Georgia college students turning to food stamps

Despite what Newt thinks, “impoverished college student” is usually a redundant phrase, and during the recession, with tuition and fees rising and HOPE Scholarships diminishing, many Georgia students are struggling financially.

WXIA is reporting on a growing trend among these cash-strapped college students: applying for food stamps to help make ends meet. Persons who qualify get $200 a month worth of assistance from the state, which is separate and unrelated to any other financial aid they receive. (Federal financial aid forms—FAFSA—ask students to report on food stamps and other public assistance received, but answers don’t affect eligibility for federal aid.)

The story is short on numbers of students and the amount of money involved, but reporter Jon Shirek plans a follow-up. He notes that Michigan has cut 30,000 students from its food-stamp rolls at a cost savings of $75 million annually.

The timing of the story, coming during the General Assembly session, is interesting. Will it be used as bait for lawmakers to introduce legislation barring college students from receiving food stamps? Or will  state leaders see this practice as legitimate and acceptable? (I suspect that they won’t.)

To read a previously published article (Jan. 24) on the subject in Georgia State University’s Signal, click here.

UPDATE: WXIA has posted the rules for students applying for foodstamps. The state of Georgia requires students to be employed at least 20 hours a week (or fulfill a similar requirement) in addition to taking classes at least half-time, so it’s not a program for slackers.

Oh, that Newt

Newton Leroy Gingrich

I try not to devote too much time to covering presidential politics, but they keep dragging me back in.

As the parent of two college students, I am well aware of the time, effort, and money involved by all parties in getting people through college. It’s important that students have a financial stake in their  education. I also recall a study a few years back that showed parents who had worked their way through college were more empathetic and financially helpful to their college-bound sons and daughters than were parents who had gotten an easy ride themselves. I saw this play out firsthand.

Well, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has something to say on this matter. (Actually, he has something to say on every matter. Hey, they don’t call him “Speaker” for nothing.)

It turns out that it’s not just those inner-city grade school slackers who won’t mop the floors that irritate Newt’s sensibilities. Now he’s taking on spoiled, lazy college kids. Why, back in the day, when he was studying white history at Tulane …

Oh, read it for yourself.

The Washington Post reports:

Asked about the high cost of college, Gingrich said that today’s students are being coddled, with luxury dorms and lavish extras, such as lobster nights in their dining halls. And he praised institutions such as the University of the Ozarks, which incorporate work into their financial aid programs.

“Students take fewer classes per semester. They take more years to get through. Why? Because they have free money,” Gingrich said. “I would tell students: ‘Get through as quick as you can. Borrow as little as you can. Have a part-time job.’ But that’s very different from the culture that has grown up in the last 20 years.”

Or maybe it is not so very different.

In a 1995 profile for Vanity Fair, author Gail Sheehy discovered that Gingrich financed his own education largely via the hard work of this then-wife. And when things got tight, finding a job was not high on his to-do list. Sheehy wrote that Gingrich turned first to his adoptive father for help, and then to his biological one:
Newt, who avoided Vietnam with student and marriage deferments, resisted taking a job. During his college years, Newt called up his father and stepmother to ask for financial help. His stepmother, Marcella McPherson, can still hear his exact words: “I do not want to go to work. I want all my time for my studies… Bob Gingrich told me he will not help me one bit. So I wondered, would you people help me?” Big Newt began sending him monthly checks.

Dolores Adamson, Gingrich’s district administrator from 1978 to 1983, remembers, “Jackie put him all the way through school. All the way through the PhD …. He didn’t work.”

Read more.

Battery charges dismissed against principal

Well, something happened that day between Chattahoochee High School Principal Timothy Duncan and middle school student Calvin White, but the physical contact didn’t constitute a criminal offense, a Sandy Springs judge has ruled. In essence, Duncan was found to have operated within his authority to maintain order.  You can read and view the story here.

To see the original November post, click here.

School rejects fundraising group’s $55,000 gift

A parent group wants to give $55,000 to a school to build a new playground. The school’s administration doesn’t want it. What gives?

The controversy at DeKalb County, Georgia’s Smokerise Elementary School highlights some of the problems attendant to the advent of school foundations—private fundraising and philanthropic organizations that are separate from the school system and PTAs.

If they can’t agree on priorities, what are school leaders and fundraisers going to do?

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

It’s not quite a fight on the playground, but a DeKalb County school and its parent-run fundraising organization are at a stalemate over building a new play area at Smoke Rise Charter Elementary.

At stake is up to $55,000 that the Smoke Rise Elementary Foundation (SREF) has raised specifically for a new playground, including a major donation from a nonprofit that specializes in building them.

But school officials don’t want to use the money for a playground. They say it’s needed for technical and computer labs, among other things. They argue that because Smoke Rise is on a list of schools that will be rebuilt with SPLOST money, a new playground is a waste of money.

Foundation members said school officials demanded they turn over their funds for other uses. School officials deny that.

“We have no authority over the funding that the foundation collects,” DeKalb spokesman Walter Woods said. “But the playground is not a priority.”

SREF President Karen Weitzel, however, said that at a special meeting Monday night, Smoke Rise principal Aaron Moore and Allen Armstrong, the head of the school’s governance council, basically demanded that her group turn over the money.

“They told us it was not our business how they spent the money,” Weitzel said. “We were told that we raise the money, give it to them and not to question it. I was shocked and disagreed. We don’t blindly write checks to the governance council.”

Read more.

Remembering the Forsyth County March for Brotherhood

Note: Brambleman, my novel about Forsyth County, Georgia, has been published as an eBook. Check it out.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Hosea Williams’s second Forsyth County March for Brotherhood. Last week, I posted a long piece that included a historical account of the civil rights protest.

Over the years, I’ve talked with participants in that march (there were somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 overall). The thing that stands out in their accounts was the hatred they faced from a small but extremely vocal (and sometimes violent) faction of counter-protestors—Ku Klux Klansmen, neo-Nazis, right-wing skinheads, and their Rebel-flag waving sympathizers.

One of the marchers, Sherri Carbone-Cruz, sent me her account last night:

I am originally from Atlanta, now living in Oakland, CA. At the time of the March, I was 26 years old and lived in Meriwether County. I rode up on a bus with a group of church members, including Rev. Wright, from Tennessee, and was the only white on the bus. I will never forget the banners of support and people cheering from the overpasses of the interstate. We had one scare going up, as apparently someone threw something at one of the buses ahead of us and the State Patrol initially thought it was a gunshot. The atmosphere on the bus was very tense after that, and one of the instructions Rev. Wright gave was for the men to keep the women in the middle of the line, and “you protect our ladies.”

Arriving there was almost a surreal experience. I will never forget some of the signs that some of the residents were holding up: “Niger (sic) go home!” Some of the more hateful ones were being held by small children. But the one I will always remember most is the local with duct tape over his mouth, holding a sign that said “Forsyth Resident Not Allowed to Speak Out Against Racism.” The march itself was quiet on our end, but you couldn’t miss the sound of the KKK chanting and ranting at the courthouse. There were a couple of people injured from being hit with objects thrown at us. And I will definitely never forget who brought up the rear—the Guardian Angels.

DUI lawmaker a frequent feeder at lobbyists’ trough

Rep. Kip Smith, R-Columbus

Remember Kip Smith (R-Columbus), the Georgia legislator recently charged with driving under the influence? What made his arrest even more interesting is his sponsorship of a bill that would require welfare recipients to undergo drug tests.

Turns out Rep. Smith is not what you’d typically call a “good government type” or “reformer.” Instead, the 29-year-old lawmaker is the fresh-faced, plump-cheeked son of a powerful politician who wasted no time taking his place to feed at the lobbyists’ trough. In fact, he had been out with lobbyists the night he was arrested.

According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Smith won a special election in 2009 to claim the seat vacated by his father, former Georgia DOT Commissioner Vance Smith. Since arriving for his first legislative session in January 2010, Kip Smith has accepted nearly $10,000 in lobbyist meals, trips and gifts.

Gifts included $740 for lodging at Amelia Island Plantation on the northeast Florida coast for the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores 2010 convention; $1,130 in tickets to Atlanta Braves and Falcons games and the Atlanta Zoo; and dozens of meals, drinks and other entertainment expenses.

Mitch Ambler of the Georgia good-government group Citizens Helping America Restore Government Ethics said Smith’s arrest, combined with the sums that lobbyists spend on him, “raise a red flag with me.”

Since his arrest, Smith has drawn opposition in the Republican primary from Columbus businessman John Pezold.