November 3, 2008

Racine Promise: City officials explore college funding for Racine graduates

A group of city officials are exploring a program that would pay for Racine high school graduates to attend college.

The idea is based on the Kalamazoo Promise, a program started three years ago in Kalamazoo, Mich. to attract families to the city. The program is simple: If a child graduates from a Kalamazoo High School, their tuition is paid to any Michigan university or tech school. That could amount to $36,000 for a student attending the University of Michigan. The only requirement is that a student maintains a 2.0 GPA and makes continual progress toward their high school diploma.

Aldermen Aron Wisneski and Greg Helding, and City Administrator Ben Hughes, are seeking two $8,000 grants to study creating a similar program here. The City Council is expected to grant permission to pursue the grant on Wednesday.

Click below to read city Grant Facilitator Debbi Embry's explanation of the grant, and long-term thinking about a "Racine Promise" program.

October 16, 2008

Mayor Gary Becker
And Common Council
Racine, WI 53403

Your Honor and Aldermen:

I respectfully request to appear before the appropriate committee to discuss our request to apply to the United Way of Racine County to request $8,000 for a “Racine Promise Study”. The Finance Department has been contacted for coordination, and the grant control number is 2008-039.

Last Spring Aldermen Wisneski and Helding, and City Administrator, Ben Hughes began investigating “Kalamazoo Promise”, a scholarship program created in 2005 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The “Kalamazoo Promise” scholarship program provides four years of tuition and fees at any public college or university in Michigan for students who have attended Kalamazoo Public Schools. The “Kalamazoo Promise” is unique in its scope and basis. While most other scholarship programs are based on merit or need, the “Kalamazoo Promise” is based only on location. The program seeks to remove the financial barriers to enrolling in college for those students who have attended Kalamazoo schools and lived within its boundaries for at least the four years of high school.

The impact “Racine Promise” would have on our community is tremendous:

1. Since all students are eligible for the reimbursement of tuition and fees regardless of financial means, the program also seeks to transform the school district by focusing on ensuring that all students are prepared for a postsecondary education.

2. The direct contribution of the scholarship program lowers the cost of postsecondary education, thereby increasing incentives for high school graduation, college attendance, and college completion.

3. Among its broader outcome, it is anticipated that this program will lead to a more educated workforce, higher overall earnings for graduates, greater disposable income for local families, and improvements in the local economy and housing market.

4. An impetus for regional economic development. Economic experts hope that the scholarship will entice more middle class families, who would otherwise sacrifice income to save for college tuition, to stay in or move to the area. Local business, public relations, and real estate experts can use the Promise as a tool to attract businesses to relocate and invest in Racine.

5. The potential increase in available jobs would also serve to attract new residents to the area, but more importantly it would provide income for existing residents as well.

6. Even surrounding areas that would not benefit directly from the scholarships would foresee economic growth in commerce and entertainment industries.
There is no match requirement.


Deborah L. Embry, MBA
Grants Facilitator


  1. The City can not afford in in house MIS dept but we can afford this?
    The City has to raise taxes to find the police overtime to fight crime but we can afford this?
    The City waisted a 200K grant on the Uptown art project and we can afford this?
    The fare to ride the BUS is going up and we can afford this?
    Bus service is being cut and we can afford this?

  2. Seriously....sure it would be nice to pay for everyone's college, but please! There can't possibly be enough grant money available for that! I'm still paying on a student loan, could the city pay my loan off?

  3. How far will two $8000 grants realistically go? This plan didn't surprise me when I saw the names of the people involved -Helding, Hughes, & Wisneski. Perhaps they should all stop trying to be heros and just do their jobs and the highly paid city administrator should concentrate on administering the city.

  4. 9:19
    I am sure the funds would come from our taxes.
    In a time that Racine is losing business and population something like this will sure get more to come!
    I am tired of high taxes now should the Son of God win on Tuesday my taxes will only go higher.
    There are only three owner occupied homes on my block. In 3 years we will all be gone. How many more home owners does this City want to see leave how many more busnesses?
    How is that art district working out to bring more business into the City? The new business Park? Thought so.
    This is not the time for social experiments.

