Rep. Keisha Waites Sponsors Legislation for Free College Tuition to Children of Fallen Heroes

ATLANTA – State Representative Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) today announced the introduction of legislation that would provide free college tuition to children of fallen public safety workers. The Georgia State Firefighters Association, Fraternal Order of the Police, and a host of public safety officials from around the state will be joining Rep. Waites to lobby statewide for passage of this legislation.

“The families of our dedicated public safety workers bear a daily burden when their loved ones don a uniform or badge to ensure our safety, freedom and overall quality of life,” said Rep. Waites. “If these families lose a loved one, I firmly believe that it is our responsibility as Georgians to care for them.”

Several public safety personnel have been killed in the line of duty in recent months. Among these tragic losses are two Atlanta Police Department officers, Officer Shawn Smiley and Officer Richard Halford, who lost their lives in a tragic helicopter crash. The metro Atlanta area also lost Officer Sean Callahan, 24, who was shot in the line of duty after serving four months with the Clayton County Police Department.

Rep. Waites actually consulted and worked closely with Terra Jones-Smiley, the wife of fallen Officer Shawn Smiley, on the legislation to ensure that the family of a fallen officer had an opportunity to provide input and be heard.

Rep. Waites intends to expand the current legislation so that the Georgia Student Finance Commission would be provided with more resources to cover the entire tuition for each student’s attendance to any higher education institution within the University System of Georgia for four years. Rep. Waites is proposing to fund the increased cost by adding a voluntary $1.00 donation option to the filing forms for Georgia Income Tax forms and Georgia Motor Vehicle Driver’s License forms.

The Georgia Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant currently provides college tuition grants for children of fallen public safety heroes, but with the increasing cost of education, the $2,000 annual grant may not cover the expense of tuition fees. The grant also limits each student to receiving a total of $8,000 over four years.

To qualify for the Georgia Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant, recipients must have been dependent of a fallen member of police, fire, or hero worker who died while on duty, and be registered as a full-time student in a program of study. The grant also requires that recipients maintain at minimum GPA of 2.5 and may not receive the scholarship after the age of 22.

Rep. Waite’s legislation would supplement the Georgia Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant by providing for addition funding to cover any tuition expenses not covered by the grant.

“All members of the Georgia General Assembly, regardless of party affiliation, represent members of Georgia’s public safety and communities served by them,” said Rep. Waites. “This is something, from my view, that is a very small part of what we can do to honor the families and officers who have given the ultimate sacrifice. We just want to provide a little bit of certainty in removing the financial burden of a higher education.”

Representative Keisha Waites represents the citizens of District 60, which includes portions of Fulton and Clayton counties. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2012, and currently serves as a member on the Transportation, Juvenile Justice (formerly Children & Youth), Public Safety and Homeland Security, Interstate Cooperation, and Special Rules committees.

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