News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam today received a report from the Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships, outlining recommendations for a potential program to expand educational options and improve achievement for low-income students in Tennessee.
The report comes a year after Haslam appointed the nine-person Task Force–made up of state education leaders, legislators and representatives from public and private schools–to consider a program to offer publicly funded scholarships for low-income students to offset tuition costs at participating schools in Tennessee.
The Task Force was not meant to evaluate the merits or disadvantages of a scholarship program. Instead, members spent months studying the public and private education landscape in Tennessee, as well as opportunity scholarship programs in other states, to determine potential design elements that would best fit within the broader context of the education reform work taking place in Tennessee. The report outlines various options for the governor’s consideration.
“I want to thank the members of the Task Force for the time and effort they spent researching and deliberating what an opportunity scholarship program could look like in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “I look forward to reviewing the Task Force’s recommendations ahead of the upcoming legislative session.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lottery officials announced Monday that the lottery has raised more than $323 million this year for state education programs, the eighth consecutive record-setting year.
The figure is a 10.2 percent increase — or roughly $30 million — over last year’s then-record of $293.4 million, officials said.
Data from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, which oversees lottery-funded programs, show more than 600,000 scholarships have been awarded to in-state education institutions since the lottery’s inception in 2004.
Total education funding since then stands at more than $2 billion.
“Across the corporation we’ve focused on our mission to serve Tennessee students and their families by maximizing proceeds for the education programs funded by the lottery,” said Rebecca Hargrove, president and CEO of the lottery.
A Republican-backed proposal that failed during the recent Tennessee General Assembly sought to cut students’ lottery scholarships in half, depending on lottery revenues.
Knoxville’s Rep. Harry Brooks abandoned Monday the effort to pass a controversial bill that could have cut lottery-funded scholarship in half for an estimated 5,000 students.
“The thought is we don’t need to do it right now,” said Brooks after taking HB2649 “off notice” during the final meeting of the House Finance Subcommittee.
The bill, as filed, would have required college students to have both an ACT score of 21 and a 3.0 high school grade point average to get a $4,000 annual scholarship.
Currently, a student can qualify by having either one. Both are not required.
Under the bill, those who have one, but not both, of the qualifications would get only a $2,000 scholarship.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A revised proposal that would make cutting some students’ lottery scholarships in half contingent on lottery revenues is advancing in the Senate.
The Republican-backed measure passed the Senate Education Committee 7-2 on Wednesday. The companion bill was to be heard in the House Education Committee later in the day.
The original legislation sought to reduce by 50 percent the award for students who do not meet both standardized testing and high school grade requirements.
Opponents have said the bill is unnecessary because the lottery’s education proceeds have increased 4 percent since 2005, with about $10 million more coming in a year.
Under the new legislation, the lottery scholarship requirements won’t change if the $10 million is sustained through 2015.
On Tuesday, Tennessee Lottery officials announced record sales of $130 million in February. Note: Democrats say the amendment represents a victory, but perhaps doesn’t go far enough. News releases from Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney below.
Wise sayings from our governor Tuesday as recorded by Tennessee reporters. Secrecy Balance
On keeping secret the ownership of companies receiving cash grants from the state for economic development: “I understand the concern about public money and people wanting to understand who is ultimately benefiting from that. But I think everybody needs to understand, none of our competitors is asking for that information or making that public. So if we do that, we will be at a decided disadvantage,” Haslam told reporters… “You can go talk to people who we’re dealing with and they will say, if that’s the deal, then we’re out. That’s why you have the legislative process, to try to get it right and get the right balance.” Gun BalanceOn “guns in parking lots” legislation: “This is one area where Republicans believe in property rights and they believe in Second Amendment rights,” he said. “Getting the balance right is important.” In Search of Understanding
On changes in lottery scholarship rules to favor home schoolers: “I would need to understand what the reason is for the distinction, which I haven’t heard yet,” Haslam said.
From Richard Locker:
Hoping to end criticism over their plans to tighten eligibility for lottery-funded scholarships, Senate Republican leaders said today they would delay the tighter standards if lottery revenue remains up by $10 million a year through the spring of 2015.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham and Senate Speaker Ron
Ramsey said they will present an amendment tying the new eligibility standards to lottery revenue when the bill is reviewed in the committee Wednesday.
The amendment declares that the tighter standards the bill would impose on freshmen entering college in the fall of 2015 would not go into effect if the lottery sustains the $10 million increase in education proceeds that it’s generating in the current fiscal year through the spring of 2015. If revenues fall short of that goal, the new eligibility standards would go into affect.
The bill sponsored by Gresham, R-Somerville, would require public and private high school students to earn both a 21 or higher on the ACT college entrance exam and a 3.0 or higher grade-point average in high school to qualify for the $4,000 per year Hope Scholarship at four-year universities starting in 2015.
