SUWANEE - U.S. Rep. John Linder, R-Ga., talked to students at North Gwinnett High School on Tuesday morning, answering questions about the proposed FairTax bill and federal education spending.
Linder also answered questions about how much money he makes (about $166,000 a year, but he has to tap into his savings almost every month) and what type of vehicle he drives (a Lexus sport-utility vehicle).
But he chided a teen who asked him a question about Georgia's HOPE Scholarship, asking the student why he should help her go to college.
"Going to college is a privilege, not a right," Linder said, adding that she should get a couple of jobs and work her way through college, as he did. Those who do so appreciate the education more, he said.
"You're talking about a state program on which I have no authority, control or interest," Linder said.
Linder accepted a question from a student wanting to know how much is spent on education each year and how it is decided how much money goes to each state.
Last year, about $57 billion was spent on education, and the states with the poorer populations get more money than others, Linder said.
Education, he said, should be left to govern itself at the local level.
If the Department of Education was abolished, it would do more than save money, he said. If school systems governed themselves, Linder said more parents would get involved with PTAs because the organizations would have more control.
Also, SAT scores have dropped since the federal government became involved in elementary education.
Gwinnett's Board of Education has expressed a desire to have the flexibility to make decisions at a local level.
Gwinnett Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Louise Radloff said she thinks school systems have to have a strategic plan and flexibility and accountability.
"I think (the government) should fund us appropriately and let us do our job," Radloff said.
As for students working to put themselves through college, Radloff said that's the way it used to be. College students either worked their way through school, had help from their parents or worked and saved up money to get a degree.
"I am concerned with the number of students who get the HOPE Scholarship who don't stay and complete college," Radloff said.
Students who accept government money to go to college should complete their degree and be accountable to the taxpayers in that way, Radloff said.
Linder also answered a few questions about the proposed FairTax bill, which he said would tax wealth instead of wages.
The bill, if passed, would abolish all income and payroll taxes and create a national sales tax of 23 cents per dollar. The Internal Revenue Service would be abolished, and take-home pay would increase by 50 percent, he said.
Most people support the bill, Linder said, and the only group that may encounter problems with such a tax are people who have purchased Roth IRAs. People who have put money into those accounts have already paid taxes on the money, he said.