Yeah, Gov. Scott Walker really values education, doesn’t he?
While the record $1.2 trillion in student loan debt has attracted election-year calls for reform in Madison and Washington, D.C., Wisconsin is ending a program that has helped students like Toshia Spindler go to UW-La Crosse. The Covenant Scholar program that Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and legislators began in 2007 is being phased out. An estimated 20,424 eighth graders went on to complete the program, qualifying for college grants that range from $250 to $2,500.
In his first budget, Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2011 got GOP legislators to sunset the Covenant Scholar program.That decision was obscured by bigger controversies – the Act 10 fight that all but ended collective bargaining by most public employees, and the controversial 2011-13 budget that cut state aid to public schools and local governments.
Doyle structured the Covenant to combine public service and reward high school graduates who attend a public or private university or technical college.Starting in 2007, eighth graders could sign a Covenant pledge promising to:
*Graduate from high school with an overall “B” grade average.
*Prove they were responsible members of their community by completing at least 30 hours of community service by April 1 of senior year.
*Apply for all other state and federal financial aids.
*Submit a Covenant confirmation form documenting compliance, also by April 1 of senior year.
Covenant Scholars who complete those requirements get grants of between $250 and $2,500, depending on family income. Although Doyle declined a request for comment, he touted the program this way in his 2007 budget message: “I don’t want any high school kid to think college isn’t for them, or that it’s only for rich people. I want every boy and girl to know … with the Wisconsin Covenant, college is within your grasp, just reach for it.”
This is absolutely shameful, but unsurprising given how little Gov. Walker seems to care about making sure young people have access to an affordable college education.