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Meeting focuses on HOPE, pre-K cuts

Lawmaker calls for public input

POSTED: March 7, 2011 1:03 p.m.
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State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, works in his office in Atlanta.

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After changes to the HOPE scholarship recently were proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal, parents, educators and students began to protest the idea of reducing the program’s funds and limiting eligibility. The governor’s plan also would cut pre-K sessions by two hours.
 Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, hosted a town hall meeting Friday evening at the courthouse annex in Hinesville to address the changes that may be coming in the academic arena. The normally empty commissioners’ boardroom was packed with concerned educators, parents and Liberty County Board of
Education members.
“Since that vote [of using lottery funds for HOPE], you can’t find anyone in the state that is against the lottery,” Williams said. “Trust me, you’re in the majority,” he told audience members regarding their concerns about cuts.
The proposed changes include cutting back pre-K sessions to half days and requiring high school students to carry a grade-point average of 3.7 or higher and earn an SAT score of at least 1200 to receive a full ride to college as long as they can maintain an undergraduate grade-point average of 3.3 or higher. For students with a 3.0 average or higher, HOPE would still cover 90 percent of tuition, but books and fees would no longer be covered.
Williams said Deal plans to host a news conference Monday to further educate Georgians on the bill.
The representative said he suspects the conversation mostly will focus on pre-K issues because so many parents and educators have spoken out about the training students would miss out on if days were cut in half.
“It [the HOPE scholarship] is intended to give hope to those who might not have been able to go to college and it’s been wildly successful,” Williams said.
He also encouraged residents to pick up their phones and call the governor’s and the lieutenant governor’s offices since the proposed changes fall under governor’s office.
“That’s where your calls need to go — to the governor and the lieutenant governor,” Williams said. “The ball is in their court. Keep the phones and e-mails alive.”
Jamal Wright, a 17-year-old senior at Bradwell Institute, attended Friday’s town hall meeting with his mother and listened to William’s updates. Wright said his government teacher recently discussed the possible impact the legislation would have on seniors in the class.
“A lot of students were close-minded about it [the changes,” Wright said. “I just hope the economy gets better and the students will raise their standards to be able to get the assistance they need.”

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