that wish to provide financial or in-kind support to HOPE Inside Disaster may contact Mary Ehrsam, President of HOPE Partnerships, at [email protected] Last week, our response efforts were featured by several mainstream news outlets. On Wednesday, Chairman John Hope Bryant joined host Gayle King on “CBS This Morning” to discuss the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on the financial health of minority communities. Click the video below to watch Chairman Bryant speak on the ongoing work of Operation HOPE and our response to the coronavirus pandemic. Find more resources at www.hopeinsidecovid19.org
Featured Image: Field epidemiologists conduct contact tracing in Uganda during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Aggrey Byaruhanga. By The Task Force for Global Health It has been more than two months since the World Health Organization’s declaration of the coronavirus pandemic and, since the crisis began, more than 5.5 million people have contracted the virus, nearly 350,000 have died, and people worldwide are suffering from the economic impact. Despite the challenges of “pandemic fatigue” as people tire of isolation, uncertainty, and information overload, The Task Force for Global Health is encouraged by progress in a number of areas as we continue to leverage our global partnerships and capabilities and pivot existing programs for COVID-19 response. In a Q&A with our public health informatics expert, Vivian Singletary, JM, MBA, Director of The Task Force’s Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII), Singletary shares about our work with the CDC Foundation, Google, Apple and other technology leaders on new and existing digital tools for contact tracing. Tell us about the partnership with the CDC Foundation to convene public health and technology organizations on digital contact tracing tools. Rapid contact tracing and notification of people exposed to infected persons is critically important to stop further spread of the disease. Several digital tools have been developed to support various parts of the contact tracing process, such as an exposure notification application program interface (API) – a cell phone application that can notify users if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 via text notifications – co-developed by Apple and Google. However, there has been no national-level opportunity for local and state health officials to jointly assess these digital tools and how they might best support contact tracing, so our partnership with the CDC Foundation seeks to create this opportunity by convening a series of virtual forums. What are the goals of these forums? The aim is to provide guidance to state and local public health officials to assist their understanding of the marketplace of digital tools in support of contact tracing and to provide guidance to technology companies to ensure that the technology meets the functional and privacy needs and standards required by state and local public health officials for contact tracing. As one of our first tasks, the group will consider the technology being developed by Google and Apple to support the development of cell phone notifications. With technologies like these, many worry about privacy implications. How do we ensure that this type of contact tracing is done ethically and does not infringe on privacy rights? Privacy is an important issue, and as part of this forum, we will explore those concerns as they relate to tools such as the Google/Apple API for contact tracing. Those discussions will help inform functional requirements that technology companies need to consider as they develop digital contact tracing tools to ensure they meet the needs of state and public health departments. We would also make sure to effectively communicate how the solutions being developed address those privacy concerns as well. Are tools like the Google/Apple API the only way we can do effective contact tracing? The Google/Apple API is an exposure notification tool, which is just one aspect of contact tracing. The technology can be used to identify individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and alert those who may have been exposed as a result of any interaction, which can potentially help speed up and enhance contact tracing and slow the spread of disease. However, it does not replace the important role that public health practitioners play in obtaining details from a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, as well as the details associated with their contacts and addressing the concerns and questions of people affected. With or without digital contact tracing tools, a public health workforce will still be essential to filling this role. Related Could We Have Been More Prepared for the Coronavirus Pandemic? Improving Quality of Care at the Core of Health System Strengthening Also See Public Health Informatics Institute The Task Force for Global Health’s COVID-19 Response
By Kate Sweeney During the COVID-19 pandemic, many once-mundane tasks — like dropping by the grocery store or pharmacy — represent a newfound degree of difficulty, and even risk. This is especially true for folks 65 and up, who are more endangered than others by the highly contagious coronavirus. In these times, many service agencies have stepped up or completely transformed the way they do their work. Read on.
