ATLANTA -- Lottery-funded HOPE scholarships to private college students declined more than 30 percent last year because of new rules forcing them to maintain a "B" average like colleagues at Georgia's public universities, according to a Council for School Performance report.
The council's annual report on the lottery also showed education spending is increasing in Georgia beyond the money for college scholarships, pre-kindergarten classes, school technology and construction supplied by the lottery.
For instance, during the fiscal year before the lottery started in 1993, state government spent 50.09 percent of its budget on education. This year, that figure will be 54.5 percent, excluding lottery funds, according to the report.
"Georgia's commitment to using lottery funds to supplement rather than supplant money spent on education has distinguished the state's lottery as one of the nation's best," said Gary Henry, director of the council and Georgia State University's Applied Research Center, which compiled the report.
Mr. Henry said the major component of that increased spending has been the series of teacher pay raises championed by Gov. Zell Miller.
Mr. Miller announced Tuesday he will propose a fourth consecutive year of 6-percent pay raises for teachers during the upcoming 1998 General Assembly session.
Mr. Henry noted about 70 percent of education spending is in salaries.
The council's report showed two groups of students received fewer HOPE scholarships last year: private college students and Georgians attending public two-year schools.
Under HOPE, students who maintain a "B" average get free tuition and books at public schools or $3,000 at private colleges.
The number of students at public two-year colleges receiving HOPE scholarships declined from 9,844 to 9,742 during 1996-97 after jumping 47 percent the previous year.
At four-year public universities, the number of HOPE scholars increased nearly 13 percent, from 36,940 to 41,719.
In total, public college and university students received $86.3 million in HOPE scholarships last year, up more than 80 percent from 1994-95.
However, HOPEs at private schools dipped last year because of new requirements.
Previously, private school students got lottery money without having to maintain a "B" average. Last year was the first in which good grades were required.
The number of students receiving HOPE grants at private two-year schools declined from 7,047 to 4,165, about 40 percent, according to the report. At four-year private colleges, the decline was about 31 percent, from 22,808 to 15,647.
However, two things prevented private schools from losing money on the change: HOPE grants for private college students increased from $1,500 to $3,000 last year, and students who had previously qualified under the old system but couldn't earn a HOPE scholarship last year still got $1,500.
So despite a lower number of scholars, lottery money to private schools increased from $35.3 million to $36.7 million.
Mr. Henry said the drop in private HOPE scholars was expected because, before the requirements were instituted, everyone received a grant.
"What this says is what everybody suspected ... that we were holding private schools to different standards than public schools," Mr. Henry added. "Everybody knew there were students in private schools who wouldn't