BERKELEY, California (Reuters) — California Republican gubernatorial hopeful Neel Kashkari called for
free college tuition for students pursuing math and science degrees,
part of an education reform plan released Tuesday that would also model
public schools after charter schools.
Kashkari's proposal would waive tuition for students pursuing a
four-year degree in any science, technology, electronics, or math
subject in exchange for a percentage of their future earnings after
It came as Kashkari, trailing a distant third in recent polls behind
incumbent Jerry Brown and Republican Tea Party favorite Tim
Donnelly, is struggling to add momentum to his campaign before the
"The point here is to reduce the barriers of student debt," Jessica
Ng, a spokeswoman for Kashkari, said on Tuesday.
Ng said there was a shortage of students trained in science,
technology, engineering and mathematics "and this is one way we can
Kashkari is a former Treasury Department official who served during
the mortgage meltdown spanning the administrations of George W. Bush
and Barack Obama.
He hopes to unseat Brown, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth
term at the helm of the most populous U.S. state.
To face Brown in November, Kashkari needs to come in ahead of
Donnelly in the state's open primary, which allows the top two
vote-getters to advance to the general election.
Kashkari, who is seeking support from business interests in the
state and is more moderate than Donnelly on many social issues, has
made jobs and education his campaign cornerstone.
He was widely believed to be a strong contender for moderate voters
when he entered the race in January. But conservative party
activists have rallied around Donnelly, pushing him way ahead of
Kashkari in a Field poll released earlier this month.
Kashkari's tuition program draws inspiration from a similar
exemption program in Oregon, Ng said.
Ng said his proposal for public schools also draws on the education
policies of former GOP Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whose
administration spearheaded a plan to tie schools' standardized test
scores to state funding.
Under the current system, education funds are given to California's
school districts and then handed over to individual schools.
Kashkari's program would instead provide funds directly to schools,
Ng said, giving teachers, principals, and parents more control over
how money is spent. The proposal would also allow public schools to
function more like charter schools.
He has not discussed his plan with University of California or
California State University leaders, Ng said.
UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said there were "all sorts of problems"
with the idea of trading tuition for future earnings, including the
assumption that students who graduate with degrees in math or
science always land high-paying jobs.
Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC and a
former adviser to the California legislature, described the proposal
as "essentially a way to subsidize the training costs for the
"We're going to have a shortage of family physicians, we desperately
need bilingual teachers in classrooms, but rather than focus on
those needs he would prefer to subsidize the electronics industry,"