Suddenly, State Senator Thelma Harper is recognizing what could have been seen 4 years ago. I wish she'd listened back then or spoken up more loudly. I have remembered all along the points made by the anti-lottery crowd and how it fell on deaf ears or how it was just the Puritanical, tightly wound morally sanctimonious that were against this. It was not possible, in some minds, that we had the best interests of the poor at heart when we opposed this lottery. Well, those chickens have come home to roost.
A trip down memory lane anyone?
From the Knoxville News Sentinel November 11/26/2002 regarding how we would determine who gets a scholarship. Since grades are not standard across the state something else had to be used:
"Students from poorer backgrounds - the example cited most frequently by people in higher education is the Memphis city schools - have a greater disparity between their grades and their ACT scores, and ACT scores tend to be a better predictor of academic success in college.I was witness to the House Education Committee hearings (where the bulk of this debate occurred) and I saw the contortions the legislators (many from Memphis) went through to try and qualify their poorly performing students for these scholarships. Their students were certainly needy but they were not going to score well enough on the ACT. At one point the ACT bar was going to be 23--but that was unacceptably high for those Memphis legislators. It eventually fell to 19. They squabbled over a grade point average AND and ACT score vs. a grade point average OR an ACT score. The legislature's Black Caucus eventually spoke up through House Speaker pro-tem Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis:
The composite ACT scores of students with GPAs of 3.0 or better in high school in 2002 found that family income was the best predictor of ACT performance.
The ACT scores increased in linear progression with family income. The poorest group averaged 19 on the ACT; in eight successively greater income categories the average ACT score rose with each step, to a high of 24.5 in families with incomes of more than $100,000.
There is a growing sentiment to set aside some of the money based on financial need as opposed to academic achievement."
"We want our kids to have an opportunity.Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville, offered an amendment that would have done away with the ACT/GPA requirement and reimbursed college students based on their performance at college. No going.
If you want to put in a 3.0, then start it three or four years from now and give kids who have been victims of failing schools an opportunity to move on and get a college education." Tennessean 4/18/03 pg. 6B
They did their level best to find SOME way to broaden the eligibility eventually settling on an access grant for those who only make a 2.75 GPA AND and 18 ACT. The lottery had been sold to voters as for the best and brightest yet these legislators were seriously considering a C+ as 'bright'.
From the Gambling Free Tennessee site in 2002 (thanks to the Wayback Machine).
"Through much study, we have come to the conclusion that the introduction of a state lottery will be harmful to our children and the poor. We believe that lotteries open the door to the possibility of political corruption. We are convinced that a lottery will be harmful to the economic interests of the hard working people of Tennessee."There is no excuse for anyone not having more than a clue this situation was going to happen. There was plenty of testimony by education folks, understanding by legislators, warnings from those 'right wing religious fanatics' and publicity in the papers that the poor were not going to be substantial beneficiaries of this program. Don't cry 'unfair' now.
What can you do now? Fix those 'failing schools' that Senator DeBerry mentioned. Have those education committees actually investigate some of these schools systems and demand some answers for the money we're sending them. Encourage replication of systems that are working. Be willing to hear the truth regardless of who speaks it. Put people on those education committees that aren't tied to the status quo and its keepers and are willing to support some choices for those children that are trapped in failing schools. Stop protecting those failing systems and protect the children instead.
Bonus: a What If moment: State Senator David Fowler proposed skimming off ten cents from every lottery dollar for K-12 education. A sum estimated to be $60 million back then.
"The money would give teachers an additional $100 for classroom supplies and raise teacher salaries, Fowler said.
Sen. John Ford, D-Memphis [he of Tennessee Waltz infamy], called the proposal "pork barrel."
"This is asininity in its highest form," Ford said.
Tennessean 4/16/03 pg 6B