Enduring HOPE, An Enduring HOAX!

Enduring HOPE, An Enduring HOAX!

$5,605,820,306.00

That’s Five Billion, Six Hundred Five Million, Eight Hundred Twenty Thousand, Three Hundred Six Dollars and Zero Cents.

An impressive figure, the total amount of funds distributed to Georgia Technical, College and University students through the HOPE Scholarship since its inception in 1992!

$40,249,923,972.00

That’s Forty Billion, Two Hundred Forty-Nine Million, Nine Hundred Twenty Three Thousand, Nine Hundred Seventy Two Dollars and Zero Cents.

Over Thirty Nine Billion Dollars wagered on the Georgia Lottery since 1992, and the result is that of all of that money paid into the Georgia Lottery Corporation, the percent actually paid out to Help Georgia’s Outstanding Pupils is:

13.9%

That’s it! Thirteen Point Nine Percent of all available lottery funds were spent on funding the HOPE Scholarship Program!

 

Your Governor, your State Representative and State Senator will likely tell you how wonderful the HOPE program is, how their 2011 revisions to the HOPE have  insured it’s continued existence, and how “generous” the program is, all said while failing to tell you why revisions were necessary and why the current revisions border on legislative and gubernatorial malfeasance.

To understand the degree of deceit promulgated by the PR/press management campaign of 2011, it’s helpful to understand the intent of the original “framers” as it was understood by the Georgia Electorate in 1992, when, by popular vote the Georgia Constitution was amended.

52.3%

That’s the percent of Georgia voters who actually approved the 1992 Amendment to the Georgia Constitution that allowed for a lottery. Not exactly a landslide; Governor Miller (as Lt. Governor) and the lottery proponents argued long and hard for the need to pass the amendment, and won voter’s approval by less than 100,000 votes of some 2,163,000 votes cast. The vote was won because a slim majority of the electorate thought the two issues presented, Academic College Scholarships and Pre-K Child Enrichment Programs would benefit the State, and more particularly, their own wallets.  It passed not because of any belief in a higher principle, but because a strident appeal to self-serving economic enrichment.  Governor Miller was all too aware that the moribund grey-haired white “conservative” old men in the Georgia legislature would never pass a bill to fund such a program with general revenues, and even much less likely to pass a tax to fund such a beneficial program. Broadly speaking, it is impossible to devise any educational funding program in a way that would benefit a majority of Legislators, either financially or electorally. Educational programs are twice damned: funding is primarily supported by parents with school age children, and then by “liberals,” giving slight chance that traditional funding programs will enjoy widespread support in the legislature.

Governor Miller’s support of the lottery is a testament to his concern for educational enrichment and opportunity for all deserving Georgians, and the HOPE Scholarship is an enduring legacy to his vision, and to no other Governor! In fact, since the Georgia Lottery was first approved in 1992, numerous attempts have been made to allow the collected funds to be applied elsewhere in the budget. The State Board of Regents has freely used lottery revenues to fund capital construction on college and university campuses, and the State Board of Education has appropriated funds to use for technological improvements to state K-12 schools. Both uses are allowed under the Amendment and enabling legislation, but the extent of usage clearly represents the desire to “skirt” the intent of the act. Such appropriations, in both cases, should have been properly funded from normal tax and fee sources.

This lack of moral perspicuity on the part of elected officials is lamentable, on the part of political appointees, expected.  As an aside, it should be noted that the same election cycle that brought us the Georgia Lottery also brought us the end of the direct and popular election of school superintendents in Georgia. While we continue to elect local, not the State, but local school boards, the effect of the removal of Superintendents from direct election has weakened the governance of K-12 education in Georgia and left local boards at the mercy of the Legislature and Governor, and subject to review by a private, for profit intrusive institution, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, who now have the power to influence the removal of elected school board officials and cause the disruption of local governance of local schools.

Had the intended result of the 1992 Lottery Amendment been achieved, it would not be necessary to point out the fact that in the intervening years “professional educators and high priced superintendents” have achieved NO progress in improving Georgia’s rank in education among all 50 states; moreover, these egregious egomaniacs have simply managed to improve their financial well being, their salary and benefits, and allowed for the continued erosion of parental rights and the continuing protection and employment of incompetent teachers and administrators.

A Special report to the Governor and Members of The General Assembly

Russell W. Hinton, State Auditor, prepared a special report, The Georgia Lottery, Selected Summary Financial Information from inception (November 2, 1992) Through Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2010. This document quotes from the Georgia Lottery for Education Act : “net proceeds of lottery games…shall be used to support improvements and enhancements for educational purposes and that such net proceeds shall be used to supplement, not supplant, existing resources for educational purposes and programs.”

Mr. Hinton’s special report states the Act further provides that as nearly as practical, at least 45% of the amount of money from the actual sale of lottery tickets shall be made  available as prize money. According to Hinton’s report, the Act further states that: “as nearly as practical, net proceeds shall equal at least 35% of the Georgia Lottery Corporation’s lottery proceeds.”

From the start, the Georgia Lottery Corporation has ignored the intent of the Act, never awarding less than 50.5% of net proceeds as prize money and only three times, early in the program, transferring 35% or more in net proceeds to the Georgia State Treasury. In fact, in 2010, the Lottery Corporation paid out 62.9% of all revenues as prize money, an astounding 39.7% more than the intended amount specified in the controlling legislation.

