Governor Parnell could get a bill formally establishing the way the state’s scholarship program will be handled. The Senate passed the measure today — and it has already cleared the House. But it’s not what the governor wants – and it drew opposition from all sides.
The governor envisioned a scholarship program that would award those students who meet high academic standards by paying for as much as a hundred percent of their university or vocational school needs. The Senate, however, would expand it to provide assistance to other students — those who get G.E.D. diplomas – or those who don’t meet the academic requirements for various reasons. North Pole Republican John Coghill wanted to remove the addition the Senate had made and leave the scholarship as a reward for students who take extra courses and who excel.
Let’s leave it with those who are in the high school, making the extra classes, and then those who do take the initiative to get a G-E-D, there are other ways to reward them. But I would like to keep the performance base in that merit-based scholarship.
Angoon Democrat Albert Kookesh saw the bill from the other direction. He said the governor’s plan doesn’t recognize the reality: that rural schools don’t have the facilities or teachers to offer the prescribed courses for students to qualify. He would prefer more money directed towards those who need it. He said the results of the first year of the program showed Anchorage schools having 359 recipients with a dollar value of $1.2-million. But as he read the results, the districts got smaller and more rural.
And here’s the statistic that bothers me. Fewer than five eligible graduates from twenty eight school districts. Fewer than five. Tell me that’s fair. Tell me that takes care of the kids that I represent. It absolutely does not. $400-million? If I was king for the day, it’s going to Head Start. That will benefit students all over the state rather than give it to them on the other end where it turns into an elitist scholarship as far as I’m concerned.
The bill passed with 12 votes in favor and eight opposed. It next goes back to the House for approval of the Senate amendments – or resolution in a conference committee.