Faris Albakheet, left, of Busboys and Poets, and Robert Laster of Saval Foodservice, distribute free food to restaurant industry workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic at Fourteenth and V Streets Northwest in Washington, D.C., on April 17. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo) By AnnMaura Connolly and Eric Tanenblatt, Dentons Ed. note: This article was originally published in Roll Call on May 6, 2020. We can’t spend our way out of our problems, but we can serve our way out of them together. The crises the United States knows best — fires and floods, hurricanes and tornadoes, school shootings and mass violence — have all been proximate to individual communities or states. Government and civil society are prepared for this backyard disaster paradigm because we’ve been called to respond to so many before. But the coronavirus pandemic is a uniquely national crisis affecting every nook and cranny of the country, and policymakers have struggled to develop a “whole of America” response. Predictably, the gut reaction in Washington has been to spend money — lots. But even as Congress writes trillion-dollar checks to stabilize the economy, the unprecedented strain on our health systems, schools and essential public services is so acute that stimulus alone won’t be enough. America will need to tap a well far deeper than its treasury if it’s going to pull itself out of this hole. We’re not going to spend our way out of these problems, but we can serve our way out of them together. Even in isolation, Americans are united and hungry to serve and help their communities recover, but few know how. New legislation introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers would connect this profound desire to serve with concrete opportunities to get the country back to normal by increasing our investment in civilian national service. National service programs, which augment the enormous contributions of community and faith-based nonprofits by mobilizing Americans in sustained service, are among the least funded in the constellation of federal agencies even though they generate some of the highest returns on investment for government and society. AmeriCorps is already on the ground working in hard-hit communities, just as it’s done in every local natural disaster for the last 25 years. All across the country, AmeriCorps members are supporting testing and contact tracing efforts at the direction of governors; assisting with intake at drive-thru COVID-19 testing centers to support the CDC; organizing blood drives; setting up temporary isolation sites; delivering emergency food and supplies to vulnerable populations; making support calls to elderly and medically fragile community members; and supporting students to mitigate the tremendous learning loss resulting from school closures. In schools, where students and teachers are making the bumpy transition to distance learning, AmeriCorps members’ work will be felt for a generation as they address the twin challenges of prolonged classroom absences and historic state and local revenue shortfalls. The longer students are out of conventional classroom settings, the more likely they are to slip through the cracks as already stressed parents step into the void as unprepared educators. As if the distance learning paradigm wasn’t challenging enough, research from the last recession showed that forced cuts in education spending tracked with poorer student performance and that downturns in families’ personal economies negatively affected students. AmeriCorps members are addressing those challenges in real time by providing meaningful virtual and academic support as students navigate this “new normal.” The limited funding currently available has allowed AmeriCorps to deploy 75,000 national service members to help address core weaknesses in education, the economy and public health exposed by this pandemic. But by leaning into the robust national service infrastructure that supports AmeriCorps, as Sen. Chris Coons and other House and Senate lawmakers have proposed, the country could deploy around a quarter of a million civilian national service members annually to help us respond to and recover from this pandemic. That’s a quarter of a million service members helping to teach and tutor America’s students, testing and treating our work force, and doing the hard work of pulling us out of this. The road to normal is a long and uncertain one, but one thing is clear: National service is delivering meaningful results in communities across the country, and Congress needs to support its vital response and recovery work. AnnMaura Connolly is the president of Voices for National Service and the chief strategy officer of City Year Inc., an education nonprofit funded partly by AmeriCorps and dedicated to helping public schools. Eric Tanenblatt is a former Republican board member of the Corporation for National & Community Service, the independent federal agency that administers AmeriCorps. He serves as the global public policy chair of the international law firm Dentons.
