Photos of Wednesday’s Day of Action in Support of HOPE

Check out these photos from our March 2nd event at the Georgia State Capitol

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One thought on “Photos of Wednesday’s Day of Action in Support of HOPE

  1. IS HOPE LOST?

    We will lose hope. If ever there has been a time for uniform action it has been now. If ever there was a time to where our voices truly mattered and the actions thereafter were of a consequence to silence or uprising, it is now. This is the moment that affects us all and no longer can the bystanders that lean on the crutches of “it doesn’t affect me so, I don’t care…” or “ I don’t have a say so I might as well do nothing…” be dismissed of their accountability. Those that take no action are just as accountable as those that have construed this monster of a legislation that will very well castrate the hopes of hundreds of thousands of people fighting for that very thing – HOPE.

    The HOPE scholarship is one of the greatest mechanisms devised by Georgia legislatures in order to ensure the success of its citizens unimpeded by the shackles of finances. It is the “wheel” of education reforms and has created a level playing field to where if you have the drive and tenacity, you have the opportunity to succeed at the same grade as those that are born into privilege. The name HOPE is not at all taken out of context. The acronyms literal meaning in and of itself is a reality and the implementation of it has been flawless. Utilize people’s leisurely activities (lottery system) and have the proceeds of which go to the foremost beneficial system in the world (academia). The lottery system provides 100% of the funding for HOPE and also helps to finance Pre-K which as a community we have found to be outstandingly beneficial to the cultivation of successful children. The system has worked for almost 2 decades now and has reaped tremendous benefits, with over 1.2 million students since its inception.

    With the panic that ensued from the dawning of the economic crisis in 2008, we saw several of the programs under the Board of Regents fall under attack: university spending, ESL programs, and all other educational programs which resulted in a rise of tuition for those universities in order to make up for the lack of public subsidizing. Simultaneously, we saw a continuation in the increase of students eligible for HOPE scholarship, which under normal circumstances, is a positive. But the $500 million of inflation adjusted cuts to the Board of Regents over the last two years were a heavy blow to our education system. With tuition costs at increasingly higher levels; it is inevitable that HOPE expenditures will – and have – over reach HOPE revenue. But, let’s be clear about what the meaning of that is, because it is highly misconstrued.

    The Lottery system funding HOPE is not experiencing losses; conversely, it maintains the amount of participation at greater levels than it did in 1994 when HOPE was enacted. So, HOPE not being financed properly is not an issue at all and anyone telling you so, respectfully, does not have all the information necessary to draw an accurate assessment. The Lottery is fine and working. However, with student eligibility (different from awards) going up 24% over just the last two years alone all of which are paying into a system that has garnered very high tuition costs; HOPE is literally spending more than it can handle. Note: there is no revenue problem, this is a SPENDING issue. Increasing the price of lottery tickets will not remedy the issue, in fact, it will be harmful and increasing the revenue by any means – including horse racing – will only delay an eventual deficit spending in years to come. Inevitably, you will find yourself down this dark, dark hole again because the reason for the high spending has not been addressed, which is the rise in tuition costs. Now, let’s step backwards for a second.

    On March 3rd, I attended a Senate hearing in order to try to illustrate this thinking. I do not believe that the representative proposing this legislation is out to harm Georgians, even though I do think it alarming that he stipulates that you must have at a minimum a 1200 SAT score in order to be eligible for HOPE and even more alarming are the percentages of certain ethnic groups, coincidentally African Americans, that will be ineligible because of this one seemingly displaced and capricious stipulation (97%). No, I do not believe there is any indignation towards inner city Georgians within this bill even though it deems the vast majority of students from those areas that would otherwise be eligible ineligible because they couldn’t possibly meet the astounding GPA requirements stipulated. No, no I do not believe there is indignation – only a misrouted way of thinking. The current set of legislatures truly believe that the only way to rectify the HOPE expenditures is to have less people on HOPE, which is undoubtedly false. Let me remind you that democrats also signed onto this bill, and you should find out whom yours is and if they ran with the pack or stood staunchly opposing. At the meeting, the senators present did not make a rebuttal to the proposal I gave them, in fact it appeared as if they then understood the issue and had a “duh!” look of enlightenment about them. Now I could be wrong and they felt “Duh, who are you to tell us how are budgeting system works?! Of course all it takes is more spending towards Regents, that’s obvious!”

    Obvious it is! Depending on the angle at which you’re solving the problem. This bill deems that more students receiving HOPE awards is problematic and is the cause to the over expenditure; conversely, my proposal simply states that a lack of funding and cuts to Board of Regents is the cause to a spike in tuition costs which has resulted in more spending by HOPE to cover those costs, therefore, an increase of spending to Board of Regents would allow a decrease in tuition costs and advertently a decrease in the moneys spent by HOPE. Where do we get that money? We have more places than you think. I am a proponent of fiscal conservativeness and effective government. If there are programs that have proven to be inefficient; we need to pull out of it and free up our tax payer’s money in order to pay for what really matters.

    There are a host of programs that have not rendered the results desired and have become simply a burden, to name a few: The archaic law of no alcohol sales on Sundays not only inhibits the success of our businesses, it does nothing for the overall well-being of Georgia. Imagine if we were to legalize sales on Sundays and implement a 30% tax increase on alcohol sales, from $1.14 a gallon to %1.50. The total revenue from that tax increase alone from that one extra day, would amount to $50 million dollars a year. $50 million dollars which could effortlessly be reallocated to the Board of Regents, making an immeasurable leap towards lowering the egregious tuition spikes.

    A program of whose revisal is of upmost importance, which I believe is the most harmful to our society and budgeting and is responsible for one of the largest fiscal disproportions between education and prisons in our state; the incarceration of peoples that have committed non-violent crimes and drug related offenses. It accounts for one of the largest and dismal budgeting fallacies in our nation’s history and in the state of Georgia spending is loftily at hundreds of millions of dollars. We have a $323 million deficit for HOPE. Instead of incarcerating people that have marijuana, cocaine, or methamphetamine in their pockets, what if we fine those people and charged them to community service instead? Experts agree that the “war on drugs” has held no positive gains what-so-ever in regards to the crime rate; in fact, it is because it is criminalized that the crime exists at all. But, I’m not even embarking on that as of now. What I’m unveiling is the fact that %25 of our inmates are in jail because of drug possession alone and we tax payers spend over $340 million a year to keep them there. Wait a minute…we’re in a $323 million deficit for HOPE…and we would save $340 million a year…not to mention the $50 million…ahhh! The point is that spending towards the board of regents can be accomplished in a manner that is fiscally viable. HOPE can be saved.

    Unfortunately no one but my NEST affiliates and I, to the best of my knowledge, have approached the issue from this angle, which is unfortunate. We don’t have to choose the two routes that I presented today in order to finance the Board, because there are many. Whatever decision is made should be one of cost efficiency and slashing the accessibility of HOPE from hundreds of thousands is not cost effective, it is discouraging. My HOPE is that reading this will inspire the youth and everyone involved to take a more forensic approach towards this HOPE thing, because I believe the solution is truly in front of us, we’re just trying to solve it in a way that reinvents the wheel.

    —Emmanuel Morrell

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