GCO advice on increasing employment gets hearing in D.C.

GCO advice on increasing employment gets hearing in D.C.

In the post below, Executive Vice President Eric Cochling talks about a recent visit with leaders in Washington D.C. and how GCO’s work is being noticed on Capitol Hill. 

I have to admit that last week was a tiring whirlwind of activity, but it turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to inform and influence federal policy.

I spent most of last week in Washington, DC taking part in meetings with the Department of Labor, the Office of Management and Budget, the Federal Trade Commission, various House and Senate offices, and the domestic policy staff of the White House.

Each meeting was focused on the need to get more American’s back to work and the way state organizations, like GCO, are working to make that goal a reality. Of particular interest was what the federal government can and should do to help states remove barriers to employment.

I was able to present to the leaders in the various offices on the research and community-based work that GCO is doing to address joblessness.

The topics we discussed included:

  • How states, with the federal governments encouragement, can expand apprenticeship opportunities for high school students who are not college-bound and need a pipeline into work,
  • Welfare reforms that will move people to self-sufficiency, including simplifying the system, requiring and incentivizing work across all programs, and removing disincentives to family formation,
  • Ways to remove systemic barriers to employment found in state laws, including those that needlessly restrict vocational licensing and access to driver’s licenses,
  • Local initiatives, like GCO’s Hiring Well, Doing Good, that are designed to help reinvigorate the local, community-based response to helping people find work.

While politics are more polarized than I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, I was heartened by what appeared to be genuine interest in practical ways to help reinvigorate local, civil society answers to unemployment.

I was also encouraged by a consistent message that the federal government is looking to states to solve problems like this and are actively working – via welfare reform and other policy changes – to give back to the states the authority to tackle these problems effectively.

It is time for state leaders to prepare themselves to take on these tough issues and GCO stands ready to help.

Another study confirms Georgians want more choice in education

Another study confirms Georgians want more choice in education

As lawmakers prepare to head back to the Capitol in January, Georgians have now received a glimpse of some issues that might move the needle in the 2018 election cycle. A new study released by the Georgia College Department of Government and Sociology finds that parents are increasingly looking toward school choice options as approval for public schools is suffering.

When asked about their level of satisfaction with public education, only 9.9 percent of respondents said they were strongly satisfied with public schools. However, a staggering 30.3 percent of respondents said they were “very dissatisfied” with their kids’ school.

However, parents seem to see a clear alternative. According to the report, 59.8 percent of respondents expressed support for charter schools.

The Georgia State survey is another clear indication that Georgians want more educational options for parents. In January, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released a poll finding that 61 percent of voters supported school choice legislation. In May of 2016, a whopping 75 percent of GOP primary voters said they believed the state should empower parents through school choice.

Elected officials will be faced with significant legislation in the 2018 session that could enable greater access to quality public education. Bills that would create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and expand the popular Tax Credit Scholarship program will be up for consideration.

You can view the full report here.


Show some love: The Angel Tree program is about more than gifts

Show some love: The Angel Tree program is about more than gifts

The Christmas season is often marked by joy, but for many children with incarcerated parents, the holidays can be a painful reminder of their mom or dad’s absence.

The Georgia Center for Opportunity is committed to building healthy family relationships and enabling inmates to reenter their communities with the greatest chance of success. That’s why the Angel Tree program is a close partner of our organization, and it’s why we’re encouraging you to consider participating this holiday season.

The Angel Tree program offers incarcerated parents an opportunity to provide a Christmas gift and a personal message to their child. Gifts are purchased by generous individuals, and delivered by local volunteers on behalf of the parents as a tangible expression of love.

Many children in Georgia are in need of this caring service. If you or your organization would like to participate, you can register for the program or donate through the Prison Fellowship.

Advocating for innovation, Steve Jobs championed school choice

Advocating for innovation, Steve Jobs championed school choice

Earlier this month, Apple made waves by introducing the iPhone 10. Since being unveiled, the updated smartphone and several other new products have received praise as the latest credit to Steve Jobs’ tech legacy.

Years following his death, Americans still remember the Apple founder’s dedication to forward progress. While he is regarded as a visionary leader in the tech industry, many are unaware that his contribution to education innovation has also created lasting interest.

Jobs, adopted into a blue-collar family, long touted the importance of robust school choice.

“Equal opportunity to me, more than anything, means a great education,” Jobs once said in a 1995 interview with the Smithsonian Institution.

“I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher for $4,400 that they could spend at any accredited school, several things would happen,” he later said. “Number one, schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get students. Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools starting…. I believe that they would do far better than any of our public schools would. The third thing you’d see is… the quality of schools again, just in a competitive marketplace, start to rise.”

His dream for unlocking potential in the education system didn’t stop there.

