A few years ago, I wrote here about efforts to keep New Jersey's Governor's School afloat. Many states created such programs over the years, which sent high-achieving high school students to camps for the summer to study different topics (science, math, art, music). While there is no shortage of private summer programs that do the same, the point of these programs was to give all students who qualified access to intensive work. Kids also tended to enjoy being around their academic peers, and these programs figure prominently in many alums' memories.
But, like much in state budgets these days, they are on the cutting block. In North Carolina, another state with a long-running Governor's School, the state budget chopped the entire $850,000 appropriation. The program was to run this summer but probably not next. Alums raised $130,000 to keep it going, a downpayment on the $1.3 million needed to send 800 kids for free, but whether that money will come through is anyone's guess.
I hope it will, though I'm also not sure about the direction these programs are heading, relying on wealthy alums or state business groups to keep them afloat. Those of you who know my politics (which I try not to talk about too much on this blog) know that I'm generally a free market kind of girl, not too enamored with government spending in general. But, as we are debating the federal budget these days, the giant elephant in the room is that governments of various levels are going to spend money on something. So the question is what we spend money on, and what that says about our priorities.
Because the $850,000 the state was going to appropriate for Governor's School (with 800 students paying about $500 apiece to go to make up the shortfall) compares to the $11.5 billion North Carolina spends annually on Medicaid -- a figure which rises about 8% per year. If North Carolina somehow managed to save one one-hundredth of one percent (0.01%) on this program, that would be a savings of... $1.15 million. Enough to fund Governor's School close to completely.
So what's a better use of public resources? A rounding error in health care spending or sending 800 kids to an academic enrichment camp for the summer that could possibly change their lives? I have my opinions -- unfortunately, they don't seem to be shared by the folks who make funding decisions.