The federal government is tackling welfare reform, and Georgia needs to follow

The federal government is tackling welfare reform, and Georgia needs to follow

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day … Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” And while this nugget of age-old wisdom seems like common-sense compassion to most folks, in reality most governmental welfare programs in America—though well-intentioned—are neither compassionate nor based in common sense. Instead of helping men and women become self-sufficient and take care of their families, these programs trap folks in cycles of generational dependency and poverty—and keep them reliant on the government for their daily catch. 

Despite this, there’s hope on the horizon. In a positive first step toward addressing the vast, unconnected, and dehumanizing welfare system that deprives people of the dignity that comes with steady and meaningful work, President Trump recently signed a sweeping Executive Order aimed at overhauling America’s broken welfare system. The ultimate goal is to scrap the existing collection of complex, wasteful, inefficient, and budget-breaking programs and agencies with a system that actually works.

And while it’s definitely encouraging to see comprehensive action taken at the federal level to tackle welfare reform, we believe that the best solutions to help our neighbors escape poverty occur at the locally. That’s why we here at Georgia Center for Opportunity are working hard to promote common-sense policy solutions in Georgia that restore dignity to welfare recipients. How? By consolidating confusing and overlapping welfare programs and designate a single agency to manage welfare cases—all while applying safeguards to weed out fraud and end benefit cliffs and marriage penalties that keep people from learning how to fish on their own.

Taken together, we believe these reforms will convert welfare into workfare and put Georgians squarely on a path that scholars call the “success sequence”’—a three-step approach that helps people turn their lives around by getting a good education, which leads to a stable job and in turn leads to a flourishing, successful home life. 

With more than 20 percent of Georgians on some form of public assistance, it’s more important than ever that we focus on overhauling welfare the right way—with compassion and common sense. It’s time to unravel decades of haphazardly cobbled together programs—each with conflicting interests, standards, and procedures—that cost taxpayers more than $23 billion annually and ultimately do not deliver the intended goal of teaching folks to fish for themselves for a lifetime.

Executive Order on welfare an opportunity to restore hope to welfare recipients

Executive Order on welfare an opportunity to restore hope to welfare recipients

News | For Immediate Release

April 10, 2018

Executive Order on welfare an opportunity to restore hope to welfare recipients, says Georgia Center for Opportunity CEO

ATLANTA – On Tuesday, President Trump issued a sweeping Executive Order urging the restructuring of America’s welfare system. It is an action that has been studied and mulled over for months by the White House.

Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) President and CEO Randy Hicks called the President’s action a “positive first step toward addressing a vast, unconnected, and dehumanizing system.”

“No matter how well intended many of these programs may be, they’ve often deprived people of the kinds of opportunities and life purpose we all desire,” said Hicks. “As federal officials begin the weighty task of considering reforms that will affect so many lives, we urge leaders to take bold steps that will allow its recipients to move out of poverty and onward to a life a self-sufficiency.”

In Georgia alone, almost 2 million people- twenty percent of the state’s population- is receiving at least one or more benefits. Additionally, total welfare spending in the Peach State stands at $23 billion annually.

Having produced many studies on the destructive effects of the welfare system on its recipients, the Georgia Center for Opportunity is committed to seeing the unintended consequences of the current system undone. Policy solutions that aim to restore dignity to welfare recipients and encourage employment include recommendations to consolidate overlapping welfare programs, designate a single agency to manage welfare cases, apply program integrity safeguards to weed out fraud, and end work and marriage penalties.

More information on the Georgia Center for Opportunity’s welfare reform research and reports cab be found at


For more information, contact Christy Riggins at or 770-242-0001.

Savannah Morning News: What real education reform looks like

Savannah Morning News: What real education reform looks like

This op-ed was originally published in the Savannah Morning News on March 26th. Check out the original post here.  

By Randy Hicks

Once again, it’s an election year. And as in the past, we’ll probably hear a lot of talk about the state of education in Georgia. But what does it really mean to have an excellent education for K-12 students? What constitutes real education reform that will prepare Georgia’s children for the jobs of the future and bring the benefits of competition to education?

Most basically, it’s a mistake to measure the quality of education by the amount spent on education. Instead, the quality of education must be measured by results. And that starts with two goals: First, finding the right school setting for each child. Two, ensuring that parents can take advantage of choice and place their child in that setting.

Every child is different. That’s why families should have a variety of educational options for their child. The goal of real education reform—of enhancing choice in education—is to ensure that families have high-quality options. Of course, this includes traditional public schools, but it also includes public charter schools (where Georgia’s programs are growing in popularity); private schools (including for children with special needs and those who benefit from the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship program); online education, homeschooling, and hybrid education options. Parents can then select the option or options that help their child learn and grow the best.

