Promises, promises: The Pittsburgh college tuition plan needs help
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In some circles, it is considered unlucky to announce too soon that a baby is on the way. In a different context, Pittsburgh Public Schools students and their parents now know why premature announcements should be avoided. Their expected happy event, promised by others, remains undelivered.
It is called the Pittsburgh Promise. When it was announced late last year as a shared initiative of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and city school Superintendent Mark Roosevelt, it sounded like a wonderfully innovative idea.
Inspired by a program in Kalamazoo, Mich., the proposal was to raise funds from foundations and corporations so that any Pittsburgh Public Schools graduate who wanted to go to college would have the funds to do it. Moreover, it was hoped that this promise would have related benefits, including motivating students to do better in the classroom, stay out of trouble and continue in high school. It would help market the value of the Pittsburgh Public Schools in the most practical way.
Promises, promises. Eight months later, at the start of a new school year, the Pittsburgh Promise remains full of potential and empty of achievement. As Post-Gazette reporter Rich Lord reported last week, nothing much has happened. While an initial estimate puts the cost at $3 million in the first year, the only commitment is $10,000 from the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.
The idea is still simmering, though. Mr. Roosevelt said that "very significant talks" were being held about getting the program funded. The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. is helping to define the details, and a couple of temporary employees of the district are devoting some of their time to it. That would seem to be the key to enlisting support for the plan.
While the Pittsburgh Promise may have suffered for being unveiled before it was ready, it doesn't help to criticize now. As ambitious as it is, it is a good idea and there's still time to make this work. Although it may be too late for the next senior class, those in a position to help can see that keeping this promise would be great for Pittsburgh.
First Published September 5, 2007 12:00 am