Legislators today (Tuesday) began looking at the merit-based scholarship program proposed by Governor Parnell last month.
Education Commissioner Larry LeDoux told the House and Senate Education Committees that the Governor’s Performance Scholarship begins the necessary needs of the state by inviting students to pursue excellence. He said that the process really begins early — when students, parents and schools lay out an education plan.
They lay out a pathway that they can develop a dream for. And that’s very, very important, because as I said, it’s about attitude. And a child that has a vision and sees possibilities will do the work necessary to get there.
The Parnell plan would pay one hundred percent of tuition costs at any school of higher learning in the state to students who graduate with an A average, seventy five percent for those with a B average and fifty percent for those with a C-plus average. The students would also have to qualify by taking four years of courses in math, language and science.
Lawmakers questioned whether the program would require major changes to coursework or student loads. LeDoux says students already planning on attending college are already taking the preparatory work at that level.
I believe this program will invite students who did not consider college as a possibility to engage in a more rigorous program. And I think you will see an increase in the number of students that are engaging in a college and highly technical curriculum in preparation for college. If they have hope, there’s a motivation for a student to engage along that pathway. So I think we will definitely see an increase in academic coursework around the state.
Lawmakers did not get firm answers to questions that arose concerning the constitutionality of the program. The governor wants the legislature to – in his words – “put a fence around” four hundred million dollars to pay the tuition costs. However, a dedicated fund violates the state constitution. No further hearings are scheduled before the next session begins in January.