ALBANY — Gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter wants to save Georgia’s middle class from what he says are the failed policies of Republican Gov.Nathan Deal, especially in the area of education.
The grandson of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said during a campaign stop in Albany that in nearly four years as governor, Deal has slashed billions of dollars from public education, resulting in teachers being furloughed, larger class sizes and diminished individual attention for struggling students. That sort of “misplaced” budget priority, Carter said, represents a danger to Georgia residents.
“Talk to any farmer in rural Georgia,” Carter said. “He’ll tell you that, for obvious reasons, you should never eat your seed corn. We reap what we sow, and down the road we’re looking at a disastrous harvest.”
According to Carter, Deal has shortchanged grades K-12 and also restricted funding for vocational schools and college-qualified students as well, resulting in a drop in technical college enrollment from 195,000 enrollees to 150,000 in two years.
Carter, a Democrat, said if elected governor in November, he would establish a separate “no-touch” budget, strictly for education — a type of trust fund to ensure adequate investment in education.
Carter said he would examine the merit-based HOPE Scholarship, funded by the Georgia Lottery, which Carter says is “vanishing” under Deal’s watch. In 2012, for the first time in decades, enrollment at two-year, four-year and technical colleges declined throughout the state, Carter said.
Carter said he would also revamp the Zell Miller Scholarship for students seeking a college degree. Currently, the strictly merit-based scholarship requires a minimum academic grade-point average of 3.7, plus an SAT of 1,200 or above. Carter said he would abolish the SAT requirement and make the scholarship available to anyone in the top 3 percent of their high school class.
To account for possible funding deficiencies, Carter said that academically qualified students with greater economic needs should be given priority for the scholarship.
“The top 3 percent should be able to get a full ride,” Carter said. “Gov. Deal says the assistance goes to the best and the brightest, but that always seems to mean students predominantly from the Atlanta area going to the University of Georgia or to Georgia Tech. Changing the rules could mean a lot for the future of rural Georgia.”
According to Carter, Georgia has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, with one of every four children living in poverty. The state also has a high rate of unemployment, he noted. An unavoidable result is the disappearance of the middle class, Carter said.
“Adjusted for inflation, the average Georgia family makes $6,000 less today than they did 10 years ago,” he said. “That’s a real pay cut. Our median income has slipped from 18th in 2002 to 33rd today. Middle-class incomes have fallen twice as fast in Georgia as they have in the rest of the country.”
Carter said he disagrees with Deal’s decision to reject Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. He said Georgia House Bill 990, enacted by the Deal administration, would complicate any proposed acceptance of Medicaid.
Carter said HB 990 would prevent any Georgia governor from implementing Medicaid expansion without a “thorough debate and vote by the legislature.”
For those states that agree to accept the expansion, the federal government pays all costs of the plans until 2017, at which time the federal government’s share would fall to 95 percent. In 2020, the federal share would fall again to 90 percent and remain there, Carter said.
“Georgia pays out $9 million every day to the federal government,” Carter said. “The Medicaid money would have our money coming back to us instead of going out to other states. We should be using that money to create jobs and support community hospitals, not to play politics.”