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Governor's race: Carter has to clarify stand on HOPE. Deal has to make amends with teachers. Did either do so last night?

I watched the WSB-TV gubernatorial debate last night in which Democrat Jason Carter and Republican Nathan Deal had several fractious exchanges over the HOPE Scholarship and education spending.

In what was their final debate before the Nov. 4 election, the candidates spent too much time challenging the other's facts and too little elaborating on their own platforms. Libertarian Andrew Hunt stayed above the fray, refusing to get drawn into the squabble.

Based on the emails and conversations I'm having with voters, Carter needs to be clearer on HOPE, and Deal needs to tone down the rhetoric on his education spending at a time when many teachers are still suffering furloughs.

I  am sharing these reader comments as they reflect common concerns among the voters focused on education issues. (There are many voters for whom education is not a priority.)

If I were the candidates, I would be speaking to these issues in the final stretch:

First, here is a parent expressing reservations about Carter’s desire to consider a need-based component in the HOPE program:

I truly want to believe that HOPE will remain safe for the “middle class” if Carter becomes our governor, as he is my preferred candidate, but I will remain most diligent on the issue.  I have asked his campaign on several occasions to define Georgia middle-class by a specific income level.

When Carter speaks about becoming a champion for the "middle class," I need to know if he’s referring to my family. Is this too much to ask?  To date, I have not received an answer and this remains the primary reason I refuse to contribute to his campaign when there is a knock at my door.

On a federal level, my family represents the middle-class in America.  As a resident of Atlanta, I do not believe it is fair to average my income with rural Georgia.

My daughter came home from college this weekend and experienced the thrill of voting for the very first time yesterday. Her final decision to cast a vote for Jason Carter did not come easy. To say the least, the four eligible voters in our family (two current college recipients of HOPE and two that work hard to pay the hefty difference) had an in-depth political discussion Saturday night.

Should you cast a vote for the candidate that has the potential to damage you financially in a very significant way with a potential HOPE income cap or should you look at the entire platform and ultimately choose the candidate that you believe represents the majority of your beliefs and values?

Sadly, three of us remain conflicted and undecided.

And here is a reader questioning Deal on his statements about supporting teachers and improving their healthcare:

I want to bring an issue to your attention in regards to a political flyer I received that supports Gov. Nathan Deal. Gov. Deal states he has invested $114 million into teacher healthcare benefits. This pamphlet proceeds to state how much he has supported teachers over the past few years through other means as well.

I am extremely angry that Deal has decided to lie to the public and make them believe that he supports teachers. If you recall, there has been a major backlash on healthcare benefits through the formation of TRAGIC (Teachers Rally to Advocate Georgia Insurance Choices.)

The healthcare funds that are meant to be spent on State Healthcare benefits were actually taken for other purposes. To be blunt, our healthcare benefits suck. And they have gotten worse every year. The governor has the nerve to say that he has improved healthcare benefits. Really?

I have called and written the Governor's Office for an explanation and have yet to hear anything. On behalf of many teachers out there, we would like an explanation.




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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.