Today on the Senate floor, some Georgia lawmakers stood up to explain why they don’t want to save HOPE this year.
They gave a lot of reasons, including their support of Gov. Deal’s 25 new scholarships in three counties called the REACH scholarship. That’s enough scholarships for some politicians, I suppose.
But time and again, these lawmakers said that HOPE was created to make sure that every Georgia student who earned top grades would receive the scholarship. They proudly looked back to former Gov. Zell Miller and lauded his vision for creating a scholarship for every student “regardless of their family’s income.”
The problem is that their history books are wrong.
Zell Miller created the HOPE Scholarship to make sure that “bright students who would otherwise find it difficult to attend college” found their way to a college diploma.
Zell wanted to expand the number of student who could afford college, not to reward the students who attended the best schools in the wealthiest neighborhoods.
“The most critical long-term need Georgia faces is a better educated work force,” Zell said.
Creating that educated work force would require a scholarship that could put more students in college.
Zell saw that the cost of going to college was “soaring out of reach for most of our citizens.”
And to put an exclamation point on his intentions, Zell said the HOPE Scholarship is the “single best way to help our middle-income families. For them it is a pocket-book issue of major proportions.”
Unlike Georgia’s lawmakers today, Zell never said that the HOPE Scholarship should be awarded to the wealthiest families.
If the HOPE Scholarship were healthy and not on the verge of bankruptcy, then every student — regardless of family income — should receive the scholarship. The only reason we’re having this discussion is because the HOPE Scholarship is broken. It won’t be here for any students if we don’t make changes and return to the original intent of the program.
If providing the scholarship to every student becomes impossible, Georgia must make tough decisions about how to fix the scholarship program for future generations.
Ignoring the HOPE Scholarship is not a solution. Creating a new scholarship for 25 students in three counties is not a solution. And making up a new history for the HOPE Scholarship is not a solution.
It’s time to get real. Fix the HOPE Scholarship.