Fortunately, Georgians already favor choice in education. Now, as the campaign season is intensifying, the Legislature can prove their dedication to our kids by taking real steps towards education reform this year. For instance, lawmakers can raise the arbitrary cap on the tax credit scholarship program, as two bills propose to do. More parents want these scholarships, and more people want to give to make them a reality for Georgia’s children. The Legislature shouldn’t stand in the way. Special needs children, children with disabilities, and others can benefit from expanded scholarship programs based on choice.

As the legislative session winds down and the campaign season begins, I hope that voters will take the time to inform themselves on education issues and ask the candidates where they stand and why, rather than simply being satisfied with proposals for higher spending for public K-12 schools. A vibrant education system in Georgia will include high-performing public schools all across the state, but it will include independent schools as well. Each sector should be committed to excellence, and parents should have the option of choosing the educational settings that are right for their child.

Seven years ago, Gov. Nathan Deal called on Georgians to “be frugal and wise. Let us restore the confidence of our citizens in a government that is limited and efficient.” His words ring true with a spirit of promoting true education reform which contributes to both of the Governor’s goals – frugality and efficiency. Public education, too, will benefit from the competition that true choice brings, and the results will benefit both Georgia’s children and Georgia’s taxpayers. The competition that comes from true choice for parents will improve all schools, making education in Georgia not only more frugal and efficient but also much more effective.

And that is the point of true education reform: more choice, and better schools, for everyone. Let’s keep that in mind and keep education reform a priority in this political year.

Executive Order on welfare an opportunity to restore hope to welfare recipients

Georgia Center for Opportunity lauds approval of tax credit scholarship expansion

News | For Immediate Release

April 2, 2018

Georgia Center for Opportunity Lauds Approval of Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion 

ATLANTA – On the final day of Georgia’s 2018 legislative session, lawmakers gave final approval to a bill expanding the state’s wildly popular tax credit scholarship program. House Bill 217, championed by State Representative John Carson, lifts the program’s current cap of $58 million to $100 million over a span of ten years. 

The Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) had been a staunch advocate for the original bill, which first passed in 2009. Since its adoption, the program has increasingly suffered from over-demand, both from donors who were unable to give to the initiative and students who were unable to take advantage of the scholarship due to an arbitrary cap on the program.

GCO President and CEO Randy Hicks applauded lawmakers for taking a “bold stand for Georgia’s students.”

“For too long, too many kids have been waiting in line for the opportunity to attend a school that better fits their needs,” Hicks said. “By passing an expansion of the tax credit scholarship program, the Georgia General Assembly has set a standard of prioritizing students and providing hope to thousands of families for years to come.”

According to state law, the amount given per scholarship must not exceed the average state and local per-pupil expenditures. In 2017, that amount stood at $9,468, though the average scholarship awarded in 2015 was reported to be $3,425. 

“By raising the state cap another $42 million, you’re creating a potential situation where over 5,000 families at least can take advantage of this program, though it will likely be much more,” Hicks added. “That’s more than a number, it represents lives that will be changed for the better thanks to the passage of HB 217.”

House Bill 217 now goes to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk for signature. 


For more information, contact Christy Riggins at or 770-242-0001.

Session Wraps With Two Key Victories for School Choice

Session Wraps With Two Key Victories for School Choice

Expanded education options will soon be available to thousands of Georgia families, thanks to two measures approved in the closing hours of the General Assembly’s session last week. The last-minute approvals came at a time when school-choice advocates were losing hope that meaningful action would take place on parental school choice reforms this year. Both bills now await Governor Nathan Deal’s signature before becoming law.

The first measure, House Bill 217, nearly doubles the size of Georgia’s popular Tax Credit Scholarship Program beginning in 2019. Currently, the program is capped at $58 million per year, but the new bill raises that cap to $100 million. These tax-credit scholarships are available to help students from low-income, working-class, and minority families attend high-quality private schools that better meet their academic needs. More than 13,000 students in Georgia are benefiting from these scholarships right now.

Unfortunately, the bill also contains a “sunset provision” that pushes the cap back down to $58 million beginning in 2029. But lawmakers will have ample opportunity to eliminate that sunset over the next few years, particularly as demand for the Tax Credit Scholarship Program will undoubtedly continue to grow. Here at Georgia Center for Opportunity, we’ll advocate for eliminating this sunset to ensure the program remains well-funded perpetually.

The second measure, House Bill 787, authorizes more funding for charter schools, bringing them into greater parity with funding for traditional public schools. “This bill does not achieve full funding equity, but it is a significant step forward for Georgia students who are enrolled in a state charter school,” said Tony Roberts, President and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. “This bill will help ensure that students and families who chose a public charter school because it best meets the needs of their children will not be financially penalized.”

Although acknowledging these significant strides for school choice during the legislative session, school-choice advocates were disappointed that lawmakers fell short of passing House Bill 482. If approved, the measure would have made Georgia the seventh state to pass Education Savings Accounts (ESA), an innovative way for parents to pay for non-public educational options for their children.