By Milton J. Little, Jr., CEO & President of United Way of Greater Atlanta I know I am not alone in finding myself deeply saddened by the senseless and unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery – individuals who look like me, my sons and my grandchildren. Their deaths have reminded us that coronavirus is hardly the only disease we need to fear, fight and prevent. Nor is it the only disease for which we may be asymptomatic. Their deaths have brought into painful awareness the malignant economic, social, geographic and racial issues that divide our region. United Way of Greater Atlanta has long been aware of how these divisions and inequities undermine the well-being of our entire region. We can see the disruptive power of those inequities, and where they have destroyed opportunity and potential, in our Child Well-Being maps. There’s only one way to overcome these divisions though, and that’s by coming together in a united way, recognizing our shared, individual and regional aspirations. At United Way of Greater Atlanta, we operate at the intersection of civic, political, business, labor, religious and nonprofit communities. Our work touches the region’s most urgent human service issues. Our donors and supporters are from every community, race, gender and age. Bringing together these diverse stakeholders, with insights from our Child Well-Being Index, gives us the muscle and vision needed to drive change. While there is no telling what else the future may bring, many of us share a vision of the future we want to build – a future where every community has the educational institutions and public health resources needed to care for its citizens. A future where every family has the financial security it needs to remain housed and fed, even during times of crisis. A future where every child can walk the streets, unafraid of unforeseen and undeserved tragedy. We offer our highly respected regional convening table for the healing work that must be done. Now more than ever, we must Live United.
By Dr. Victoria Seals, President – Atlanta Technical College In a moment of brilliance, famed NCAA Division I basketball coach Pat Summit once declared that “life is what it is, but it will be what you make it.” In the weeks and months that we all have been dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, those words have resonated deeply with me as I consider what to say to our students; my colleagues in higher education and the high school graduating class of 2020. Indeed, there have been moments of personal and professional frustration for everyone. No one enjoys having their routine totally and irreparably disrupted, but as leaders, we are called to move, think and plan beyond the current situation so that we are positioned for success on the other side of this pandemic. To the Class of 2020, know that your perseverance has prepared each of you as leaders in your own right, and now is the time to move, think, and plan for your future. At Atlanta Technical College (ATC), I am fortunate to lead a campus that has been laser-focused on producing top-notch, career-ready professionals for a global workforce. Our graduates are thriving in some of the most competitive fields in our region, and are making a significant contribution to the metro Atlanta economy. We educate and train many of Atlanta’s chefs, nurses, barbers, accountants, HVAC technicians, cybersecurity technicians, hoteliers, truck drivers, and our curriculum covers over 150 other academic concentrations. In this our 53rd year, we are proud of the thousands of lives we have impacted and the opportunities we have been able to create for so many individuals and families. And as we contend with the ramifications of the pandemic, I believe that ATC is uniquely positioned and prepared to have an even greater impact on our community and the economy by offering individuals a path toward being a productive and competitive force in tomorrow’s job market. Again, success, from my scholastic perspective, represents the sum of academic preparation and the ambitious pursuit of opportunities. ATC is that place where those equations become reality as 99% our graduates land careers after graduation – ranging from our essential heroes keeping the nation moving during our current health crisis to successful entrepreneurs who have boldly blazed their own professional paths. What does life look like as we emerge from COVID-19? Undoubtedly, there will be a greater focus on competently trained service and technical workers. At ATC, we are embracing our role in training and retooling displaced workers as an integral step towards rebuilding the workforce and stabilizing the economy as businesses rebound from the pandemic. Higher education is a business, and while institutions of higher education have taken a major financial blow as a result of the pandemic, our community and technical colleges are in a strong position to lead the conversation about what’s next and being instructive and prescriptive in providing recovery strategies for people and businesses alike. To the Class of 2020, I challenge you to think boldly as we emerge from this pandemic and pursue your goals with relentless zeal and unwavering persistence. In the words of LeBron James, recently shared during the nationally televised “Graduate Together” event, “After all this, you guys are prepared for anything.” I could not agree more. At ATC, we understand that educating future leaders and an essential workforce is an all-encompassing, ever-changing journey. Our comprehensive technical training programs are an incomparable asset in strengthening the network of the workforce and economic ecosystems, not just in Georgia but