A couple of years ago, a few wealthy Kalamazoo philanthropists got together to create the Kalamazoo Promise. Putting up their own money, they created a scholarship fund that would provide a free college education for any child in the Kalamazoo Public School district who achieved minimum grade standards. Kalamazoo is fortunate to have such generous contributors to their community.
Now the Legislature is considering HB5375, "Promise Zones for the Poor". This is very bad legislation. It picks winners and losers, it offers huge potential government growth, and it tries to do something that government should not even attempt.
Under this bill, certain children will qualify for a free college education IF they live in the right district, one with a certain minimum poverty level. But if your child attends a Public School Academy (charter school), a private or parochial school, or if your children are educated at home, do not bother to apply, you are not included.
The Department of Treasury will oversee this boondoggle (there is your government growth), and each district that qualifies will have to set up an "authority" with a board of eleven members (more government).
Do we want poor children to have an opportunity to attend college? Of course we do. But we already have in place, numerous grants, scholarships and loans for those who do not have the finances to attend. There was a time when most kids who went to college did so only because they spent all their free time working to help pay for the education they were getting. In addition, the state already provides $1.7 billion of the taxpayers dollars to support public universities across the state.
State government was not intended, and our Constitution certainly does not mandate the provision of a free college education to certain poor students.