  5. Couple of points:

    1. The Kalamazoo project is a nonprofit funded by donors. It will cost an estimated $12 million a year once it's fully running.

    2. Kalamazoo's businesses are counting on a massive return on this investment in the form of middle-class families moving to the city.

    3. In Racine, the school district would get a huge influx of cash with a program like this, because it would draw more students to Unified. Under the current state revenue formula, more students means more funding.

    4. The $16,000 is just to study the program. If SC Johnson, CNH, Modine, etc. are going to get behind this, it's going to take more than a good idea.

  6. From's FAQs:

    "24. How is the Kalamazoo Promise Funded?
    The Kalamazoo Promise is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation funded entirely by a small group of anonymous donors."

    "25. Who are the donors?
    A small group of VERY NICE people."

    If private donors want to fund this is Racine, go for it. Personally, I would like to see higher academic standards. It only takes a 2.0 GPA to get into college these days? And even that is a dumbed-down "C" compared to a generation or two ago.

    In all walks of life, stop lowering standards to make society "inclusive," and start raising expectations instead. Just going to the store has become an ordeal because of masses of selfish, ignorant, uncivilized morons. If you want to make Racine a better place, follow the New York model of policing the "small stuff" (like they used to do when we had a modicum of law and order). People can live up to what is expected of them - or, more relevant to Racine, down to whatever they can get away with.

  7. SC Johnson, CNH, Modine of the three only J wax is making money right now.
    Modine just had a lay off and cut benefits I am sure they will be writing a check.
    Unless Crime and other issues are fixed I think you will not be able to pay folks to live here. (well maybe Illegals and keep bringing the very poor can't wait to read what property values are then)
    Then too if the Son of God wins and starts his socialist ideas we all can pay for this no matter where we live.

  8. If anonymous people want to give money away to public school graduates it is fine by me. But why does the city need to get involved with this especially as this program discriminates against graduates of Racine's private schools? By the way, if they succeed in driving up the numbers of public school students (to the detriment of private schools' enrollments), it will cost us big $$'s as we pay for the increased enrollment of public school students. You can thank the parents of private school/home schooled children for decreasing your taxes.

  9. Anon 9:42

    Alderman Wisneski and I are doing our jobs. We are looking for ways to differentiate our city from the hundreds of other rust-belt cities that are struggling to stay alive. We are committed to securing Racine's future. These "Promise" programs have had positive impacts everywhere else they have been tried.

    The old manufacturing jobs in Racine went where a lot of other manufacturing jobs went - to cheaper labor markets. There are just not enough jobs that only require a willingness to work and a strong back.

    The jobs that have not left have been a victim of productivity increases. Gary, IN produces as much steel as it ever did, but they only require 10% of the workforce that they did in the 70's and 80's.

    The Workforce Development Center has almost 1,000 open jobs right now. Many, if not all, require skills or education beyond high school. If we do not start addressing education in Racine, those jobs will leave, too.

    Education is the key to success in a global economy. Education is the key to revitalizing Racine.

    The grant in question is for studying the prospects of starting a program like this in Racine.

  10. Denis -

    No one wants to discriminate against private school graduates. The Kalamazoo Promise was aimed at improving their city and their school system. They are just one place to try this. Other successful communities do not restrict access based on where you go to high school. In all the talks we have had about a possible "Racine Promise", we wanted to include public and private schools in the mix.

  11. "...The old manufacturing jobs in Racine went where a lot of other manufacturing jobs went - to cheaper labor markets..."
    As indeed they should. Just like consumers shop where a lot of other consumers shop - where the gas and food are cheaper. Don't you???

  12. Thanks Greg for that clarification about including private school graduates. However, that was not mentioned in any of the info provided, so if private school graduates are to be included in this program, I hope you will ensure that that info is included in all subsequent press releases on the subject. Also, can you direct me to those cities that have included private school graduates in a similar program. Thanks.

