A Get Schooled poster raises a good question about the new provision added to the HOPE bill at the last minute giving full tuition to each Georgia high school’s valedictorian and salutatorian.
Here is what astute poster “And the beat goes on” noted:
Local boards of education have policies that list the criteria one must meet in order to be valedictorian or salutatorian, but these policies can be easily changed. I believe there are 183 school districts, and if HOPE is offered to all valedictorians and salutatorians (which I don’t have a problem with at all), then there would be 366 students who would be automatically eligible for HOPE. However, if a district were to amend policies to allow an individual school to have as many as 5 or 10 valedictorians, then all of those students would be given the HOPE scholarship. Again, I wish all students who have worked hard and earned high marks could receive the HOPE scholarship, but that would defeat the purpose of changing the criteria for receiving HOPE. In fact, if I were a member of a board of education, and the state criteria for HOPE eligibility is worded in a way that gives HOPE to all vals and sals, I would definitely want to change school policy so that high-achieving students, regardless of SAT, would receive HOPE. Surely there is a state definition of “valedictorian,” but if there isn’t, I foresee lots of trouble ahead.
I asked the governor’s office about this and received this e-mail response from spokesman Brian Robinson, “We will work on this when developing the rules and regulations at the Georgia Student Finance Commission.”
As I noted in blogs on the Cherokee County mess, there are schools around the country that have as many as 38 valedictorians.
To appease rural legislators whose counties would sometimes have no students receiving full HOPE under the rigorous criteria of a 3.7 GPA and a 1,200 or better SAT score, Gov. Nathan Deal agreed to also extend the full tuition scholarship to each high school’s top two graduates.
But he didn’t say “top two.”
Having graduated from an eligible high school with a grade point average of at least 3.7 calculated in accordance with Code Section 20-2-157 and having received a score of at least 1,200 combined critical reading score and math score on a single administration of the SAT or an ACT composite scale score of at least 26; Having graduated from an eligible high school as a valedictorian or salutatorian;
Clearly, the Legislature thought that throwing in the top two students for full HOPE would not bust the bank. But based on the language of the bill that Deal just signed into law, the full ride would go to anyone who was valedictorian or salutatorian, even if the honor was shared by 15 students. Any lawyers out there disagree with my reading of the language?
With two tiers of HOPE, class rank is going to be a bigger deal for students. Next year, the students getting the lesser HOPE awards, HOPE Lite, can expect somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of their tuition to be covered, depending on what the Regents do on tuition hikes.
But is likely that students in the future will see HOPE Lite pay for a far smaller portion of tuition, perhaps as little as 50 percent. That means winning full HOPE becomes all the more important.
As I said from the start of the HOPE rewrite, we have taken a simple and direct concept and turned it into a maze. We’re only beginning to see the weird turns it may take — such as parents pushing schools to declare multiple valedictorians.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog
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