Essential programs like these will continue to be on the chopping block across the state if Georgia does not make a strong decision to contribute more money to educating our children.
Residents in DeKalb – and across Georgia – need to realize that education is not free. Our state will never advance unless we make a concerted decision to invest in our future and contribute more financially to improve our education system.
In DeKalb, we may ask our residents to pay another 1 mill in taxes to help educate the district’s nearly 100,000 students.
There also is an easy solution to help educate children throughout Georgia without taxing residents: Expand the Georgia Lottery. This would be a way to raise more revenue to fund pre-k classes and the HOPE scholarship – something that has helped send thousands of my county’s and the state’s children to college.
The Georgia Lottery Board has the authority to expand the lottery with Video Lottery Terminals in a secure facility. The proposal to build a mixed-use entertainment complex in Gwinnett County will generate more than $350 million a year for the HOPE scholarship, pre-k classes and other important educational programs. This is money that is currently going to other states. Georgians already spend an estimated $200 million a year gambling at venues in Mississippi, Florida, North Carolina and other nearby states that allow gaming. This is money that should be staying in Georgia to help our students.
In three years, the HOPE scholarship will pay for less than 50 percent of eligible students’ tuition costs. That number will continue to decrease, only hurting our students.
Decreased lottery revenue has also led to drastic cuts to pre-k. DeKalb and other districts rely on lottery dollars to fund most of the program. Last year, the state increased pre-k class sizes, cut 20 days and slashed teacher pay. This cut forced our district to have to use local tax dollars to supplement the program to minimize the impact on our students.
Research has shown that students who attend pre-k are more likely to succeed in school. A study by the National Center for Public Education found that children who attended pre-k scored higher on reading and math tests than children who did not attend pre-k. The study found that third-graders who attended pre-k had better reading skills.
Just last month, for the first time ever, Georgia’s lottery-funded pre-k program received a 10 out of 10 ranking from the National Institute of Early Education Research, which assesses teaching quality in early childhood education. Georgia was one of only five states to meet this exceptional standard.
This is something we should be proud of and continue. It is essential that we maximize the dollars to early childhood education by fully funding pre-k in DeKalb and throughout Georgia. One simple way to accomplish this is to bring more revenue to the lottery with a gaming facility in Gwinnett.
Please help our children get the best education available by encouraging the state to expand the Georgia Lottery.
Dr. Eugene Walker, a former educator, is chairman of the DeKalb Board of Education.