The Great Hope Scholarship Controversy of 2011…

…and 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015…

I have prepared this article for the benefit of so many who seem so uninformed regarding the constitutional and legislative requirements which regulate the eligibility and funding of the Hope Scholarship Program. It is not my intention to review the history of the enabling constitutional amendment, nor the history or particulars of the program.  What I am attempting to present is an overview of the revenue and funding requirements, as they exist today.

I am prompted by the facebook comments I have recently read, written by students of Kennesaw State University. I quote one without citation to preserve privacy, but I am prepared to cite if such is demanded.  I might add, I have seen similar comments in blogs written by students attending other University System schools.

“I can’t believe that the first thing Nathan Deal did as Governor was cut the HOPE scholarship by billions of dollars… Disgusting”

Governor Deal does not have the authority under the state Constitution to “cut” any funds from the Hope Scholarship budget.  See below, 1, 2, VIII, c.  The HS is not funded by general revenues or “taxed” revenues of the State, but by funds solely derived from the sale of lottery and gaming tickets, which funds can only be used as proved for in 1, 2, VIII, c, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.   The legislature created enabling legislation which provided for and required the expenditure of all lottery funds fulfill all constitutional requirements as are set forth in 1, 2, VIII below.

The revenue or net sales proceeds of each and every lottery ticket sold, along with that of any “game” ticket must be spent as required by the Constitution. Governor Deal can not cut any lottery funding, nor direct any lottery revenue to any other purpose. The Governor may, with legislative consent, direct the appropriation of funds in any ratio to any of the five specified funding requirements created by the State Constitution, and in fact the controlling legislation has been altered numerous times by Acts of the Georgia Legislature, and enacted by the signing of such legislation by several Governors.

The intent of the original legislation, an egalitarian entitlement for superior high school students, has been maintained in all successive enactments, and remains a viable and compelling motivation for academic achievement.

As in many states,  secondary education  has suffered from uncontrolled grade inflation, and each successive year has seen increased percentages of students who qualified under the legislative mandated academic requirements. The intent of the original sponsors was not to provide a tuition grant to all college or technical school bound students who were residents of Georgia and who graduated from a Georgia high school, but rather to incentivize or motivate superior students to apply themselves, and to attend Georgia public universities. However, with the collusion of educators, teachers and principals, representing “special interest” groups, student grades no longer reflect “superior” effort or intellect, but rather an ongoing attempt by educators to corrupt a “merit” based scholarship program into an “entitlement” program to provide funding for “average” students so they might also attend institutions of higher learning, regardless of their qualifications or achievement.

However “noble” the intentions of such educators, their subversive acts have had the effect of threatening the purpose, the merit based notion, of rewarding students whose achievement reflects a zeal to master secondary school academic topics and prepare themselves for further academic achievement. Simply put, as grade inflation has expanded so has the pool of “eligible” students, and yet funding has not increased sufficiently to allow full funding for all qualifying students.

The current funding requirements has drained the reserves provided for by the Constitution, and if left unaltered, the Hope Scholarship would have had no choice but to deny funding to many eligible students in the 2012 school year. That action, in and of itself, would be an infringement of the Georgia Constitution rights of those denied “eligible” students, and could precipitate a much more drastic, perhaps in some eyes, even draconian, revision of the enabling legislation. Such an action could open the door to a review of 1, 2, VIII and possibly allow the legislative introduction and ultimate passage of a constitutional amendment removing the existing lottery revenues from a dedicated fund into the general revenue fund of the State, as has often been proposed.

This occurrence, the constitutional amendment of the lottery program, has long been the desire of a disparate group of lobbyists and politicians who would use lottery revenues both to supplement the general fund and allow the defacto introduction of tuition entitlements, thus destroying a merit based scholarship program and replacing it with income based grants and loans available to any college bound student.

In the first case, supplements to the general fund would continue to allow legislators to expand state government, funding pet programs that mollify constituents, and benefit special interest groups; and in the second case, allowing funding of programs that provide direct state grants to all college bound students, without regard for academic achievement would serve to disincentivize academic scholarship and the enrollment of academically gifted students in state colleges and universities.

The Legislature and the Governor are to be commended for “saving” the Hope Scholarship program as was originally proposed, to reward motivated students, and for upholding and continuing this most successful program through legislation. After all, the Hope Scholarship is named for the acronym H.O.P.E, that is, Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally. Under the 2011 changes, high achievers, the superior students with  measurable achievement as  demonstrated by GPA and SAT scores, will continue to receive full tuition grant funding, with other qualifiers receiving 90 percent of full tuition. Please note that in lieu of the recent tuition increases the Board of Regents have approved, the actual dollar amount granted each student for tuition will remain the same or slightly increase for most students. Hope Scholarship grants for books and other fees will not be available.  This unfortunate result is not the work of the Governor and General Assembly; rather it remains attributable to the primary cause of increased financial pressure which has created this difficulty, grade inflation, which allows academically unqualified students access to Hope scholarship funds, and which rightly remains a subject of concern and controversy.

Only when Georgia’s elementary and secondary teachers and administrators begin to earn the wages we as citizens pay them, will we see an end to social promotion, nonexistent homework, chronic underachievement, deficient language and math skills, and the apathy that so consumes exhausted parents and over stimulated children today

A second and perhaps equally unjustifiable cause of the increase in the cost of tuition, fees and books is the aforementioned tuition increases approved by the Board of Regents.  Under the influence of administrators from the Chancellor and Institutional Presidents down to a well defined and politically influential “Band of Boosters” at each institution of higher learning, the Board has authorized the expenditure of funds far in excess of our state’s capacity to pay for them.

