28 December 2005

The Kalamazoo Promise

It is simply extraordinary: Thanks to benefactors who insist on anonymity, Kalamazoo public school students who graduate from high school will be eligible for 65%-100% tuition grants for up to four years in any Michigan state university or community college.

At no charge. All of a sudden, an inspiring idea has led to an educational gift for public school students attending at least 4 years of school in Kalamazoo.

It is called The Kalamazoo Promise and it bears repeating: simply extraordinary.

From the press release: [Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent] Janice M. Brown could not hide her enthusiasm before the Board of Education meeting on November 10, 2005 as she was about to introduce The Kalamazoo Promise. “How can I stay calm,” she said, “I get to walk out there and tell our KPS families that we have their students’ post-secondary education covered.”

Could Ms. Brown have had any greater joy? Could Kalamazoo parents? And Kalamazoo city officials? Because The Kalamazoo Promise is more than an educational boon: it is an economic powerhouse.

Again, from the press release: “There is no doubt in my mind,” said Brown, “that this will spur housing sales, attract new business development, and add to an already solid quality of life in Kalamazoo."

Kalamazoo is a city with a population hovering around 80,000 residents. It is ordinary by U.S. standards, maybe even below average in some aspects, such as industrial base, economic clusters and infrastructure. But with one dazzling idea, Kalamazoo has vaulted into the stratosphere of attractive venues for business, industrial, commercial and residential growth.

Now you know where The Jenius is going with this, right? Yes: Let's do the same here in Puerto Rico. We could choose to do it in Trujillo Alto, whose population is similar to that of Kalamazoo. Or in actuality, We could choose to do it in smaller towns whose industrial base is very strong, such as Barceloneta or Manatí; or with strong commercial bases such as Guaynabo or Humacao. But if We really want to make a difference, We could make a Promise happen for severely limited towns such as Villalba, Culebra, Vieques, Orocovis and Las Marías.

The Jenius hears a question: Where's the money coming from? From corporations, both those who are already here wanting to have a truly positive impact and those who want to set up shop here who are urged--via incentives and fast-tracking--to invest in Puerto Rico. Individual contributions can also be made, especially if they are part of a "tax reform" that threatens to gut the wallet of the average Islander: better to donate for the future than give money to the pig-brained thieves currently ruining the show.

And let's not forget Section 936 funds, product of a porous tax break program, still sitting in local banks. Rather than seek tax breaks congress can't even imagine granting anymore, let's look at creating the Puerto Rico Promise with monies that otherwise serve primarily to line bankers' pockets by financing projects outside of Puerto Rico.

Too far-fetched? Too idealistic? Not damn likely to happen, Jenius? Okay, here's My answer: What's Kalamazoo got that We don't?

Of course The Jenius is right. We can do this. We shall find a way.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

No comments: