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Lottery surplus: It’s all about HOPE

The Tennessee LotteryAmerica, a land of many opportunities, has both real and perceived problems in communication between the have’s and the have-not’s. As citizens of this great country, we must never forget the trials and tribulations our ancestors witnessed as they worked to carve out our heritage. Many worked in the fields while others were viewed as “privileged” to work in the homes of their owners.

One might believe I am only referring to the plight of the blacks. That is far from the truth. Throughout the history of the United States, there were servants of all ethnicities and both genders.

I make this statement as a prelude for my response to Leaf Chronicle editorial (12.31.07). The editorial addressed the division of funds generated by the Tennessee Lottery to fund the HOPE Scholarship program. The apparent position of the writer was that anyone who can not maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average doesn’t deserve a chance to achieve a college education. Let me remind that writer that there have been presidents of this country who had less than a 3.0 GPA, and some who had no formal education at all.

The Tennessee Lottery was enacted as be a carrot for those children and their families who are not financially capable of providing an upper level education for their children. Basically, it was enacted as a beacon of hope to the underserved population of our communities.

Although we (humanity) can be quick to condemn individuals who look and act differently from the way we’ve been taught, it serves no purpose to deny our children an education simply because they failed to meet a standard we arbitrarily set.

Setting the GPA at 3.0 is simply a means of establishing a permanent underclass within our society. In other words, as long as we have those who cannot meet our standards, we will have the workforce that can be preyed upon to do the menial tasks we choose not to do.

In 2005, our state legislators voted to sanction a lottery system to generate funds for use in assisting our youth in the realization of the American dream: “an opportunity to acquire a college education.” With our approval, Tennessee was moving in the direction of becoming an inclusive state. Modeling the lottery after the neighboring states of Georgia and Kentucky, officials put in place a program that would soon become a catalyst to help the state’s disadvantaged children become productive citizens.

Lately, a growing trend is focused on taking away this beacon of HOPE. There are those who feel the monies collected as a result of enacting the Tennessee Lottery could be used for other purposes. According to the Leaf Chronicle opinion, building schools should be one of those alternatives.

The writer of the editorial surmised that a child who maintains less than a 3.0 GPA is not worthy of receiving support from the HOPE Scholarship Fund. This position, I believe, is based on personal bias and ingrained indignation for the child who is struggling to get out of a cold bed in the morning, dress him- or herself and make it to the bus stop because they hope a better day is just over the horizon.

That horizon includes the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship, established to give deserving children a means of divesting themselves of the drab conditions they are forced to survive in each day of their lives. To these children, HOPE means they do have a chance to do better; they can strive to work for employers that will pay them more than minimum wage. It means not having to live from paycheck to paycheck. It means being able to afford to buy fruits and vegetables, having a real family, being able to afford medical insurance for themselves and their families, being able to provide dental care for themselves and their family, owning a nice car and being able to afford the fuel and maintenance required to maintain it, owning versus renting the house they reside in, and allowing them to build a retirement fund to be left to their children and their children’s children upon their demise. Believe it or not, ALL of these quality of life elements require an education.

Americans that I respect have vision, integrity, and pride. Let us stop stereotyping those who are less fortunate than we are and start encouraging our youth to reach for the stars. Simply put—Lets keep the HOPE in the Hope scholarship program.

Jimmie Garland, Sr.
Jimmie Garland, Sr.http://www.freewebs.com/jimmiegarland/
I am a civil right activist/Advocate. I currently serve as the President of the Clarksville Branch of the NAACP. I am also the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP 2nd Vice President. I am an elder of my church, True Vine WGC, and the Vice President of Big Brother Big Sisters of Clarksville. Have represented the CMCSS District 5, As Schoolboard Representative.


