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In the past, education was saved for the wealthy and elite who could afford to pay for a higher level education. In early America, higher level education at an institution was reserved for the wealthy white males and as time elapsed and women's suffrage and African-American suffrage came to the for-front of social and political issues, education was opened up to everyone. Because education was opened up to everyone, more and more people sought a higher level of education at both public and private institutions. Not only was receiving a higher education important, beginning education also took a place in the spot light of politics. Although education was opened up to everyone, not everyone had the required funds to pay for it. Being aware of this issue, Georgia Governor Zell Miller created the Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally Scholarship, better known as the HOPE Scholarship, and the pre-kindergarten program. The HOPE Scholarship and Pre-Kindergarten program has opened up opportunities for those who wish to begin academically strong and those who strive to continue on to a postsecondary school; however, though it seems like a great opportunity there are many different aspects that come with receiving the scholarship and pre-school education and like most good things, there's controversy over its effectiveness.
Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally began with Georgia Governor Zell Miller who sponsored its beginning in 1993. Before its establishment in 1993, the HOPE scholarship made a journey through the government system. The start of the Hope scholarship began in 1991 when the Georgia General Assembly passed an amendment allocating lottery funds specifically for educational purposes which was later ratified by voters the following year. Governor Miller was concerned with the level of education in high school and colleges. Due to his concern, he allocated most of the funds from the lottery to create the Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) Scholarship. With the establishment of the HOPE scholarship, Governor Miller hoped to establish three main goals. The most prominent goal was to improve the quality of education in Georgia by giving incentive to students to perform better academically and to maintain that standard in college. The incentives, along with need-based, that came with the HOPE scholarship when it first began was a paid two year tuition for students who graduate with a letter average of a "B" and whose family income was less than sixty-six thousand dollars per year(Barlament). With the growing success of the Georgia Lottery, legislators allowed the income cap to expand to one-hundred thousand dollars a year in 1994. However, the need-based aspect of the Hope scholarship was completely erased by the General Assembly in 1995 making it a full merit-based scholarship. Along with the incentive based on merit, Governor Miller hoped that the scholarship would encourage the top-performing students to remain in-state for college. The HOPE scholarship encourages this by only granting the scholarship to in-state institutions such as the University of Georgia, Georgia Technical Institution and Georgia State University. By making in-state a requirement when receiving the scholarship, Governor Miller has popularized the aspect of staying close to home and promoting the higher level education of Georgia institutions. The final goal of Governor Miller was to eliminate the barrier between college enrollment of whites and African Americans, and between socioeconomic classes. This goal was achieved by the HOPE scholarship by eliminating the need-based part of the scholarship. By eliminating the need-based aspect, HOPE was opened up to those who were willing to put forth the effort to support higher level education no matter the race or social standing. With the establishment of the HOPE scholarship, Governor Miller was able to achieve these goals; however, obtaining the scholarship has become more difficult throughout the years.
The HOPE scholarship was created off the basis that the Georgia Lottery would be prosperous for years to come but with economic changes this basis was proved to be faulty. With the falling state of the economy came a falling participation in the Georgia Lottery which is the funding for the HOPE scholarship. As Governor Sunny Purdue wrote in a letter warning his colleagues, "As you may be aware, the HOPE and other Lottery-funded Program expenditures have outpaced the growth in Lottery revenues for the past several years."(Governor Purdue). With the warning of Governor Purdue came the action of Governor Deal. The oncoming crisis of dwindling funds was addressed on March 15, 2011 by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, who signed off on the changes of the scholarship. The changes made to the HOPE scholarship were as follows: it maintains the current merit-based HOPE Scholarship for students with a GPA of 3.0 but does not cover the full tuition; the HOPE Scholarship award, and the HOPE grant will be adjusted annually based on the revenue received by the lottery; it created the Zell Miller Scholarship that covers full tuition for those who graduate with a 3.7 or higher, have received a combined score of at least 1200 on Critical reading and Math on the SAT or a combined score of 26 on the ACT . The changes made in 2011 made receiving HOPE harder and paying for college more difficult for those who do not meet the one-hundred percent tuition coverage. Also instead of the original coverage of room, board and books that came with the scholarship, it only covers tuition.
