Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

October 11, 2012

Heinig: Let’s keep our promise to low-income Hoosiers

21st Century Scholar tweaks were poorly timed

Once in a while, our Indiana legislators blunder their way into legislation that not only helps Hoosiers but also gives Republicans and Democrats an opportunity to agree with each other! Those things are hard to find in our present political climate, where nonsense frequently outweighs common sense. However, when they do appear, we can usually depend on our lawmakers to tinker with them and totally screw them up!

The Twenty-first Century Scholars program is a good example. It was a great idea when it started back in 1990. Offering a full college scholarship to economically disadvantaged middle school students who earned good grades, behaved themselves, and didn’t abuse drugs was a huge step forward in our quest for equal opportunity, economic prosperity and social justice for all Hoosiers.

This program worked well for two decades. Then it began to cost too much, according to our dollar-conscious lawmakers. So they changed it. New participants will need better grades to get into the program and stay there. Also, they may only receive one-time grants or partial scholarships if their family incomes increase or if future legislatures don’t fully fund the program.

It’s entirely possible that future Indiana legislatures will be unwilling or unable to find enough money to completely pay for the program. On July 4, CNHI correspondent Maureen Hayden reported the annual cost had doubled in just four years to $46.5 million. The state paid that by transferring money from other scholarship funds designed to help low-income families. Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul!

Although the cost factor is a very serious consideration, the recent changes in the Twenty-first Century Scholars program are poorly timed and unwise. They are poorly timed because they limit training opportunities in a period of lingering unemployment. Yes, the job outlook is improving, but very slowly. The changes are also unwise because our youth need more training for 21st century jobs, not less. If they can’t get it here, they must seek it in other states.

When young Hoosiers leave Indiana for training, prospective employers will follow. They need a well-educated, highly skilled work force. They must find workers who can fill today’s jobs and also learn what they need to know for tomorrow’s jobs. If Indiana can’t provide such workers, new employers will not come here, and current employers will relocate.

The Twenty-first Century Scholars program is crucial to an especially vulnerable part of our youth. They struggle with economic challenges every day. Although they are eligible for Pell grants and student loans, many of them do not see a college degree as a realistic possibility. They may still need to work at part- or full-time jobs to help their families. Without a good education, their futures look bleak. They may be headed for a life of financial insecurity and permanent unemployment.

Critics of this program are quick to point out that most of the participants need more than four years to earn a college degree, and many do not do it in six years. So what? I know some very successful college graduates who needed more than six years to graduate. Even those who never finish can learn things that help them get good jobs and advance to better ones.

In the real-world economy, what you can actually do is ultimately more important than how long it took you to learn it. A few years ago, I did some admissions work for a well-respected junior college. My job was to talk to high school seniors about the opportunities the college offered. Most of those opportunities were technological. The demand was so great many students left to accept very good job offers before finishing their degrees. Who could call those students failures merely because they lacked a piece of paper?

Frankly, I do not envy the legislators who must decide how to continue the Twenty-first Century Scholars program. The need for it is immense, but so is the cost, and both are increasing. I don’t really know how to respond to this dilemma. As a school administrator, deciding how much money to give the students and the schools was never my responsibility. My job was deciding how to use the money that was provided.

I understand our legislators must make choices. Some of the choices aren’t easy. I just hope those choices do not prevent our economically disadvantaged kids from getting 21st century job skills.

* Mark Heinig Jr. of Kokomo is a retired Indiana teacher and principal and frequent contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at markjr1708@gmail.com.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Road must be made safer Eight months ago, the Indiana Department of Transportation opened the new U.S. 31 bypass east of Kokomo. Joining Mayor Greg Goodnight was Gov. Mike Pence. Even the Kokomo High School marching band performed at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was the

    July 24, 2014

  • SEN. JIM BUCK: New laws offer help for kids Families with children who have special needs often face difficulties finding the best care or treatment for their specific circumstance. During the 2014 legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly passed several initiatives to assist these fam

    July 24, 2014

  • LETTERS: Christians must stand with Israel 'As Christians we must stand with life' The present conflict in Israel is with Hamas, recognized even in Egypt as a terrorist organization. Recently Hamas formed a unity government with the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. They're now the government in

    July 24, 2014

  • BILL STANCZYKIEWICZ: Youth sports leagues are on troubling decline An important youth development activity is looking to end a recent losing streak. Participation in organized youth sports leagues for baseball, football, basketball and soccer declined by 4 percent between 2008-2012, according to a report in the Wall

    July 24, 2014

  • Keep eye out for kids

    With most local schools welcoming students in a couple of weeks — and Kokomo schools beginning class Aug. 5 (yes, a week from this coming Tuesday) — it’s important for motorists to think about safe driving as children travel to and from school.Law en

    July 23, 2014

  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Expiring term heightens urgency of legislator's mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying i

    July 23, 2014

  • LETTERS: Let's hope 7th Circuit sides with couples Let’s hope 7th Circuit sides with couplesIf you blinked over the past month, you probably missed some news about marriage equality in Indiana.First, a federal court ruled that the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples was unconstitutional, whi

    July 23, 2014

  • CECIL BOHANON: Spend down surplus? Been there, done that Back in 1998, the state of Indiana had more than $1.3 billion in surplus funds in its general account. This was about 57 days of state spending. The state had total surplus funds of more than $2 billion that was over 24 percent of its annual operatin

    July 23, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Bush? Clinton? Next, please

    Here comes a sentence I don’t usually find myself typing: I agree with Barbara Bush on something. Jan. 20, C-SPAN aired her installment in the series “First Ladies: Influence and Image,” which was filmed at Bush’s Houston home. “Do you think there is room for another Bush in The White House?” asked host Peter Slen. “This is a great American country, a great country, and if we can’t find more than two or three families to run for high office, that’s silly, because there are great governors and great eligible people to run,” said Bush. “I think Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes; there are just more families than that.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • State aims at outbreaks More than 200 Western School Corp. students were vaccinated for chickenpox after an outbreak in March 2012.The virus was confirmed to have infected five fifth-graders, the Howard County Health Department reported. It acted quickly to prevent the infe

    July 22, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll