Yesterday in the House Education Committee, we discussed what to do when faced with a future in which TOPS isn’t fully funded.
Last year, the solution to incomplete TOPS funding was a 30% decrease in tuition rewards for students across the board. That means that high schoolers who worked so hard to make the grades were faced with a last minute 30% hike in tuition, forcing some to forfeit their hard-earned plans to go to college because that 30% increase was insurmountable to them and their families.
Five of those high schoolers from New Orleans came to testify in front of the House Education Committee. One of these students told me and my colleagues that he had been taught by his mother to Grow Up, Do Good, Give Back. He said that’s just what we do in New Orleans- that’s the kind of people we are.
ALL of the students testified that they had been taught that education is the pathway out of poverty. This is something that I fully believe isn’t just true for our individual students and their families, but also for our State. But we have faced deficit after deficit, and over the last several years, the Legislature has repeatedly cut funding for education instead of implementing real, long-term, structural budget and tax reform. We have cut universities, weakening our education system and passing the burden along to the students- those very same students who are now being told we can’t even fully fund TOPS to help them absorb the increased financial hardship.
Last week, the House passed a budget proposal that is unclear and misleading. Those that voted for this bill cannot identify any other places to cut spending, yet they require a 3% reduction across the board and punt the hard decisions to the Division of Administration and the Governor. They claim that they aren’t making cuts- that they are just reducing appropriations. Call it what you will, but less money for state priorities than what is needed is a failure to get the job done. They won’t provide a solution, and they also refuse to entertain any real measures to fix the problem.
Session isn’t over and there is still time to do what we need to do. It isn’t that difficult. The high schoolers even know what to do. They bravely said it yesterday- we need to invest in our State, make education a priority and fight our way out of deficit and poverty. Now is the time to give back. Now is the time to do our jobs.