  1. Mr. Garland, the only problem I would foresee is now they are trying to use the surplus money to start programs to help better prepare these students for college. I thought that’s what high school was for. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that if these programs are implemented, the first year there fails to be a surplus, taxes will be raised to accommodate the programs. It’s for the kids will undoubtedly be the catch phrase. It’s tough; no one is questioning that as evidenced by the 75% drop out rate. Perhaps some negotiation and compromise such as paying for half the tuition of students who fail to meet the 3.0 is possible, I don’t know, but why not try it and see what happens?

  2. HOPE scholarships are all about hope, about opportunity and the potential to be, to fulfill dreams. Not every high school student is college material; nor are all college students Dean’s List material. Not carrying a 3.0 GPA is not a crime worthy of fiscal punishment.

    I had to choose between work and college at many years ago, returning to college in midlife to finally realize my dream. I am also the grandmother of one HOPE scholar with ambitions in marine biology and the grandmother of another who falls just shy of the HOPE funds but is no less a dedicated, articulate and worthy student with strong intentions of being a college graduate with a good career in earth science and geology.

    The HOPE scholarship WILL make a difference in her ability to get the education she wants and deserves. It will make a great difference to a great many students who are a few tenth of a point from a qualifying GPA. I strongly support a 2.75 or a 2.5 GPA at least through the first year, if not the first two years; give hundreds of these aspiring college students a chance to fly in the realm of higher education. To link the HOPE scholarship to a 3.0 GPA is to tell all college students across the state that their 2.4 or 2.7 or even 2.9 GPA is unworthy.

    In December, at the Democratic Holiday Party in Clarksville, the consensus among party members, potential and current office holders was that the standard should accommodate students at least at the 2.75 level. I will hold them to that objective.

    As for the building of schools, if city and county and state planners paid as much attention to infrastructure of our city as they do to the building lot count and the number of building permits so cavalierly issued, they would have foreseen and properly planned for the population explosion that is now burdening our schools with overcrowding and creating myriad other related problems in municipal infrastructure.

    Don’t place that lack of planning and foresight on the backs of high school students’ dreams of a better future. Keep the HOPE scholarship in its place as a source for thousands of students who would otherwise sacrifice their dreams.

  3. Scott..

    I understand your logic but do not think it is applicable under this scenario. Most of us attended public school. I would assume it is safe to say many of us graduated from high school and went on to be productive citizens of our communities.

    My family was not able to pay the cost associated with the education I received from the public school system. For example, I had four children to graduate from the CMCSS School System. It takes approximately $6-7K per year to educate a child. Not once did I show up on the doorsteps the first day of school and present my $28K to the Director of School for them to educate my children. All I did was pay my taxes and the rest of the community took up the slack.

    Now I am not opposed to having my taxes raised to support the education of my grand children, your children/grandchildren or anyone elses because I know that when I needed your support you were there for me and my family.

    The reason the drop out rate at many colleges is so high is due to students having to work to support families as well as themselves while trying to get an education. The 50/50 proposal would simply lead to more dropouts.

    Am I saying give the children a free ride? By no means. I am saying we should provide those students who are sincere about getting an education the opportinity without exceptions.

    HOPE is all many of the children have. Let’s not take it away….

  4. Mr.Garland, I actually had this discussion with my father last week. He’s a pretty staunch liberal democrat, BUT he has grown tired of the government using the “kids” as an excuse to raise taxes. He said that he has no kids so why should his tax dollars go to pay for their education. I asked him who paid for his when he was in school. I’m not opposed to helping people at all, especially helping them get a better education with VOLUNTARY tax dollars. The problem is expanding government with new programs, that after a brief period become a necessity. The 50/50 would lead to more drop outs, but it would also lead to more degrees than 0/100.

  5. General comment:

    New programs? Let’s call this new plan to build new schools with scholarship money a new “program…”

    And let’s say that the war in Iraq is a new “program” that is quickly becoming an “entitlement.” I don’t want my tax dollars paying for that atrocity but they are. If we (as in the President’s “we”) had not mired our country in what plays like Vietnam redux at a cost of BILLIONS of dollars, we would have the money to upgrade our high schools, fund any student who wanted a wanted a college education and build new schools too … and we would have affordable housing, universal health care, and myriad services that meet the needs of our own citizenry from infancy to old age.

