Lottery: heavy reading | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lottery: heavy reading

Posted By on Sun, Feb 1, 2009 at 7:20 AM

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Lottery bill taking shape, will be 100 pages long, Speaker Wills tells Stephens Media.

Sadly, it seems a given that Gov. Beebe's wishes to continue existing scholarship programs and create still another one with lottery money is going to prevail.

The current programs don't work well. They are too complicated, for one thing. A low-income scholarship created by Beebe has attracted almost no takers. The challenge scholarship, available to families making less than $65,000 a year (not that high in a two-income family), has gone begging as well, in part because of the complicated matrix of test scores and grades required.

Social Security should be the guide for creating a successful public program. Means testing is a bad idea, unless it's a way to prevent shutting out low-income participation. Past experience suggests that won't be a problem. Plus, a huge amount already pours into the state under Pell Grants, a good base of support for the poorest students.

The fixation on standardized test scores is also problematic. Test scores test your ability to take tests. Also, the gap in white and black performance is enormous. Rely on test scores and you'll guarantee a disproportionately white scholarship pool. Grades are a better measure of the likelihood of academic success.

Finally, the legislative leaders seem to be forging ahead with the idea of discriminating against students who don't take politically correct courses. That is, science and technology and business curricula seem likely to be set aside for extra money. Poets, screw you. You count for nothing. I still believe the college education is the thing. Individual market needs and student interests will correct the shortages in time if more people graduate.

It's too simple, I know. But we could roll up most existing scholarship programs with the lottery money and make it available to all college goers with 2.5 GPA in a core curriculum. It would be easy to market, easy to understand and wildly popular. Of course you'd have to allow set asides for non-traditional students and community college aspirants.

My pipedream.


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