The average cost of a student in Georgia for the 2011-2012 school years is about twenty-thousand five-hundred and seventy-six dollars which includes tuition and fees, residence halls, seven-day meal plan, room and board, books and supplies and living expenses.(See Table 1) With the HOPE scholarship only covering tuition, a HOPE recipient is expected to pay, out of pocket, about three-thousand dollars a year. Also written in the new legislation are requirements for the future. It states that those who are graduating after May 1, 2015 must have taken at least two advanced courses such as advanced math or advanced placement courses and students graduating after May 1, 2016 need up to three advanced courses and by 2017 students must take four advanced classes to receive the scholarship. These increased requirements are also due to the increase in people receiving the scholarship due to a better education system.
Education has become one of the main platforms for any campaign. In particular the Democratic Party has certain opinions on the HOPE scholarship. A scholarship, like the HOPE scholarship, that is put towards higher level education is fully supported by liberals. President Clinton was a prime example of the liberals' enthusiasm for higher level education. In 1997, President Clinton signed a tax package that included tax credits toward the HOPE Scholarship. The tax subsidies included in the package were estimated to help thirteen million Americans enroll in a college institution of their choice after high school. The economy has put strain on the funds but the liberals are fighting for HOPE's survival in the Senate,
Democrats - who hold the minority in the Legislature - filed several bills aimed at revisiting at HOPE scholarship this session. Among their proposals is a bill that would restore an income eligibility cap and another that would make the top 3 percent of all high school graduates eligible for the new Zell Miller Scholarship, named for the program's patriarch.(Haines)
The Democrats position on saving the HOPE scholarship is geared towards bringing back the income cap that was first established with the founding of the scholarship. President Barrack Obama, the leader of the Democratic Party, showed his support for student aid during the campaign toward his reelection. President Obama's main focus on student aid is the Pell grant where his policies went from a ten thousand dollar tuition tax credit to a doubling of Pell grant scholarships. Though President Obama supports student aid, he does not specifically support the HOPE scholarship. His budget cut proposals are geared toward preserving the Pell grant and not the HOPE scholarship. The Democratic proposals of returning the income cap, increasing the requirements and offering partial aid differ from the views of the Republicans.
The Republicans are very defensive when the agenda turns to altering HOPE eligibility. In contrast with the Democrats solution of reinstating the income eligibility cap, Republicans believe that the scholarship should stay merit-based and those who receive it are those who earned it. Senate for Higher education Chairman Buddy Carter of Pooler Georgia expressed his view by stating that, "HOPE students are the best of the best; these students have earned it by academic success."(Torres) In the Republican plan to reform the HOPE scholarship program, one of the major changes is to limit the amount that the scholarship will cover. It would shift from one hundred percent tuition coverage to ninety percent tuition coverage with further cuts in the future years. This plan would be temporary until the lottery sees an increase in participation which controls the funding for the HOPE scholarship. Although the Republicans disagree with the budget cuts, they do agree on Governor Deal's plan of 3%. Governor deal promised this 3% in January of last year which involved restoring 3% of HOPE scholarship tuition payments. The Republicans and the Democrats have always differed in views and in the case of the HOPE scholarship; their differences have spurned questions for thousands of high school seniors across the state. Though the Republicans are focused on preserving the HOPE scholarship, they also are very supportive of early childhood development that the lottery also funds.
The HOPE scholarship is not the only program benefitting from the lottery or being affected by the economy. Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally not only provides monetary support for college seeking high school graduates, they also provide for entry level education. Along with scholarship funding, Governor Zell Miller started the Pre-Kindergarten program in 1992 as a pilot program that served 750 at-risk four year olds. In 1993, Georgia became the first state to offer a free pre-kindergarten program which resulted in an increase in graduation rates. The successful program sparked the initiative of Governor Sunny Purdue, who shared Governor Miller's enthusiasm on education, and with the Georgia General Assembly created Bright from the Start.
