Probst education bills receive some funding

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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photoTim Probst

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Two education initiatives that state Rep. Tim Probst has been pushing throughout this legislative session managed to win at least token funding in a state budget that includes very few dollars for new programs.

The 2011-13 budget released Tuesday includes $5.9 million for the PASS program (Paying for Actual Student Success), which will offer awards to high schools that use proven dropout prevention programs to increase their graduation rates.

The budget also includes $5 million as a state match for the Opportunity Scholarships program, which will provide stipends to middle-class students to offset rising tuition at state colleges and universities. Probst said the state dollars are expected to draw private voluntary contributions of $10 million to $15 million in the first funding cycle, which begins Dec. 1.

The Vancouver Democrat, a member of the House education appropriations committee, has worked closely with Microsoft Corp., Boeing Co., and the Seattle-based College Success Foundation to develop a program to help students stay in school in the face of sharp tuition increases. Some of the scholarships may be reserved for students studying high-demand fields including science, technology, engineering and math.