published Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Barrett: Lottery scholarship spat reveals disregard for stewardship

If demonstrated, multimillion-dollar waste isn’t cause to rethink a government program, what is?

Tennessee is squandering lottery revenue on scholarships that many students lose by the end of their first year of college.

How many? Well, the overwhelming majority of UTC freshmen get the scholarships — and then half lose eligibility for academic reasons. The rate varies somewhat at colleges around the state, but you can see the problem — a problem compounded by the fact that students who lose their scholarships face a significant chance of dropping out.

Tennessee could slash that waste by requiring students to earn both a minimum 3.0 grade point average in high school and a minimum 21 on the ACT before they are eligible for the $4,000 per year that the scholarship furnishes to students bound for four-year colleges. At present, students who reach either of those benchmarks get the money — which has proved colossally ill advised. For instance, of students who receive lottery scholarships for four-year schools based strictly on their ACT scores, only 20 percent get good enough grades to remain eligible beyond their freshman year. The rest lose the scholarships, and often leave school. In effect, the state is paying them $4,000 to fritter away a year of their lives.

The technical term for that is “money pit.”

But Democrats are urging Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to short circuit the plan for tighter standards. State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, says restricting the scholarships would send the “wrong message.”

Which message would that be? That money doesn’t grow on kudzu vines and that high schoolers need to put some skin in the game by working hard if they expect the state to underwrite a chunk of their college education?

More irritating still is the notion that raising standards isn’t necessary because lottery revenue is doing better these days.

“It is shortsighted and a mistake to cut lottery scholarships at a time when revenues are increasing and we have no idea whether there’s going to be any future problem,” Berke said.

That theory will come as a surprise to those who have labored under the belief that uncertainty about future finances is a reason for more cautious spending, not for maintaining the status quo.

And there’s a fundamental stewardship principle at stake. Even if the lottery brought in a guaranteed $100 billion a year, that wouldn’t be an excuse for government to keep showering “scholarships” on students whose academic record suggests they will quickly lose eligibility and the spending will have been for naught.

You don’t throw good money after bad just because you can — especially not when it’s other people’s money.

But he has moxie!

If you don’t think Mitt Romney will be in deep puddin’ in November if he’s the Republican nominee, you’re not paying attention.

He has yet to win a Southern state — unless you consider Florida politically Southern or you count Virginia, where conservatives Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich weren’t even on the ballot.

Toss in Romney’s near disasters in his native Michigan and adjacent Ohio — and other states where he couldn’t get past 50 percent or where one conservative (Santorum) likely would have won if another conservative (Gingrich) hadn’t been on the ballot — and you’re looking at going against Obama and his moneyed minions with a candidate who manifestly demoralizes the GOP base.

That will leave Romney scrambling to reach out to independents with his Dukakis-grade charisma and his increasingly touchy assurances that RomneyCare isn’t the same thing as ObamaCare.

Yep, that’ll do it.

Predictable

The usual suspects condemned Tennessee as some Jim Crow backwater for enacting a law requiring photo ID to vote. Now that Super Tuesday has come and gone with practically nobody being turned away from the polls for lack of ID, the accusers are quiet and most of the news media have conspicuously lost interest.

Now there’s something you see every day.

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conservative said...

"You don’t throw good money after bad just because you can — especially not when it’s other people’s money."

Well that is what is being done now, and will continue to be done if the Demoncrats get their way. People elected them to spend other people's money. They have a Socialist mindset, it is their reason for living.

March 11, 2012 at 9:34 a.m.
Lr103 said...

Rather than making the lottery scholaship exclusive for only a select few, if the problem is students losing the scholarship due to "academic" cause, the solution is to better prepare the students to enter college. Barret just proves the school system isn't doing its job of better preparing American students. If so, then why?

March 12, 2012 at 10:42 a.m.

Lr103, Exactly my thoughts, although I would add partial blame on the parents as well. The teachers can't do all the work on their own. If the parents of these children don't do their part it has the same result. Either way, the money in this fund shouldn't be wasted and the rules should definitely be changed to ensure it's continued solvency.

March 12, 2012 at 4:19 p.m.
EaTn said...

A large hunk of those so-called wasters of scholarship money are the very kids of those down-and-out parents whose only hope to do more than get by is to hit it big in the lottery. They are the ones footing most of the scholarship program.

March 14, 2012 at 5:14 p.m.

What do you mean so-called? This is a fact based determination. If they dropped out, they are wasters, if they didn't they aren't. Where is the doubt in that?

March 15, 2012 at 9:33 a.m.
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