ATLANTA -- After fast movement by the State House on Gov. Nathan Deal's HOPE Scholarship program proposal, three Senate Democrats offered their own proposal, even as the State Senate began work on the governor's bill.
Senate Minority leader Robert Brown (D-Macon), Sen. Jason Carter (D-DeKalb County) and Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) spoke at the State Capitol Wednesday afternoon and laid out their plan for what they called "HOPE for the Future."
Acting as spokesman for the group, Carter said the plan would restore HOPE for up to 94 percent of eligible families in the state.
They said their plan would enact a $140,000 per family income cap for eligibility, which would be tied to Georgia Lottery revenues.
GET HELP: Live HOPE Help Desk during 11Alive's News special Losing HOPE at 11 pm Wednesday
RELATED: College students protest HOPE cuts outside State Capitol
The "means-based" program would permit students from Georgia's wealthiest families to receive "forgiveable" low-interest loans, and to qualify for the Zell Miller Scholarship -- which Deal introduced in his initial HOPE proposal last week. The loans would be forgiven for students who become STEM teachers in Georgia's public schools after graduating college.
The proposal would still eliminate payments for books for most HOPE students -- though those receiving the Zell Miller Scholarship would have all fees, including books, paid.
Carter said this would expand the Zell Miller Scholarship to the top 3 percent of graduates from all of Georgia's high schools, without regard for grade point average or SAT scores. Carter said it would reward the best and brightest from all of Georgia's communities.
The proposal would restore all funding for Georgia's Pre-K program. The Deal plan would cut Pre-K funding, and cut full day programs to half-days.
In addition, the Democratic proposal would require the Georgia Lottery Corporation to increase revenues going into the state's Education Fund by 2 percent -- that figure is presently at 26 percent. Carter said that nationally, the average is more like 30 percent. The proposal would also tie all Georgia Lottery Corporation bonuses to monies going to education as opposed to revenue received by the corporation.
Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) insists that the proposal must move swiftly through the Senate, just as it breezed through the House.
"This needs to be passed by the Senate as soon as possible," Rogers said. "Thousands of students in the state of Georgia need to make decisions about their future plans for the fall."