South Dakota offers $5000 to South Dakota's "most academically acccomplished high school graduates." Surprisingly, some fiscally conservative members of the South Dakota Legislature want to lower that bar of accomplishment and hand out more scholarships to less qualified students.
State law currently requires high school students to complete a series of high school courses, including two years of foreign language. The course requirements aren't too tough, and they don't give nearly enough recognition to the value of music, theater, and art, but they're reasonable. In 2010, the Legislature decided that even if kids couldn't meet this minimum requirement, we'd let them make up for their course deficiencies with a 28 on the ACT.
In other words, HB 1128 sponsors Rep. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs), Sen. Tim Begalka (R-4/Clear Lake), and their six co-sponsors, all conservative Republicans, want to effectively repeal the course requirements. They want to dumb down the Opportunity Scholarship.
Yo, Lance, did you catch Governor Jindal's line about how Republicans need to stop being the stupid party? Shouldn't you be raising the bar for recognizing academic excellence with state money, not lowering it?
The point of the 2010 revision to the Opportunity Scholarship was to give kids who maybe slacked off early and missed a couple required classes to prove their academic worth. The 2010 revision says that, to compensate for not doing the long-term work of taking the prescribed curriculum, those students have to do the short-term work of jumping over a higher test-score bar. HB 1128 basically gives those kids a free pass.
The Opportunity Scholarship should be a mark of excellence, targeted at keeping the best and brightest in South Dakota. A 28 ACT is a fair indicator of that status under the Opportunity Scholarship's alternative criteria. A 24 ACT does not.
Appropriating more money to make university more affordable for kids in need would be good for South Dakota. Lowering the academic standards for a scholarship meant to encourage academic achievement and keep smart students in our state is bad for South Dakota.