Under current law in effect since the program began in 2004, students qualify for the full award by achieving either one of those two standards.
The bill would allow students who achieve one but not both of the standards to receive a reduced $2,000-per year grant that they could use either at two- or four-year schools and then earn the full $4,000 starting their college junior year if they maintain eligibility standards through their freshmen and sophomore years.
The bill is an attempt to close a projected annual deficit of $17 million to $20 million between the Tennessee Lottery’s proceeds for the scholarships and what the scholarship program will be paying out. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission estimates that 5,257 fewer students, or about 22 percent of first-year Hope recipients, would qualify for the full award in the first year it’s in effect. Students already in college would not be affected.
But the scholarship program has over $360 million in reserves, built up in the early years of the program when the scholarships were gradually phased in over time. Critics of the planned changes say that’s enough to cover the deficits well into the 2020s when the deficits are projected to decrease.dramatically. Note: News release below
A Republican plan to alter the lottery-funded Hope Scholarship program would make it easier for home-schooled students to qualify for the $4,000-per-year grant than students in traditional public and private schools, reports Richard Locker. As originally filed, a controversial bill sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, would toughen eligibility standards for both traditional and home-schooled students, but a Gresham amendment up for consideration by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday would relax the bill’s original provisions for home-schoolers.
Meanwhile, House and Senate Democratic leaders on Monday afternoon called on Gov. Bill Haslam to help them block the overall bill, saying that it would deny full Hope Scholarships to 5,257 students in the 2015-16 school year, when the bill would go into effect if passed.
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission predicted about 6,600 would be affected in the second year, and that about 22 percent of students who would qualify under current standards would not be eligible if the change is approved.
News release from House/Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE (March 5) – Tennessee Democrats called on Governor Bill Haslam Monday to stop a legislative effort to cut more than 5,000 lottery scholarships.
“This legislation is short-sighted, unnecessary, and harmful to our students and our economy,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle (D-Memphis). “The Governor has stated that college isn’t for everyone, but that it needs to be for a lot more Tennesseans than in the past. Under this bill, college will be something else for thousands of Tennesseans. It will be out of reach.”
The bill would mandate that students meet requirements for both grade-point average and standardized testing in order to secure a full HOPE scholarship at a four-year university. Currently, students must meet one of the two standards.
Under the proposal before the legislature (Senate Bill 2514), 5,257 students would be ineligible for a full lottery scholarship, meaning they would have to shoulder a greater percentage of their tuition as the cost to attend college continues to rise. The news comes as lottery officials report record revenues and the lottery reserve fund stands at about $330 million.
Despite record Tennessee lottery sales and a huge lottery reserve fund, state Sen. Dolores Gresham of Somerville said today she is pushing ahead with a controversial plan to make it more difficult for students to win the popular $4,000 a year Hope Scholarships.
More from Rick Locker: The Senate Education Committee that Gresham chairs heard an updated financial report today from Tennessee Lottery executives who said lottery proceeds for education are already up $10 million for the first seven months of the fiscal year over the same period a year ago. Lottery President Rebecca Hargrove told the committee she believes the lottery can sustain that increase in the future.
That’s more than half the previously projected $17 million to $20 million annual gap between the lottery’s educational proceeds and the cost of the scholarship program that the state is trying to close. The scholarship program has reserves of over $300 million built up in the early years of the lottery, so if the annual gap is cut to $10 million, the reserve would cover annual deficits for 30 years.
But Gresham, R-Somerville, told reporters after the committee heard the latest financial report of Lottery Corp. that she will still press ahead with her plans to tighten eligibility for the Hope Scholarship. The plan would require students to obtain a high school grade-point average of at least 3.0 AND score at least 21 on the ACT college entrance test to qualify for the basic $4,000 per year Hope Scholarship at four-year universities.
Since the program began in 2004, students qualified by achieving one of the two standards – either a 3.0 high school GPA or a minimum 21 ACT score.
Asked if she intends to proceed despite the new lottery revenue projections, Gresham said, “Sure. Absolutely. We’re spending more than we’re taking in. You can’t do that. Right now we have sufficient reserves to take care of Tennessee’s lottery scholarship students for a few years more, which is why the recommendations of the Lottery Task Force would not take effect until 2015.”
The first signs that HOPE scholarship changes made last year are hurting some Georgia students and colleges are starting to crop up just as Tennessee considers imposing even tougher academic requirements of its own, according to the Chattanooga TFP. Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s enrollment is down about 10 percent — from 6,407 to 5,777 — and school officials said the lottery-funded program is largely to blame.
“Students are more leery of taking that first step of going into postsecondary education, whether to seek retraining or an associate’s degree, because they know the extra expense is there,” said Steve Bradshaw, associate vice president of student affairs.
In the winter quarter of 2011, 95 percent of Georgia Northwestern students received HOPE funding. That number fell to 81 percent for the current spring quarter.