Wisconsin lawmakers are debating a controversial plan to remove race as a factor that can qualify students for a state program that provides grants for college. The proposal received preliminary approval on Wednesday from the Wisconsin State Assembly.
The proposed change in the grant program came as a surprise to many lawmakers, according to news reports. Rep. Peggy Krusick, a Democrat, made the proposal late Tuesday, and it gained support from Republicans, who hold a majority of Assembly seats, according to the Associated Press. Supporters of the proposal said that race should not influence who is eligible for need-based financial aid. Democrats who opposed the plan called it "an affront to minority rights," the AP reported.
The legislation would make changes in the Talent Incentive Program Grant, a $4.4-million program that awards $600 to $1,800 grants to students from low-income and nontraditional backgrounds who attend college in Wisconsin. Nontraditional students include students who are black, Hispanic, Hmong, or American Indian; who are among the first generation of their families to attend college; or who have been in prison. About 4,300 students a year qualify for it, the Associated Press reported.
Democrats who opposed the measure used a procedural move to delay a vote on final approval in the Assembly until Thursday, the AP said.
Democrats in the Assembly could also throw an obstacle in front of the legislation by objecting to its being sent to the Senate; if they did so, they could prevent the proposal from being voted on in that chamber until January. Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, would have to sign the bill before it could become law.