Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

State ends free AP test for low-income students, shifts cash to STEM tests

A potentially potent issue in the 2018 election cycle may have just jumped up. For several years, the state of Georgia has picked up the $93 tab for one advance placement test for every low-income student.

That has come to an end. The state will now pay for one AP test for any student – regardless of income – but only if the field of study is technology-related. Students of the arts, history, or other topics need not apply. The paragraphs below are from the letter that state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Austell, is sending out to House District 38 constituents this morning:

Realizing the fees to take AP exams are more than many families can afford, the state has paid for one AP exam for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.  The state has committed funding each year.  Through the Great Recession and through the recovery, funding for our Georgia families has been there. So I was shocked when I received a text asking why the state was no longer going to pay for one exam unless you took a course in a STEM-related field.  No longer will languages (foreign nor domestic) be covered.  AP exams in history don’t qualify, either.  There is a long list that doesn’t qualify.


I placed a call to the governor’s office to get more information. After they did some research, I received a call back.  I appreciated them getting back so quickly, and my understanding was confirmed.  During the budgeting process last session, funding was moved from the Georgia Department of Education to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) and now only STEM related AP exams would be covered.  Not only were those changes made, but now the money was no longer dedicated to lower-income families.

This sounds a lot like HOPE! We have a successful program that is helping families pay for an AP exam that could be the difference between continuing their studies after high school or missing out on that opportunity.  Now GOSA is spreading less money across more families. It won’t be long before costs spiral out of control and we start adding a GPA requirement in order to be eligible for a free AP exam.


So you know that, on Thursday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall determined that Roswell Mayor Jere Wood, who was first elected in 1997, was ineligible to run in 2013, when he was last elected. The judge ordered Wood removed from office – immediately. Wood has said he’ll appeal the decision.

The order itself is worth reading. It begins like this:

Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz famously wrote that "War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means." In our society, legal battles are often merely politics "by other means." This case is such a scenario.

The Mayor of Roswell, Jere Wood, has served in that capacity since 1997. Mayor Wood's political enemies -- unable to accomplish his defeat at the ballot box-chose tocontinue their battle through the courts. While this Court cannot ignore the overtly political nature of this dispute, it must ground its decision solely in the law. Unfortunately, the plain reading of the text of the city charter makes Mayor Wood the victim of this political war.

Read the entire document here:


Under former Texas governor Rick Perry, the U.S. Department of Energy is conducting a study of the nation's electrical grid. A leaked draft contends that renewable energy is not harming the grid, but there are strong hints that the final version could say just the opposite.

Over at CNBC, Tim Echols, a Republican member of the state Public Service Commission, asks the Trump administration to rethink its attitude:

Many doubted our Public Service Commission when we created a host of policies to kickstart solar in the Peach State--in fact, many called our policies anti-Republican.


But four years later, opponents of our decisions are hard to find. Landowners have benefited, solar developers have made a fair profit, and the tax bases of economically-distressed South Georgia communities have received a much needed boost in tax revenues. I can't speak for any other state, but other states--and the administration--might want to take a lesson from how our state has benefited from renewable energy.


Let's start with taxpayers and utility customers. Both have made gains from the enormous growth of solar. Poorer counties throughout rural middle and South Georgia are seeing land values rise as a result of solar technology installed in their area. Solar investments are boosting local economies due to payments from the leasing companies.

Look for Echols to talk more about this on the 3 p.m. Friday edition of GPB's "Political Rewind." In Atlanta, that's 88.5FM.


As Georgia looks to Medicaid waivers to snag more federal funding - and potentially expand the program's rolls - a look across the border might be instructive. Modern Healthcare reports that the Trump administration has approved Florida's Medicaid waiver that allows the state to keep much its residents eligible for the program on managed-care contracts and "continues a controversial fund that helps hospitals pay for uncompensated care." That amounts to about $1.5 billion a year through 2022. If the state expanded Medicaid, the Kaiser Family Foundation said, it could draw as much as $51 billion in federal Medicaid dollars over a decade.


It's still ridiculously early, but next Saturday - Aug. 12 - is shaping up to be a tremendously busy day on the Georgia political calendar. There's the keynote speeches from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Al Gore at the Netroots conference in downtown Atlanta. Around the same time, conservatives will gather in Rome for the Floyd County GOP's annual rally at the Tillman Hangar. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus will convene a weekend retreat in Savannah. And a raft of candidates are expected later that day for the Georgia Republican Assembly's convention in Moreland.


What's the Georgia Republican Assembly? Think of it as a more conservative shadow organization of the Georgia GOP. It's led by Alex Johnson, who has three times campaigned to lead the state party and has been one of its most outspoken critics. Other prominent board members include Kay Godwin and Brant Frost V. Its website proudly proclaims it is not the Republican party but is composed of "principled Republicans committed to fixing" the GOP.


Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s legal immigration proposal received mixed reactions from fellow Republicans, Real Clear Politics reports. There was some positive reception, particularly from the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, but other Senate Republicans were more tentative:

One Senate GOP aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal dynamics, predicted the legislation wouldn’t get more than 20 Republican votes “on its best day” and that it would not be brought to the floor. Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican whip and chairman of a key Judiciary immigration subcommittee, said the proposal deserved “serious consideration” but said it was “undetermined” whether he would hold a hearing on it this year. He said a focus on border security and internal immigration enforcement would be a priority.


A key Georgia figure, though, is backing Perdue's proposal. "By implementing a merit-based program to ensure optimal outcomes, we can bring the best and brightest to our country while protecting American workers and maintaining our competitive advantage," said Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp.


Speaking of Perdue, PolitiFact rates his past statement that leaving Obamacare in place would mean “more than 300,000 Georgians below the poverty line will still not have access to the insurance Obamacare promised” as “half true.”

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.