Task force punts decision on plan to overhaul TOPS

Task force punts decision on plan to overhaul TOPS

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After months of hearings and meetings, a panel of state lawmakers could not agree to a single plan to preserve the beloved TOPS scholarship program.

Meeting Wednesday, the TOPS Task Force proposed a series of nine different ideas to revise the program, choosing against making a single overarching recommendation. "Everyone agreed that TOPS needs to continue in some way, shape, or fashion," said Sen. Blade Morrish, R-Jenning. However, that's about where the consensus ended.

Last school year, TOPS was only partially funded. In attempts to figure out a way to make the program sustainable, legislators put together the bipartisan panel. Variations on many of their proposals have been made before at the state capitol, but without success. Some of the ideas contradict each other. Their list includes changes to award requirements and amounts. One idea calls for the elimination of stipends given to higher achieving students. Another recommendation calls for lawmakers find a dedicated funding source for TOPS so they do not have to keep looking for money to pay for it each year.

RELATED: La. legislator proposes plan reworking TOPS award amounts

Another proposal would add to the award, allowing TOPS students going to community colleges to earn additional money to help pay for two more years at a four-year institution, provided they meet certain benchmarks.

"Instead of us debating and fighting here, we made the decision to send all of the proposals to the legislature," said Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, who is a member of the task force.

Lawmakers on the panel were not necessarily optimistic things will be different this time around. "I can't speak for the other legislators," Morrish said.

"What I don't want to see, which is typical around here, like the tax reform, that we spent all this time studying an issue and not making any changes," James said.

The full legislature will now get a chance to consider the proposals and potentially turn them into legislation during this spring's session, which begins Monday, March 12.

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