across the nation. ATC is prepared to offer the high school graduating class of 2020 with a proven path towards career acceleration and economic stability – a path that rivals many 4-year degree programs for a fraction of the cost. The opportunities for success have never been greater for ATC or for individuals ready to flourish on the other side of this global pandemic and economic crisis. The door for your future is wide open and ATC is ready to receive you with open arms. -Dr. Victoria Seals, President – Atlanta Technical College ABOUT ATLANTA TECHNICAL COLLEGE Atlanta Technical College is a vibrant part of the Technical College System of Georgia and was named its College of the Year in 2012. Prior to that, the college was selected as America’s Best Community College by Washington Monthly magazine. Most recently, Atlanta Technical College has been ranked as one of the best in the nation for online courses and programs. In 2017, Atlanta Technical College celebrated 50 years of serving the City of Atlanta along with Fulton and Clayton Counties. For more information on Atlanta Technical College and its 150 programs, visit www.atlantatech.edu. ABOUT DR. VICTORIA SEALS Dr. Victoria Seals is the sixth president of Atlanta Technical College and came to the College after serving several years as Vice President of Academic Affairs. Named among the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Who’s Who in Education” in May 2017, Dr. Seals serves as a board member with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Horizons Atlanta, and Work Source Atlanta. In addition to Board service with the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, she also chaired the Chamber’s 2019 Economic Development Committee. Dr. Seals received a B. S. in mathematics from Spelman College. She continued her studies at the University of Georgia where she received an M.A. in mathematics, an Ed.S. in mathematics education, and an Ed.D. in educational leadership.
By Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, (GEEARS) Imagine a scenario in which the state of Georgia decided that in order to balance the budget, several thousand students could no longer attend third grade. And what if this happened even though the state had a pool of funds ready to be tapped into to avoid these cuts in the first place? Sounds far-fetched, right? But that’s exactly what our legislators might tell the parents of our state’s rising Pre-K students as they consider unnecessary and short-sighted cuts to Pre-K. For nearly three decades, Georgia has built a nationally recognized, Lottery-funded Pre-K Program that has served 1.6 million children and annually employs around 8,000 teachers. This program prepares children with the critical skills and experiences necessary for success in school and has become a shining example of the power early education. However, in response to the dire budget situation caused by falling tax revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s leadership has mandated across-the-board 14% budget cuts. This would directly impact the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), the agency that manages the Pre-K program so efficiently and effectively. To meet this one-size-fits-all approach, DECAL would have to cut around $53 million from the Pre-K budget, leading to a reduction of instructional days from 180 to 167 and the cutting of 4,000 slots (approximately 180 classrooms) from the program. If implemented, these cuts would mean that Georgia’s youngest children would miss out on gaining the critical skills that prepare them for success in kindergarten and beyond. A short-term reduction to Pre-K would have a long-term impact, and we cannot afford to keep our kids home at a time when brain development matters most. Many families also depend on the early education these programs provided, especially as more Georgians come out of lock-down and return to their workplaces. Perhaps most alarming, these cuts are unnecessary. Pre-K is funded through the Georgia Lottery revenues, which have remained steady. The Lottery also has a rainy-day reserve fund of more than $1 billion dollars, $700 million of which is available unrestricted. Supporting our children through tough times is exactly what we should be doing with these funds. When GEEARS started this Guardians of Atlanta’s Future column with Sheltering Arms, the Junior League of Atlanta, and Communities in Schools, we by no means thought we were the only guardians out there. Quite the opposite—we know there were millions out there like you who are willing and able to join the fight to protect our youngest Georgians. And the time to act is now if we want to protect Georgia’s Lottery-funded Pre-K Program. There are several things we can all do to help: Take Action: Join the more than 7,000 Georgians who have used our action alert on Pre-K to reach out to their legislators, and please share it with your friends and family! Complete Our Survey: If you are a Georgia parent/caregiver of a child 5 years of age or younger, we invite you to participate in this survey about your experiences with parenting and child care in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Share Your Early Education Story: We believe your stories will help maintain vital funding for child care programs, Georgia’s Pre-K, and Head Start. We will share your experiences with change makers and stakeholders to strengthen our advocacy efforts as we work to improve outcomes for young children and families in our state. Click here to view suggested topics and submit your story. Together, we can protect and defend the future of Pre-K in Georgia, and the future of thousands of young children across the state.