    That aside, lottery money is the people’s money, freely spent with the most notable intent of funding scholarships.

    Around the world industrialized nations are funding higher education and placing the highest importance on an educated workforce for the future. Both college and high tech training. It is an investment in their people, their countries, their economy.

    Across the board at the state and national level, legislators and administrators are consistently calling for an increasingly educated America for the 21st century. They won’t get it by pricing our students out of college or by ending or diverting money intended for scholarships that will help these students succeed. Let government officials put their money where their plans, hopes, dreams, and the future of America lies — with our students.

  6. Scott…

    Your are correct in stating that politicians will use the shortfall of funds needed to support our children to fund their pet projects. Especially, when funds get low due their negligence or spending indiscretions. In such cases, we are suppose to call their lack of judgement to question. It happened many time while I was on the local school board. It was wrong then and it’s wrong today.

    The trips that the Mayor and his associate made to Mexico was a great example of waste, fraud and abuse of government funds. I say waste because that trip provided no visible benefits for the citizens of Clarksville. What really was the purpose? Is he trying to entice more citizens of Mexican decent to come and establish residence in Clarksville? Is there some viable economic connection that exist between our city and Mexico that the local citizenry need to be made aware of? If the trip was necessitated because he and his associate needed a vacation, they should have paid out of pocket for their vacation and not fleeced the local taxpayers.

    I doubt if either of those questions could be answered in the positive. Especially, since at least one of the sitting council members have expressed their disdain against immagrants who currently resides in the area.

    We must continue to question the misjudgements made by members of our legislative delegations, whether local, state or national. Failure to do such means we sanction the waste, fraud and abuse exhibited in the performance of their OFFICAL elected duties.

    As starters, we need to question the need for a marina, the constitutional validity of the eminent domain ordinance that’s currently in effect for a 2 mile radius of the downtown sector of the city of Clarksville, excessive christmas tree lights,the need for a new council chamber since the building that currently house the mayor’s office has a floor the was supposed to have been converted into a council chamber room, etc. Maybe the bank told them that the chamber in that building was a no-go!!!

    Yet, we must continue to support the education of our children by insisting that funds raised through the TN lottery, to support the education of our children, are spent for that purpose and that purpose only. Building school and other use of those funds would, in my humble opinion, invalidate the will of the citizens of teh soverign state of Tennessee who voted in favor of changing the TN Constitution to allow the lottery to become law.

    As for challenging the need for a tax hike to continue the HOPE Scholarship, even I would object to that. But I would support the raising of my taxes to support the education of our children, if there is a real need for the change in the tax rates.

    Still, I VOTE to keep HOPE alive!!!!

  7. “I would support the raising of my taxes to support the education of our children, if there is a real need for the change in the tax rates.”

    That sounds like me! I have questioned the Mayor repeatedly regarding this issue. He told me via e-mail that he still believes it was the right decision and had he not gone, people would want to know why. I find that hard to believe. Who are those people? I asked him repeatedly how this “show of support” in any way benefitted the City. I have yet to get an answer. He has said that probably 98% of the people agree with the decision…….that sounds very high, about 97% high if you ask me. I have suggested he do the right thing and return the money, but he hasn’t. When he was on Newschannel 5 I called in and asked him again, and got the same response as the e-mail. I’ll forward it to your e-mail account so you can get a good laugh!

  8. Thanks Scott…

    I truly believe grassroots organizations to be the conscience of our system of government. If we do not question our representatives when they appear to be wrong we are being negligent in our duties as citizens of this great country.

    Our democratic system of government may not be perfect but it affords us the opportunity to help regulate the actions of our government.

    We must continue to be adamant in holding our government accountable, whether it’s the Council, Commission, Mayors, state representatives, or our national representatives. They all have an inherent responsibility to respond to our request for clarification of laws passed or ordinances created.

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