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Latarski - The real HOPE
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If hope floats, then there may be hope for the HOPE Scholarship. Despite budget cuts and other issues our august leaders have determined are critical, finding a way to keep lottery money flowing into education has emerged as the pivotal issue during this session of the General Assembly.

For those who may not remember, it was Gov. Zell Miller who pushed to get the lottery passed in Georgia and he did so by — dare we use the word — earmarking the money for higher education. Ultimately it was considered the perfect tax because if you don’t want to pay then you don’t play.

The idea was for lottery money to become a supplement fund to education, not the singular brick upon which the educational system is built. Even with this promise there was serious moral opposition and it was barely approved by the voters.

Naturally many of the opposition were the first in line to get money to help pay for their children’s education. Morals can be bought if the price is right.

As time marched on parents and students embraced HOPE like it was the long lost uncle who died and left them a key to the bank. The HOPE Scholarship became lost in political rhetoric and many people came to view the program as — dare we use the word — an entitlement.

People came to expect the check, and let us not even talk about grade inflation, discrepancies between school systems or funds wasted on students who flunk out after a year.

Now we hear screams of agony now from some who are dismayed at the prospect that the money being made available may be cut. The idea parents and students may be forced to pay for more of their education costs has affected them like finding a snake in the toilet.

College has always been expensive and it is not difficult to find people who had scholarships, floated loans, worked full or part-time jobs or a combination of all to pay for their education. There is also a long line of people who joined the military, knowing they could end up being shot at, but took the chance because of the educational opportunities being offered.

HOPE, which stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally, was never designed to pay for everything or everyone. It was envisioned as a merit based program designed to help bright and qualified students continue their education and go to college, especially in cases where they may face financial hardships to do so.

It should not be paying for glorified babysitting or remedial studies. It does not stand for Having Obtuse People Entrenched.

I would much rather see funds go to a bright person who wants to go to technical school and become an auto mechanic than fund a semester of remedial class for a student who has not demonstrated the skills necessary to be in college.

Remedial students should have an opportunity should a school accept them but not on the HOPE Scholarship dime.

HOPE is a wonderful idea but it must be couched in the real world, something people accustomed to having someone else foot the bill seldom find attractive.

Yes, it would be nice to be able to fund everything but that is not realistic, especially in times when lottery revenue, just like the economy, is floundering.

And for all the parents out there with children in grade school, you might want to dust off the deposit slips for that old college fund that’s been sitting around.


Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at