Georgia’s lottery-funded education programs will be getting a boost in Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget proposal.
The governor said Wednesday he wants to add 10 days to the state’s pre-kindergarten schedule, a $13.1 million increase that will restore it to a full 180-day calendar. Deal also said that in the budget proposal he’s unveiling next week HOPE scholarship recipients would get 3 percent more money than they did last year, which would cost $13.9 million.
“We do have the money in the lottery and we’re hopeful it can continue to grow and we can make even better announcements in the future,” he said in an interview with Channel 2 Action News.
The governor and lawmakers have backed sweeping changes to the lottery-funded programs in recent years to keep them fiscally afloat amid slowing lottery revenues. The pre-k school year was shortened from 180 days to 160 days in 2011 and two students were added to each class. Ten of those days were restored last year.
Under Deal’s plan, pre-k teachers would get a raise thanks to the longer schedules.
Lawmakers also overhauled the popular HOPE program in 2011, approving legislation that reduced payouts to prevent the program from running out of money. The governor said the program would go bankrupt if the changes weren’t implemented.
The Georgia Lottery’s strong year is fueling the governor’s push. The lottery, which recently approved online sales, took in $3.8 billion in ticket sales. That provided about $900 million for HOPE and pre-k programs — about $55 million more than the previous year.
While the 3 percent increase in HOPE scholarship money will provide relief for students and their families, it doesn’t keep pace with rising tuition costs.
Tuition across the University System of Georgia increased by 3 percent in fall 2011, when the lower HOPE payouts took effect. Tuition jumped again this academic year, with most students paying 2.5 percent more, though a few institutions hiked rates as much as 6 percent.
Staff writer Laura Diamond contributed to this article.
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