Political Notes – MARTA vote looks like a go in Clayton

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After one false start, the Clayton County Commission has now cleared the way for the county’s voters to decide in November whether they will pay a one-cent sales tax in return for becoming a full partner in the MARTA transit system.

Clayton’s commissioners had initially voted last week to authorize a November referendum for half a penny in sales tax. This would have meant that the county would participate only in MARTA’s bus service but not in its rail service.

When the MARTA board rejected that half-step, the commissioners met again on Saturday and authorized putting the entire penny on the November ballot.

If Clayton’s voters approve the MARTA ballot question, it would represent the first expansion of the system’s core operating areas of Atlanta — and Fulton and DeKalb counties — since the original MARTA authorization vote in 1971.

Atlanta lawyer Robert Ashe, the MARTA board chairman, called the upcoming referendum vote “fantastic news for Clayton County and fantastic news for the region.”

“It’s a tremendous validation of the work our senior management team and board have done to get our fiscal act together,” Ashe said.

State bonuses for early educators

The state’s Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) is now offering financial incentives to early childhood educators who choose to upgrade their teaching credentials.

Over the next three years, early childhood education program administrators and teachers can receive a bonus at each level for earning these credentials or degrees from eligible institutions:

  • First Level: single payment of $1,200 for completion of a CDA Credential or a Technical Certificate of Credit.
  • Second Level: single payment of $1,500 for completion of a Technical College Diploma or Associate of Applied Arts or Science Degree.
  • Third Level: single payment of $2,500 for completion of bachelor’s or master’s degree.

The money for these bonuses comes from a federal Early Learning Challenge grant (ELC) that DECAL was awarded last December.

“Achieving a higher credential will be more affordable than ever for early childhood professionals because of Georgia’s HOPE Grant and HOPE Scholarship, DECAL’s supplementary scholarship program, and additional funding through the ELC,” said Amy Jacobs, the interim commissioner of DECAL.

Chapman is new GAE president

Sid Chapman, who had been head of the Clayton County Education Association (CCEA), is the new president of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), one of the state’s largest teachers’ organizations. He succeeds Calvine Rollins, a high school counselor from Decatur County.

“GAE must continue to address challenges such as adequate funding for our schools and classrooms, restoring 180 days of instruction for students in systems where they fall short, addressing the concerns connected to the Teacher KEYS evaluation instrument, and working to ensure that affordable and accessible healthcare along with much-needed salary increases are provided for Georgia’s dedicated and hard-working public educators,” Chapman said.

GAE members have also elected Charlotte Booker, a third grade teacher from Rockdale County, as vice president, and Lisa Morgan, an elementary school teacher from DeKalb County, as the organization’s secretary-treasurer.

Looking at self-driving cars

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) has appointed a House study committee to assess the technological impact of “autonomous vehicles,” or self-driving cars, on the state’s transportation infrastructure.

Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) was named chairman of the study committee, whose members include Reps. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville), Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), and John Pezold (R-Fortson).

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Clayton County , DECAL , early educators , financial incentives , GAE , MARTA , Robert Ashe , self-driving vehicles , Sid Chapman , Trey Kelley