Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Making Republicans better -- Tackle the big problems first

Posted by Craig Westover | 1:18 PM |  

This is one of those “I got to read it twice because I must be missing something” stories. Governor Pawlenty cannot possibly be this out of touch.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty laid out a proposal Tuesday to have the state pick up two years or more of college tuition for students who are in the top 25 percent of their graduating class or score above a certain level on a college entrance exam. The offer would apply to graduates who go to a public university in the state.
Let’s try it again real slow like -- the number one education problem in the state of Minnesota is not the affordability or lack of funds for college. The number one problem is a the large percentage of kids that graduate from public schools are not ready for college, especially children of color.

The state has a constitutional educational obligation. Another middle-class entitlement is not it. Paying for some kid’s college tuition is not it. Preventing senior slump is not it. It’s providing every K-12 student the opportunity for a decent, free education. And we’re not doing it.

Pawlenty says the program will be part of his next budget proposal if he wins a second term in November. It would cost the state $112 million in its first two years and would kick in for the 2007 fall semester. The governor didn't identify a funding source but said it should be easy to find the money in a budget that now exceeds $30 billion every two years.
If you're scoring at home, 112 easy-to-find million dollars over two years ($56,000,000 per year) would fund approximately 14,000 private school vouchers of $4,000, which would have an immediate impact on public schools (reduced class size with more funds per student) and enable low-income families to place their kids in schools that better meet their needs. It would reinvigorate both public and private education, creating a greater diversity of educational options for all students.

Not grant it, the governor's proposal is going to draw a lot more white, middle-class suburbanites to the polls with their GOP sample ballots in hand than would a commitment to a voucher program targeted for low-income families of color, who won't vote Republican anyway. In fact the teachers union would probably get out the vote opposing such a proposal as destructive of public schools. But then as noted in the article --
Pawlenty, a Republican seeking re-election, denied introducing the proposals for political reasons.
If politics is not a consideration, then why not address the priority education problem first?