“Senate Democrats can give back HOPE”

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As the members of the Georgia Senate consider the Governor’s budget proposal they should consider the long-term impact of each line item on the future success of the state.  House Democrats, citing accommodations by Governor Deal, gave him bipartisan support on his HOPE Scholarship proposal, which reduces college and post secondary education access by reducing the financial aid to thousands of Georgia youth.
Senate Democrats have released an alternative HOPE proposal that, among other things, adds a means test to the qualifications, which is a move in the right direction.  The HOPE Scholarship works.  Last week an eighth grade North Clayton Middle School student asked me about his chances of going to college, if HOPE funding is cut.   He’s concerned and we should be, too.
We should not dismantle Georgia’s most powerful economic incentive and take away HOPE from those who need it the most. Proposals to fund full HOPE tuition scholarships to 90% or 80% of the college students are shortsighted. The fundamental flaw is linking HOPE availability to lottery revenue. We should not cut back on giving Georgia’s children the best shot for the future because not enough people are gambling.

Instead, we should fund HOPE with additional revenues. Here are two ideas: Reinstate the sales tax on groceries or eliminate all special interest tax breaks and dedicate ALL revenue from either of these sources to funding the HOPE Scholarship program and Pre-k education.
Progressives will rightly point out that the sales tax is regressive but this is a reasonable trade if we can expand educational opportunities at the post-secondary and especially the Pre-K level.  The research overwhelmingly supports the need for Pre-K, and before, especially for children from economically disadvantaged families.
On another pending education bill there is little public discussion about the apparent support among House members to increase funding options for private K-12 education. The House is considering HB 325 to expand the tax credit program for private K-12 schools. The Georgia Private School Tax Credit law allows eligible private citizens and corporations to receive tax credits for donations to Georgia Student Scholarship Organizations (SSO’s). Specifically, the law allows individuals, couples and corporations a 100 percent tax credit for donations to private school scholarship programs.
Though funding scholarship programs may be worthy, reducing the state’s tax revenue in tight economic times which force the state to reduce funding for public education is a luxury the state cannot afford.  HB 325 would expand the current aggregate cap on tax credits from $50 million to $62.5 million and increase the cap by another 25 percent every time the cap is met.
A recent metro Atlanta poll shows that a majority of the public will pay for additional investments in public education.  Legislators should stand up and fight for an across the board investment increase in Georgia’s children, from Pre-K through post-secondary, starting with restoring HOPE funding and forgo making it easier and more attractive to support private education while cutting public education, the lifeblood of a recovering economy, again.

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  1. A fighting Democrat says: