Increased state educational funding must be a priority

During his State of the State speech last week, Gov. Nathan Deal promised to increase educational funding in a big way.

Deal’s plan calls for increases in K-12 education, as well as expanding the HOPE grant for technical college students. Let’s hope he stands by that pledge and the General Assembly passes the necessary funding. For far too long, the state has chipped and hacked away at the education budget.

Businesses look to several factors when deciding where to locate. Chief among those are taxes and a skilled workforce.

That’s why it’s heartening to see one component of Deal’s plan is to create the “Zell Miller HOPE Grant” for students attending technical schools. The proposed grant, similar to the Zell Miller scholarships at universities, would cover 100 percent of tuition for technical college students who maintain a 3.5 grade point average.

As it stands, the HOPE program has reduced the amount it pays toward tuition, and books and fees are no longer covered. Deal’s plan is to fund the HOPE Grant and HOPE Scholarship at 103 percent of last year’s funding.

In addition, Deal wants to expand the number of technical fields of study that already are eligible for 100 percent tuition. And in the K-12 arena, he wants to add a whopping $547 million. Those funds would be used to restore instructional days, eliminate furlough days and increase salaries.

That is, as they say, a big chunk of change. And it’s also needed. Education is one area where there is never enough money.

Education should always remain a top priority for the state. Those first-graders will grow up to be the leaders of future communities. Those technical college students will be the skilled workforce that companies so desperately need.

As Mark Whitlock, CEO of the Coweta County School System’s Central Education Center, said in a recent interview about the expanded funding, “This looks like a good financial move for our state. It will pay off, since our companies need people with those technical skills.”

We agree.



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