The Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy, or WISE, fund is not even a year old. But the ongoing budget difficulties the state faces is threatening to end it already.
Gov. Bobby Jindal championed the spending program, which is supposed to encourage the creation and expansion of college programs aimed at training high-demand workers, just last year.
He said the program was part of the way the state had to go about training workers to take all the jobs being created.
Local educational leaders hailed the program as a good way to get back at least some of the money they have lost in recent years to budget cuts.
The program was expected to put about $40 million into higher education.
Part of the appeal of the plan is that it requires the colleges and universities to get matching money from private industry — one group that would benefit from an influx of well-trained workers.
Companies put up some of the money, the state puts up some of it, and the colleges and universities end up with new or expanded offerings that benefit the school, the companies and, of course, the students who put them to use.
It was difficult to see any drawback to the program. If it works as planned, it should be a benefit on several different fronts. It would be of particular use here, where we have established training programs, a wealth of high-demand jobs and a broad swath of students who could be served by these offerings.
The $40 million price tag is high. But the purchasing power is greater than that number because it depends on private sector investment to enlarge the pool of available money.
“We view the WISE Fund as one of the most forward-thinking public policy efforts that this state has seen in a long time,” said Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.
Now, though, it looks like the program could be on the chopping block.
Jindal is thought to be considering it for elimination.
That would be a shame. Like the state’s investment in higher education overall, this is a program that should pay dividends for years or even decades to come.
Cutting it seems short-sighted at best.
This is yet another reason that the Legislature should convene a special session to look at higher education and how we can continue paying for essential services while maintaining the integrity of the state budget.
This program is certainly worth saving.
Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.