|By Bob Weaver|
PROMISE Scholars, you can take a deep breath.
You can go back to college now, at least for another year.
The West Virginia State Legislature has come up with enough money to fully fund PROMISE, though the future is unclear.
After the program ran short on money, things looked bleak after House Finance Chairman Harold Michael (pictured left) expressed his concern for the scholarships which help WV kids get a college education.
Michael said "We had said two years ago that $25 million was the magic number. We wanted to build the program to live within that figure."
Hold those magic millions!
Last year, Del. Michael (D-Hardy) got a giant share of $172 million higher education money for his own Hardy County and diverted $10 million back home from the Governor's Contingency Fund.
Del. Michael is the legislator that has funneled millions of extra education dollars to his home county "without regret," and dipped into the Budget Digest and Governor's Contingency Fund to help out his bowling alley for $16,000, a cemetery for $108,000, the Hardy County Rod and Gun Club (where he belongs) for $25,000, a $30,000 meat smoker for the high school, $75,000 for a playground, cheerleader uniforms, etc. etc. etc.
They put up plaques and name community buildings after him. House Speaker Bob Kiss says just like Senator Bob Byrd, Michael brings home the bacon.
King Michael's name appears on Circleville Community Center (Hur Herald Photo)
The Harold K. Michaels Community Center in Circleville rests behind one of the state's most beautiful school buildings, Circleville High School, now closed after a bitter battle over long distance bus rides.
Thomas Ramey of Challenge WV, asks "But what about the rest of us? Del. Michael is our Finance Chairman too. Whatever happened to a fairness?"
Michael is well-supported in the legislator as being legal and ethical, but one should ask citizens of Doddridge County who received $11 per person of contingency money compared with Hardy's $528 per person.
Chairman Kiss said has earned the "right," serving over 16 years in the house, defending Michael's "drunken sailor money." But then, Kiss defended Del. Jerry Mezzatesta too.
Michael, according to the Charleston newspapers, has his own $8 million dollar education fund, maybe two of them, that he alone can sprinkle cash. State Superintendent of Schools Dave Stewart said he didn't have an idea about Michael's education fund.
Meanwhile, Lisa DeFrank-Cole, the Executive Director of the PROMISE Scholarship program, says the Governor and Legislature came through for them at the last minute.
The program needed at least $37-million to pay for what they've promised four classes of WV students, and was a few million short.
Maybe, Michael could give PROMISE scholars discount certificates to attend the Eastern Community College he started in Hardy County with $2 million from the Budget Digest. They need students.
Eastern WV Community College in Moorefield needs students (Hur Herald Photo)
The new college, which now has taxpayer investment of millions of dollars, was launched during the same period the legislature was lamenting about having too many colleges, and wanting to close some of them down.
So now, at the Mouth of the Elk, we have "King Michael" replacing "Mezz Money."
It was pretty tense last week in the legislature, with the latest group of high school seniors yet to receive the word about their scholarships.
DeFrank-Cole says they couldn't make promises to future college students until they were sure they'd taken care of current recipients.
Governor Joe Manchin has already called for a full review of the PROMISE scholarship process.
Maybe he should call for a full review of King Michael.
Michael scrapped the well-supported no cost busing bill, which would have ended future long bus rides in WV, effectively slowing down wholesale school consolidation.
Thousands of WV students are being forced to ride school buses over the state's guidelines, many between one and one-half hours a day - one way.