Bright from the Start is the main pre-kindergarten program offered in Georgia. This program along with many others is funded by the Georgia Lottery. Though it is funded by the Georgia lottery, it follows the public schools system with certain modifications. One of the main aspects of the pre-kindergarten program is that the public and private institutions have to apply to receive funding to begin a pre-kindergarten program in their school. The application process to begin a pre-kindergarten program has a lengthy checklist involving eligibility, curriculum and guidelines. Institutions eligible to apply to be a Georgia Pre-K program provider are child care centers with the capacity to hold at least twenty-two children include local school systems, charter schools, and any other public institution. When discussing the curriculum, the applicants can choose from a list of approved curriculums and must provide their choice of curriculum with the application. After receiving approval the program must be familiar with and implement the guidelines listed in the Pre-K Providers' Operating Guidelines. The pre-k programs, like the scholarship program, have certain requirements that need to be met in order for a child to attend the school.
Once a pre-kindergarten program is started, the school needs children to be able to operate. Those children seeking a pre-kindergarten education must apply for entry. To be eligible for Georgia's pre-kindergarten program the child must be four years old on or before September 1 of the school year and must be a resident of Georgia, proof of age eligibility and residency must be provided, and the child must have hearing, vision, and dental examination certificates on file. Georgia's pre-kindergarten programs have the same criteria as public schools but entry into the program is needed. At the start of the program they operated on a regular school system calendar of one-hundred and eighty days with the length of a typical school day. But with the changes to the HOPE programs the days have been shortened from a six and a half hour day to a four hour day. Though there are eligibility requirements, the benefits from receiving a pre-kindergarten education are substantial.
According to the Center for Public education "â€¦young children who participate in high-quality programs enter more ready to learn than their peers"(Crist) and overcame the achievement they had before enrolling in the pre-k program. There is no question that starting education at an early age is a harmful thing. A yearlong study sponsored by Bright from the Start observed a random sample of one hundred Georgia pre-k classrooms and assessed the skills of 509 children. The study found that children showed exponential growth across all domains of education; language, literacy, math, general knowledge and behavioral skills. The educational benefits from an early childhood education are already known. In the February 2013 State of the Union address President Barrack Obama, praised Georgia for its priority in educating the young and the positive impact that a pre-kindergarten program has on preventing crime. A research report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, shows the positive impact of Georgia's pre-kindergarten program,
Quality pre-kindergarten programs help children learn to get along with others and begin school ready to succeed. Sixty-six percent of kindergarten teachers said children who attended prekindergarten are "substantially better prepared" to start and succeed in school. Research also shows pre-kindergarten programs later result in lower drug use, higher graduation rates, fewer families receiving welfare, and lower crime. Georgia has taken some steps in the right direction by funding a state pre-kindergarten program.(Fight Crime)
Positive feedback, such as that, encourages politicians to further support funding for this program. Because there is no publicly funded pre-kindergarten program, parents must pay thousands of dollars in tuition fees at private institutions.
Funding for the pre-kindergarten program is crucial in creating opportunities for early childhood development. Most parents cannot afford to send their children to private schools. In 2011, parent income of twenty- thousand dollars or less had a ratio of enrolled and not enrolled children of 33.30% not enrolled and 24.30% enrolled while parent incomes of seventy-five thousand dollars and over ratio was 14% not enrolled and 34.20% enrolled. (See Table 2)
These ratios have long term effects on the children. Those who go to pre-kindergarten are more likely to do better in school and go on to higher education where they will potentially continue the cycle of high income. Those children who do not have the finances to send their children to school go on to lower levels of education and continue the pattern of poverty. The pre-kindergarten program opens up the opportunity to the lower income families for a better education and an end to the poverty cycle. Most of the Senate agrees with the advantages that come with early childhood education and they show their continued support by passing bills that give the program full funding.
The Georgia Lottery and its funding towards education has been a blessing to the children of the state of Georgia. Governor Zell Miller, the creator of the HOPE scholarship and the pre-kindergarten program, was a savor to those who strive for a better education in the beginning and the future. The Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally scholarship and the pre-kindergarten program will, hopefully, be preserved no matter the views of both the Republican and Democratic Party. The future changes in the HOPE scholarship will be difficult for most to cope with and will make it harder to obtain but no one can predict the exact future. There may be fear that the programs will disappear. The funds in the Georgia lottery are showing an up and down patterns but with the help of the government, Georgia should be able to preserve this unique and beneficial aid.