by Max Brantley
The lottery working group today unveiled a draft of its ideas on lottery scholarships. House Speaker Wills had already indicated a central scholarship program built on the existing Challenge scholarship. A 2.5 or 19 ACT qualification (test score is not necessary; grades are a better indicator of past and future performance).
The draft apparently includes a factor that would penalize school districts with "grade inflation" -- a high college remediation rate against average gradepoints. This, however, would not be a school penalty, but a student penalty. It would complicate something that should be simple.
Unresolved question: Will the legislature go forward with the amendment to put the lottery within more conventional legislative appropriation procedures? Under the new amendment, it enjoys an independent status. The Father of the Arkansas Lottery, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, hopes not. He's been winning on the broad outlines of the lottery so far. On this issue, who knows? Ernest Dumas, who's been covering the legislature for 40 years or so, thinks the process should be changed.
UPDATE: Halter comments on details released this afternoon. Robbie Wills posted this before the meeting, now underway.
For now, income limits will remain in place for state scholarship qualification. But once the lottery is functional, the draft bill provides there will be no income limits on qualifying for scholarships. It doesn't set a specific scholarship amount, but provides for a sliding scale based on coming revenue. That is, $2,500 to $5,500 per year for a four-year school (about half that for a two-year school) depending on revenue.
STATEMENT FROM LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR BILL HALTER
February 25, 2009
We are pleased that the draft legislation for establishing a scholarship
lottery program released today has moved so much closer to the vision of
a universal, simple and fair scholarship program that the Office of
Lieutenant Governor described in a statement of general principles that
we released in mid-December.
Key General Principles That Are Part Of The Legislative Plan Include:
* Achievement-Based Scholarships
a. Graduate from a high school in Arkansas.
b. Achieve a 2.5 grade point average.
c. Be admitted to a college or university in Arkansas.
* Scholarships for non-traditional students who may have missed
their first opportunity to get a college degree.
* Renewal of a lottery scholarship by achieving a 2.5 grade point
average with an earn-back provision for those who fall short of this
* Deposit scholarship awards directly in the recipient's financial
aid account at his or her college to make sure the scholarship follows
* A single on-line application for most, if not all, state-funded
and state-managed scholarships.
We anticipate further public review and public discussion of both the
structure of the scholarship lottery and the college scholarships it
will fund. There is room for improvement in the details of the draft
lottery-structure legislation released last week as well as in the
details of the draft scholarship-plan legislation released today.
Our vision remains bigger scholarships, tighter ethics and a simpler
process for getting a scholarship. Our vision remains providing maximum
scholarship dollars to maximum numbers of Arkansas as quickly as
possible in a fiscally responsible manner.