Net proceeds transferred to the State Treasury in 2010 were 26.1% of lottery proceeds, or only 74.57% of the intended amount as specified in the controlling legislation. Put another way, 35% of the 2010 lottery proceeds of $3.39 Billion would be ~$1.19 Billion or approximately $306 Million more than the $884 Million that was actually transferred.

What shortfall? The only shortfall is that which the Georgia State Legislature has allowed to be created by its irresponsible legislation and by the Governor’s contemptible, inbred cronyism with regard to the purely political appointment of members of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Lottery Corporation, The Georgia State Board of Regents and The State Board of Education.

My research indicates that very few of the Board Of Directors of the Georgia Lottery Corporation have backgrounds that would indicate an understanding of the academic or financial needs of a majority of students who qualify for the HOPE, or the parents of children who attend Pre-K programs. They seem well qualified to serve as directors for a public for profit corporation, well qualified as business professionals, as corporate counsel or financial officers, but without any understanding of the purpose for which the Lottery exists. If I am incorrect in this assumption, the Governor and Legislature would have no need to visit this issue, write and pass HB326, and enact the draconian “tax increase” on the middle class that the bill’s requirements entail; not to mention the hardship and heartache that its passage has placed on thousands of self-supporting students and single moms.

The disingenuous statements by the Chairman and former Chairman of the Board of the Georgia lottery Corporation defending the need to increase prize money, employee over 200 persons, spend profligately on advertising and marketing, pay the chief executive of the lottery corporation millions in bonuses over the years, and all this to increase sales are absurd. Gambling is addictive. Like alcohol and cigarettes, the Corporation need only make available the opportunity to buy lottery tickets, and HB326 actually reduces the commission paid to vendors, the very places where the opportunity to buy lottery game tickets are offered!  A member of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Lottery Corporation is the son of a member of the University System Board of Regents, which has received at least $400 Million in lottery funds for projects that should have been funded through more normal revenue sources. This is conflict of interest at the highest levels of government, and the pathetic thing about this is that those in high places owe their allegiance to political parties, their positions to campaign donations and partisan political work. Who represents the middle class? Who of these nabobs earns less than $50k a year, has a child or children in college?  Which of them drives an 8 year old car, commutes to work at $3.50 a gallon, waits out the last three or four days of the month for the next paycheck? Are any of them a single mom, who now will have to give up a half shift because the Pre-k has cut back its hours from 6.5 to 4 a day?  I know that none of them are self supporting students, non of them will have to give up hours of academic research and paper presentation time to work a second or third job, because their books and fees, costing a thousand dollars or more each semester, are now not covered by their HOPE Scholarship.

Which of the members of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Lottery Corporation, The University System Board of Regents or the State Board of Education, political appointees all, could even show they would qualify for the HOPE Scholarship and further, demonstrate that they would have maintained the HOPE Scholarship over their baccalaureate degree studies?

The Legislature and the previous Governor wasted Billions of Dollars on Education to no good result. The Legislature and this Governor now have written and passed a bill, HB326, that will make it much more difficult for the most worthy Georgia Students to spend the time necessary to truly become scholars, the educated and motivated workforce that our future demands. They have made the environment that is so important to our children shorter and more stressful, and obviated a necessary socialization process that they indignantly called “recess.”

And they call themselves “conservatives!”

MIDDLE CLASS “TAX” INCREASE

Most importantly, they have managed to “tax” the financially hard pressed Middle Class of Georgia to the tune of $100’s of Millions of Dollars a year!

The slew of fees, ever increasing in variety and cost under the direction of the Board of Regents, can easily average over $500 per semester, and books easily the same amount. That’s an immediate deduction of $2,000 a year in disposable income for the parent of one child receiving the Hope Scholarship. For those fortunate enough to be earning $50,000 a year, that is a 5% increase in money paid the state for a service offered, and that is a tax! The percent can be much higher for those with lower incomes; those good parents who have encouraged their children to do their best, to excel academically, to be good citizens. This “tax “ is the Governor’s “reward” for their caring encouragement; for a real reward they should have donated to a political party and sought a Board Seat!

And at the end of every press release, an insult to the intelligence of every HOPE Scholar, every honor student, every Georgian who actually worked and studied and achieved that baccalaureate degree, we are told that Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship is among the most “generous” in the Nation, and it would appear that each and every Legislator and of course, the Governor is responsible for this generosity.

While I know that many good ‘ole boy Legislators like to gamble, even at times with their own money, though not normally, their $2.00 Mega Millions ticket, or $10.00 Scratch to Win card frankly doesn’t pay the bills. It’s the tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Georgian s who wagered a portion of their own after tax income to buy $3.39 Billion worth of lottery chances in 2010, and most of them did it knowing that if even if they didn’t become an instant millionaire, they were helping a kid somewhere in Georgia who deserved it. The citizens of Georgia are generous, not the  so called “conservatives” who wrote and passed and signed HB326 into law.

Enduring HOPE? How much more “HOPE”less stupidity can we endure?

 

http://www1.legis.ga.gov/legis/2011_12/pdf/hb326.pdf

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