In “The Music Man”, con-man “Professor” Harold Hill was nearly run out of town on a rail for trying to sell the town members on a non-existent boys band. He was saved by a good singing voice, the love of a librarian, and the unexpected appearance of a real boys band — put together by someone other than Hill.
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is trying to accomplish the same feat. Instead of a boys band, Governor Doyle is attempting to sell a non-existent college scholarship program. I’m not kidding about the non-existent part. The Wisconsin Covenant program exists only in Governor Doyle’s fevered imagination — it hasn’t even been introduced as a bill in the state legislature. Sadly, the governor has conned nearly 10,000 high school students into signing up for this pretend program.
With just days left before the Friday sign-up deadline, nearly 10,000 ninth-graders have committed to the proposed Wisconsin Covenant, which promises a route to college if they fulfill a pledge.
A spokesman for Gov. Jim Doyle’s office said the Democratic governor’s new program is succeeding in getting thousands of students to start thinking early about college. But Republican lawmakers point out that thousands of students have now signed up for a supposed guarantee that hasn’t been approved by, or even introduced in, the Legislature.
“Thousands of students across the state now have a clear road map for what they need to do to go to college, and in addition, the state has committed to ensure there’s a place for these students in higher education,” Doyle spokesman Matt Canter said of the program, which Doyle hopes will boost the number of low-income students in college.
Doyle and first lady Jessica Doyle have been crisscrossing the state in recent days touting the covenant program and urging students to participate.
Doyle first proposed a year ago that the state guarantee a place in a college and adequate financial aid to any eighth-grader who pledges to do well in school and keep out of trouble. The first class of students started making the pledge last spring. Those eighth-graders are now ninth-graders and the program would apply to their first year in college in 2011, Canter said.
It’s like something out of a farce. Only, sadly, true.