Looking back on the late Zell B. Miller's legacy

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - We are remembering the life and legacy of one of Georgia's most influential governors - Zell Miller.

Miller revolutionized education in the state by bringing the lottery to Georgia  25 years ago, which provided funding for Pre-K programs and creating the HOPE scholarship. In 1993, he spearheaded those lottery-funded programs.

In 2007, WTOC sat down with the former governor. He said one of the main reasons behind the scholarship program was to keep more students in state for college, hoping they woulld stay in state to work.

"We were losing this brain power, and I thought that this would keep these really good students here in the state," Miller said.

It did just that. Over the last 25 years since it started, more than 159,000 students from the Coastal Empire have stayed in state for HOPE, and more than 127,000 children have attended Pre-K - the most important program in Miller's opinion.

"Pre-K in the long-run might even mean more than HOPE, and I hope that in the long run, I see that happen someday," Miller said in 2007.

Over the years, HOPE has become a victim of its own success because of a rise in demand.

State lawmakers have proposed different bills to boost education funding, including the Casino gambling bill and legalizing marijuana. However, the only changes include reducing the tuition amount from 100 percent to 80.

Today, Georgia is still proud to be one of the few states to even offer education scholarships through a lottery program - and it was all because of Mr. Zell Miller and the opportunities that millions of students in Georgia have had.

Copyright 2018 WTOC. All rights reserved.