Monday, August 04, 2008

Kuipers Changes Rationale For Denying Promise Zones

Yesterday, the Oakland Press made a plea to Senate Republicans to consider the Promise Zone legislation that the House passed last December, claiming that it would be just the thing to help beleaguered Pontiac. The current legislation is modeled after the Kalamazoo Promise, which gives students free college tuition, and has been such a hit that communities around the country are rushing to copy it. There are a few differences in the state plan, spelled out below-

The Promise Zone plan contained in House Bill 5375 differs from the Kalamazoo Promise in that it would match private funds raised with public funds.

It also is limited to areas where the youth poverty rate exceeds the state average of 12 percent. That is, the number of youth in families earning income below the federal poverty standard constitutes 12 percent of the state's population. Pontiac's number is much higher than 12 percent.

HB 5375 would require eligible districts to raise an amount that would fund the first two years of the program. In Pontiac's case this would come to about $750,000 -- not an impossible task by any means.

Citing the benefits of higher graduation rates, increased property values, and new jobs brought to Kalamazoo...

Over the past 18 months, 400 families from 88 Michigan communities, 32 states and nine foreign countries have moved into the Kalamazoo school district, boosting school enrollment 12 percent to 11,530 this year from 10,337 in 2005, according to a report in last Monday's Wall Street Journal.

Graduation rates have risen, too, increasing 21 percent to 567 students in 2007 from 467 students in 2005.

In addition, The Journal states that the Kalamazoo Promise was instrumental in Kaiser Aluminum Corp.'s decision to build an $80 million office-and-research center that would employ 150 workers in the city.

... the editorial ended with a plea to contact Mike Bishop and tell him to "move the bill along" and give Pontiac a shot at this kind of revival.

Um, good luck with that. Education Committee Chair Wayne Kuipers can't decide from day-to-day his reasons for denying disadvantaged students a chance at a college education, and denying job-starved communities the economic development that such an idea would bring.

On June 12th of this year, Kuipers told the GR Press that those darn kids should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

In addition, Sen. Wayne Kuipers , R-Holland, does not like the idea of free college.

"It's not so bad for students to exert some of their own resources in funding higher education. My view is they appreciate it more if they have to work for it," said Kuipers , chairman of the Education Committee.

Today, he's suddenly OK with giving kids the money, but he tells the Flint Journal that the problem is that the students can't use the money "as they see fit", and we need to base this on "market principles".

The problem is funds don't go directly to students, but to the state higher education system.

This limits students' opportunities to use funds as they see fit. The "Promise Zone" legislation also provides no incentive for students to stay in school beyond their freshmen year.

Given the condition of Michigan's economy, we need a bold plan making higher education affordable and rewarding students who attain degrees.

True, but his idea of a "bold plan" consists of clich├ęd statements such as the one above. In the next paragraph, he wants to give money to the students AND the universities...

Funds should go directly to students. This lets them use our tax dollars to attend the university that best meets their needs. Each school would be compensated based on how many students it attracts and graduates. This puts the onus on universities to provide programs that help students find careers matching today's marketplace. Ultimately, schools meeting the needs of more students will get higher funding.

And further down the column, he suddenly jumps to the idea of "loans" after graduation, which kind of defeats the "free college" idea that makes Promise Zones attractive in the first place.

Under the proposed plan, students who work in Michigan after graduation could get low or interest-free loans to help with college costs. The plan's primary goal, obviously, is to encourage more Michigan students to go to college by making it more affordable.

Kuipers is all over the board on this one. First, he doesn't like "free college", then the problem is the money goes to the college and not the kid, so he suggests giving money to the college and the kid, and somehow thinks that loans after the fact make things “more affordable”. I think we have traveled all the way from "free college" to "we will give you a loan later".

I'm confused, but I guess that is what I get for not finishing college. Looks like I'm in good company though; a bunch of kids in Pontiac won't be going to college either.

Sorry, Oakland County. Maybe next time you should consider electing Democrats.