Second-chance lottery scholarship
In my last article I proclaimed that the renewed GOP’s brand of social program self-responsibility is the future of American politics. Time to walk the talk.
The current state of the economy and the rampant public budget shortfalls are now making it necessary that our public leaders develop policies that are smarter, more innovative and ultimately realistically attainable. Again, the days of throwing “dumb dollars” at bloated ineffective government programs are over, and we must begin to look at different ideas to public problem-solving in today’s tough economy.
(Dumb Dollars – Luéva-nition: The money that EVERY public entity forces itself to spend each year in the fear of losing those dollars the following fiscal year.)
Issue number one is jobs. How do we hold onto our existing job markets and how do we create new job markets? This is a very tough question and, as someone who has never created a job, I am not sure I have the answer.
Here is what I do know: The current global economy has raised the level of job market competition higher than we have ever experienced in our history. Our manufacturing and industrial bases have almost been wiped out in favor of cheaper and less regulated labor markets overseas. What we are left with are jobs that require higher educational levels and more technical training.
This is the reality that we are facing, and our public school system is not producing students who are prepared to compete in the new global economy.
The ‘second-chance’ proposal
In New Mexico, our high-school graduation rates are unacceptable, and there doesn’t seem to be an end-all solution to the systemic problems in public education. I don’t claim to be a PhD educational expert, nor do I claim to have any experience with teaching in the classroom. I know these jobs are tough and our public school teachers put forward an outstanding effort in teaching our children.
But I do believe in considering the student’s perspective, and I offer my ideas from my experiences as a student who grew up in a poor Hispanic neighborhood who struggled to graduate high school. Statistically speaking, I was very close to being part of the problem, and my “second-chance” college education has put me in a position to put forward a possible solution.
I propose providing an alternative “second-chance” qualifying path to the current lottery scholarship, with the goal of raising the educational levels of more New Mexicans in order to better compete in the global economy. The key to attracting jobs to New Mexico is our ability to provide quality workers and educational levels have a huge impact on these efforts. So while we continue the debate on how to fix our public educational system, here is a simple suggestion that can be put forward during the next 60-day legislative session:
The “second-chance” scholarship will require a student to earn back eligibility in the lottery scholarship program through some form of public community service, i.e. teacher aide or any existing community service programs such as Big Brothers/Sisters or AmeriCorps.
Second-chance will be more flexible and realistic to each need of the student, i.e. the student doesn’t have to immediately enroll into college after graduating high school and will also not be required to attend eight consecutive semesters or face disqualification.
Second-chance participants will be eligible for eight full-time semesters at any of the lottery eligible New Mexico schools and can be used at any time or in any form regardless of a restrictive timeline as long as they maintain the required 2.5 GPA.
That is my three-line policy suggestion. Too often we tend to over-complicate public policy, and that is why government is often inefficient and ineffective. Politicos always take a good idea like the lottery scholarship and turn it into another control mechanism in order to affect public behavior.
More New Mexicans experiencing the value of a solid education
The simple fact is that most college students do not complete their bachelor’s degrees within four years and most of us regular folks do not immediately attend college after high school. I definitely would not have graduated college if the Marine Corps did not provide me with a “second-chance” opportunity to attend college, and I believe many more New Mexicans would make their way onto a college campus if we provided more financial support to get another start on life.
I truly believe this second-chance opportunity could make a positive long-term impact on our high school graduation levels as more and more New Mexicans begin to experience the value of a solid education.
Recently, I was blessed to accompany my daughter to college orientation this summer at the University of New Mexico. This surreal, generational experience was a direct result of a program that provided me a second-chance at a college education. I would encourage all readers to push this idea to your local elected representative in the hope that more and more New Mexicans can have the same “second-chance” college opportunity. Together, we regular folks can make New Mexico better.
Luévano, a newly registered Republican, is a lifelong New Mexico resident and an Artesia native who currently lives in Tucson, Ariz. He graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2001 with a bachelor’s in political science and economics and from the University of Kansas in 2008 with a master’s in public administration. You can reach Luévano at www.johnnyluevano.com or find him on Facebook.
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