Prior to his death, Jobs began exploring options to digitize classrooms and make expensive learning materials, like updated textbooks, more affordable and accessible through technology. Imagining learning environments with greater flexibility and creativity, he also advocated for less bureaucracy and more teacher autonomy over curriculum.

Like with the newest version of his iPhone, Jobs may not have lived long enough to see his dream of educational choice for all become a reality, but his ideas continue to inspire leadership and progress toward a day when each child has meaningful education options.

Georgia Center for Opportunity announced as finalist for Atlas Network’s prestigious Templeton Freedom Award

Georgia Center for Opportunity announced as finalist for Atlas Network’s prestigious Templeton Freedom Award

Amid growing acknowledgment for efforts to reduce prison recidivism rates in Georgia, the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) has been named as a finalist for the highly competitive Atlas Network Templeton Freedom Award.

The honor recognizes GCO for recent efforts to assist formerly incarcerated individuals with successful reintegration into society. Through work with several community partners, the organization has orchestrated an effort that focuses on the rehabilitation and restoration of former offenders with their family and community. Aiming to help newly-released individuals gain employment and reconnect with their loved ones, GCO’s program has been credited with positively impacting the state’s justice system.

“We’re humbled to be considered as a global leader in promoting freedom and human flourishing, and congratulate the other finalists for their tremendous successes,” said Randy Hicks, President and CEO of GCO.

“Several hard-won policy changes and the work of many partners have contributed to a reduction of inmates in the state’s prison system,” Hicks added. “We predict the reforms spearheaded by GCO will continue to allow more individuals to successfully reenter society and become less likely to recidivate.”

The Atlas Network’s CEO, Brad Lips, praised GCO’s innovative approach to criminal justice reform.

“GCO’s Prisoner Reentry Initiative demonstrates that compassion for the incarcerated and their families can be aligned with the interests of taxpayers and public safety,” Lips said. “It’s a wonderful initiative that deserves to be emulated.”

GCO is included among seven globally-selected finalists who have made strides in public policy that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. Other finalists include the Beacon Center of Tennessee, based in Nashville, Tenn., the IMANI Center for Policy and Education, based in Accra, Ghana, Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (IEE), based in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad (IMCO), based in Mexico City, Mexico, and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy (MLI), based in Ottawa, Canada.

All finalists will receive $25,000, while the winning organization will receive $100,000.

The winner of the Atlas Network’s Templeton Freedom Award will be announced during the Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner in New York City on November 8.

To learn more about policy solutions championed in GCO’s prisoner re-entry work visit GeorgiaOpportunity.org/Employment/Prisoner-reentry.



Getting non-working men working again in Georgia

Getting non-working men working again in Georgia

In the coming decades, could so-called “middle skills” jobs be a key factor in reversing the contemporary epidemic of non-working males in the U.S.? There is reason to hope the answer is a resounding yes.

A phenomenon thoroughly documented by the American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt and other scholars, an estimated seven million men in their prime working years of 25 to 54 years-old are absent from the U.S. labor force. Several factors tend to characterize these men: they are more likely to be minorities (particularly African-American), undereducated (no more than a high school diploma, and often less), and with a history in the criminal justice system. One attribute characterizes all of them—they are entirely disconnected from work. They’ve dropped out, unplugged, and given up on joining the labor force altogether.

Reasons for this are multifaceted, running the gamut from the challenges of obtaining work with a criminal record to addictions (alcohol and opioids particularly) to reliance on disability payments, family members, or government support to survive.

Closer to home in Georgia, this impactful map created by The New York Times shows where the non-working male problem is particularly bad, including areas where northward of 42% of these males are non-working, spanning Georgia’s larger metro areas to small rural regions.

Could middle-skills jobs be key to reducing this trend? It’s estimated that 29 million middle-skills jobs exist in the US today—40 percent of them with annual salaries in excess of $50,000 (for more, download this PDF). These jobs require less than a bachelor’s degree but more than a high-school diploma, making shorter-term training programs and credentials—such as associate degrees, certificates, and apprenticeships—an ideal option. Click here for more on the demand for middle skills jobs in Georgia.

There are a number of reasons to hope that we can achieve some success by placing more emphasis on these types of alternatives:

  • Offering guided training pathways that lead to a workforce-ready credential will give non-working men a greater motivation to engage, compared to the six (or more) years needed to finish a typical bachelor’s degree.
  • Offering “stackable credentials” that allow students to gradually and sequentially build their skillset over a period of time will allow these men to quickly see progress and ROI in their training journey.
  • Building condensed and accelerated training schedules would empower men to finish what they start and improve graduation rates at community colleges and other training programs.

The Georgia Center for Opportunity is committed to making these kinds of opportunities available for all Georgians through our College and Career Pathways Initiative.