This is the latest in an ongoing series examining the issues,
records and platforms of West Virginia's candidates for governor. Today's
installment deals with higher education.
In the grand scheme of politics, an eye-glazing topic like
college financial aid usually fades amid shouts of
"Abortion!" and "Jobs!"
But when the candidates stand as close on issues as Gov. Cecil
Underwood and challenger Rep. Bob Wise, collegeaid can -
and has - emerged as arguably the most divisiveissue in the
Even more so, because Wise has dragged "gray" video poker machines into
the fray. He wants to legalize the payouts, tax the earnings and use the
money to buy college educations for West Virginia's smartest
"That's the major source of revenue that I can see," Wise said.
Two years ago, Underwood signed a law authorizing Lincoln County Sen.
Lloyd Jackson's pet scholarship program, the PROMISE scholarship
(Providing Real Opportunity for Maximizing In-state Student Excellence).
He started appointing people to a PROMISE board of directors.
Then Wise hitched his gubernatorial hopes to the PROMISE plan.
Underwood now says he'd rather spend state money on need-based financial
aid for poor people to go to college, not grade-based
aid like PROMISE.
"If he cares so much about needs-based, fine," Wise said. "Tax the gray
machines ... I'd be happy to have some needs-based come out of that as
Underwood did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment for this
Wise's plan - otherwise known as Jackson's plan - would pay the entire
tuition at any in-state college for every student who leaves high
average in college to keep their scholarships.
The whole thing would cost an estimated $25 million a year.
Mountain Party candidate Denise Giardina vehemently opposes the PROMISE
"I've been saying that ever since [Wise] has been talking about it,"
Virginia State College. "I think the grade thing is a really bad
High-school teachers would feel pressure to hand out "Bs" so they
wouldn't mess up a kid's chance for a scholarship, Giardina said. And it
might stop students from taking really difficult classes in high school.
"I know kids well enough to know that some of them are going to dumb
down on their schedule to get the 'B' average," she said.
Giardina thinks using scholarships as an excuse to legalize video poker
is "a horrible idea."
"We should be banning gray machines," she said. "I think it's really a
rapacious way for a government to make money."
Libertarian candidate Bob Myers also opposes the PROMISE
"It would set up a social caste in our school system," Myers said. "It
used to be that the smart kids went to college, and the dumb kids
went to trade school. We've gotten away from that, thank heaven. I think
it would be a social regression."
- - -
Wise wants to be clear on one point. He does not want to do away with
West Virginia's need-based collegeaid.