  13. Anon 11:42 -

    I am not complaining about the job migration - just stating the facts. The question becomes: In light of those facts, what do we do now?

    The new global marketplace is demanding a more educated workforce. A "Racine Promise" would be one way to respond to that.

  14. Would it not be better to fix RUSD so more kids can read write and do simple math?

  15. Great job on the proposal for this potential program and the innovative thinking.

    Beyond the obvious local benefits, education through college should a right in this country.

    I hope this happens.

  16. Let us try this but where is our grant writer? Why not a bit of progress with grants. Look at Kenosha, my god they just got a huge grant to hire firefighters and training!

  17. " through college should a right in this country..."
    I am sure you can go on and list many other items that should be a right. That is the easy part.
    How about starting a list of what ought to be responsibilities in this country, and then campaigning and promoting them.

  18. With respect Pete how do we pay for this?
    Should we not fix k-12 first far too many get out of school and write worse then I do.

  19. wow! pete karas and greg helding on the same page. miracles never cease.

  20. Colt:

    Pay for it? We could start with ending the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan and getting off their sovereign soil. A good down payment would be to get back the $1 billion the U.S. recently gave to Georgia (Everywhere else in the world, they know that Georgia provoked and attacked first.)

    anon 7:39:

    Isn't it amazing! I had to post here just for the irony of it all. Comrade Helding and I agreeing! Too cool. :)

  21. Ah Pete are you saying the tiny county of Georgia attacked the one of the largest armies in the world?
    Are you thinking the mouse that roared?

    Love ya to death but on this your wrong

  22. Pete - your knowledge of the Georgia conflict is equal to Helding's knowledge of what his job is. Russia began cyber attacks on Georgia three weeks before the tanks rolled in, and Racine does not need another freebie to "differentiate" us from other cities that don't have the money to provide yet another freebie. Sixteen thousand dollars to "study" this - that's about right for a few hundred dollar job, but whose friend and family is doing this? Will it be the same people who charged you $11,000 to copy those hard drives (could have been done for $50 a piece)?

    As a former college professor, I also get a kick out of a program that will send even more unprepared/unqualified students to college, turning it into an extension of the dysfunctional high school system. I recall the increase, every year, in students blaming me for lousy grades and parents actually calling my colleagues and I in our offices to claim that we were holding their son or daughter back, asking "what our problem is", saying "if you don't give my child a B (when they weren't even passing in some cases) they'll lose their scholarship and it will be your fault", etc.

    A thousand jobs at WDC? How many need a four year degree? In addition, did any of you go to college? Do you think holding someone to the rigorous standard of maintaining a 2.0 is anything more than a joke?

  23. How is this program any different from the Wisconsin Covenant program started by Governor Doyle?

    Also, I applaud the outside of the box thinking by our leaders in Racine. I give them credit for addresses the issues. However, I'm still not convinced this is the best way to "fix" Racine's education system. But, we'll have to wait and see when we have more details.

  24. re: Georgia conflict

    Pete is correct.

    I would encourage the reading of some news stories from Asia, Europe, Indymedia, etc....

  25. You mean stories from the people who Russia has by the throat with natural gas supplies and missile threats? Is the cyber attack story untrue?

  26. Damn to think that Georgia did the same thing as Poland did in 1939!
    Of course Russia had no choice after being attacked by a county 1/3 it's sized. Just like Nazi Germany they had to defend them self's by invading then looting Georgia.
    Thank God Russia is a peace loving land and does not make a habit of invading neighbors like Finland or the Baltic States.

  27. So the two largest companies are hugely in the red and cutting jobs closing plants.
    So of course they will write big checks for the Racine Promise.
    Racine Promise = Higher Taxes!

  28. Yes - but the city spent $1 million on a building and now turned the entire thing over to ONE artist for $400,000. Someone has to get spanked for that lost $600,000.