The Board of Regents remains unable to fathom the purpose of higher education, which is to educate our state’s citizens. They remain unconcerned that the effect of trying to create “perfect” higher learning environments: campus parks, buildings, research programs, student facilities and housing, can lead only to the economic exclusion of many qualified citizens and a burden of debt which attending students are made to pay. The goal of the Board of Regents should be to assure that every qualified student in Georgia will have access to education and training which will allow them to become productive citizens, and not be burdened with “educational “ loans made to pay for ever increasing tuition, book, fee and housing charges.

The fact is that an educated, productive work force would buy many more lottery tickets, remit greater sales and use tax revenues, and create a healthier and wealthier citizenry. Frankly, such a work force would solve many of the financial difficulties we face today. The Hope Scholarship is a highly visible lightening rod of education health in Georgia, and it is crucial to the future economic growth of the state.

Were students to be as concerned about the actions of their secondary educators, or the imperial behavior of the unelected Board of Regents, they might well have factual and important comments to make about those programs that so impact them.

Students, do you want more aid and assistance for your education?  Inform yourselves, educate your friends and vote!

Below is the text of the pertinent amendment to the State Constitution that contains the controlling language which enables the Governor and General Assembly to alter the conditions of the Hope Scholarship.

 

The Constitution of the State of Georgia

Article I. Section II. Paragraph VIII.

 

Paragraph VIII. Lotteries and nonprofit bingo games

(a) Except as herein specifically provided in this Paragraph VIII, all lotteries, and the sale of lottery tickets, and all forms of pari-mutuel betting and casino gambling are hereby prohibited; and this prohibition shall be enforced by penal laws.

(b) The General Assembly may by law provide that the operation of a nonprofit bingo game shall not be a lottery and shall be legal in this state. The General Assembly may by law define a nonprofit bingo game and provide for the regulation of nonprofit bingo games.

(c ) The General Assembly may by law provide for the operation and regulation of a lottery or lotteries by or on behalf of the state and for any matters relating to the purposes or provisions of this subparagraph. Proceeds derived from the lottery or lotteries operated by or on behalf of the state shall be used to pay the operating expenses of the lottery or lotteries, including all prizes, without any appropriation required by law , and for educational programs and purposes as hereinafter provided . Lottery proceeds shall not be subject to Article VII, Section III, Paragraph II; Article III, Section IX , Paragraph VI(a); or Article III, Section IX , Paragraph IV (c), except that the net proceeds after payment of such operating expenses shall be subject to Article VII, Section III, Paragraph II. Net proceeds after payment of such operating expenses shall be separately accounted for and shall be specifically identified by the Governor in his annual budget presented to the General Assembly as a separate budget category entitled “Lottery Proceeds” and the Governor shall make specific recommendations as to educational programs and educational purposes to which said net proceeds shall be appropriated. In the General Appropriations Act adopted by the General Assembly, the General Assembly shall appropriate all net proceeds of the lottery or lotteries by such separate budget category to educational programs and educational purposes. Such net proceeds shall be used to support improvements and enhancements for educational programs and purposes and such net proceeds shall be used to supplement, not supplant, non-lottery educational resources for educational programs and purposes. The educational programs and educational purposes for which proceeds may be so appropriated shall include only the following:

(1) Tuition grants, scholarships, or loans to citizens of this state to enable such citizens to attend colleges and universities located within this state , regardless of whether such colleges or universities are operated by the board of regents, or to attend institutions operated under the authority of the Department of Technical and Adult Education;

(2) Voluntary pre-kindergarten;

(3) One or more educational shortfall reserves in a total amount of not less than 10 percent of the net proceeds of the lottery for the preceding fiscal year;

(4) Costs of providing to teachers at accredited public institutions who teach levels K -12, personnel at public postsecondary technical institutes under the authority of the Department of Technical and Adult Education, and professors and instructors within the University System of Georgia the necessary training in the use and application of computers and advanced electronic instructional technology to implement interactive learning environments in the classroom and to access the state -wide distance learning network; and

(5) Capital outlay projects for educational facilities; provided, however, that no funds shall be appropriated for the items listed in paragraphs (4) and (5) of this subsection until all persons eligible for and applying for assistance as provided in paragraph (1) of this subsection have received such assistance, all approved pre-kindergarten programs provided for in paragraph (2) of this subsection have been fully funded, and the education shortfall reserve or reserves provided for in paragraph (3) of this subsection have been fully funded.

(d) On and after January 1, 1995 , the holding of raffles by nonprofit organizations shall be lawful and shall not be prohibited by any law enacted prior to January 1, 1994. Laws enacted on or after January 1, 1994, however, may restrict, regulate, or prohibit the operation of such raffles.

 

Links to the complete text of the Constitution of the State of Georgia:

 

http://www.sos.ga.gov/elections/constitution.htm

 

Links to enabling legislation enacted by the Georgia General Assembly:

 

http://web.lexisnexis.com/research/retrieve?pushme=1&tmpFBSel=all&totaldocs=&taggedDocs=&toggleValue=&numDocsChked=0&prefFBSel=0&delformat=FULL&fpDocs=&fpNodeId=&fpCiteReq=&_m=02c5182aff39edfbb1e27239829c53da&searchType=&docnum=2&_fmtstr=FULL&_startdoc=1&wchp=dGLbVtb-zSkAz&_md5=e927a156ab02d24a0cec3cdabd9d9d06&focBudTerms=&focBudSel=all

 

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