I ran an e-mail that I received from Emmet Bondurant, a prominent local attorney and education advocate, calling for the HOPE Scholarships to be limited by income so more funds can go to the critical needs of pre-k.
I asked Emmet Bondurant to expand his views into an op-ed and here it is. (A joint House and Senate education committee meets Aug. 2 at 10 a.m. to discuss HOPE funding. I plan to attend. Should be interesting.) I plan to run the piece on the Monday education op-ed page but this is a preview for Get Schooled readers.
I know many of you like HOPE the way it is, but Bondurant is looking at the issue of dwindling resources and what investment yields a greater return for the state. Again, there is no doubt that HOPE has done a lot to inspire high school kids to work harder and take more AP classes to get into UGA or Tech. And as the quality of the students has improved, so has the quality of the universities.
But would the state as a whole benefit more if we redirected increased funds to pre-k and to those youngsters for whom college is not a foregone conclusion from the cradle? (All research shows that HOPE influences where kids go to college, rather than whether they go.)
Read the piece and let us know what you think:
By Emmet J. Bondurant
It is now obvious that as a result of the recent increases by the Board of Regents in college tuitions, as well as the growth in the number of students graduating from high schools with B averages, the Georgia Lottery is not going to generate sufficient revenue to fund HOPE Scholarships at current levels. Allowances for books and student activity fees are going to be drastically reduced – and if the shortfall in lottery revenues continues, the HOPE Scholarships themselves will be in jeopardy.
I urge legislators to exercise real leadership and convene a study committee composed of genuine experts in public education to evaluate the real – as distinguished from the imagined – benefits of the HOPE Scholarship program and determine whether Georgians are getting the maximum bang for the buck from the hundreds of millions in lottery revenues that are spent on HOPE Scholarships and HOPE Grants.
Are the HOPE Scholarships and Grants the best way to genuinely advance public education – or would Georgia’s children derive a far greater benefit if the same dollars were used to make high quality pre-k available to all 3 and 4 year olds?
Georgia is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars annually in lottery revenues to subsidize the tuition costs for middle and upper-income families who would have sent their children to college on their own expense, without a hand-out from the state. To make matters even worse, these same families forfeit $2,500 annually in college tuition tax credits from the federal government by accepting HOPE funds from the Georgia Lottery.
Many studies by leading educators and economists have shown that the Georgia could achieve far more bang for the buck at all levels of public education by investing the revenue generated by the Georgia Lottery in pre-k than in HOPE Scholarships and Grants.
Legislators must take an honest look at the evidence and answer the hard questions about the value of pre-K versus HOPE that have been ignored for too long. Since the General Assembly is going to be forced by the shortfall in lottery revenues to do something, why not adopt real reforms, instead of merely nibbling around the edges and adopting half measures that are merely politically expedient?
There are two obvious ways for lawmakers to reduce the drain on lottery revenues. First, lawmakers should cut out welfare for the rich, and let families that can afford to send their children to college pay their own way. If the General Assembly were to reimpose a $75,000 means test for HOPE, for example, 73.5 percent of all Georgia families would still be eligible for HOPE Scholarships. The only families affected would be upper-income ones fully capable sending their children to college without a lottery welfare check or hand-out.
The idea of eliminating unneeded welfare payments to the rich should appeal to true conservatives who are willing put principle ahead of their own selfish interests.
The state could also save tens, if not hundreds, of millions in lottery revenues by cutting HOPE Scholarships to attend both public and private schools by $2,500 each. Such a change would cost the parents of HOPE recipients nothing, since they’d then qualify for the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credits against their federal income taxes. Then, the federal government, rather than the Georgia Lottery, would contribute $2,500 of the cost of each Hope Scholarship.
If our new governor and General Assembly don’t take the lead in reforming HOPE and pre-k, who will?