As promised when lawmakers failed to pass meaningful legislation to rein in the ever-growing cost of the TOPS college scholarship program this year, there's a new task force on the subject in town.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Morrish, R-Jennings, who authored the resolution creating the panel, announced its members this week and said the first meeting will take place in early September. Also included in the group, which was appointed by the two chambers' education chairs along with their leadership, are House Education Committee Chair Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette; Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge; Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport; Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge; Rep. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans; Sen. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans; Sen. Ed Price, D-Gonzales; Sen. Bodi White, R-Central; and Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.
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Some of these members have been down this road before.
Foil proposed a bill this year that would have raised the minimum high school core curriculum grade point average from 2.5 to 2.75. Carter authored one to introduce a need-based element to the formula when there's a shortfall. Neither made it through the process, just like many prior efforts haven't.
Perhaps the fact that lawmakers were bent on fully funding TOPS for the new academic year undermined the sense of urgency created a year earlier, when the state funded only 70 percent and families had make up the difference — even though there's no guarantee they'll be able to do the same in the future. That plus the fact that lawmakers are clearly reluctant to curtail an entitlement that's so popular with so many constituents.
Yet on paper, there's pretty widespread agreement that something needs to change, and this task force will surely have plenty of ideas. The real question is whether it's going to be yet another task force whose recommendations are quickly consigned to the shelf.