JEFFERSON CITY - Just minutes after all the pomp and ceremony of an inauguration, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan was sitting on the edge of his desk talking to a group of students.
As he did four years ago, Carnahan met with students from around the state to demonstrate the priority he places on education.
Carnahan told students from the class of 2000 about his challenge scholarship, which would grant a $1,500 tax credit to Missouri residents who choose to attend post-secondary schools in the state.
The tax credit would be available for the first two years for students who choose to attend a community college, a technical school or 4-year university - public or private.
"I want it to be available to you if you want it," Carnahan said.
In order for students to keep the challenge scholarship would, they would have to make satisfactory progress. Carnahan said he does not want to require a specific grade to maintain the scholarship because he wants to avoid artificial grade inflation. But he did say that may change once the legislature begins work on his plan.
Carnahan, who emphasized education throughout his inaugural address, reiterated to students from the class of 2000 that he wants education to be his top priority during his second term. He said programs that have expanded parents as teachers, placed more computers in schools and held schools more accountable have helped improve the quality of education in the state.
"The test is in the classroom as to whether you're getting a better education," he said.
But the governor said more improvements need to be made. He said more schools throughout the state need computers, and students from the class of 2000 agreed. They said access to the Internet would be beneficial.
Carnahan announced that money would be available to schools which can match the amount given to them from the state for computers. But, he said, it might take some time before students can use the "information superhighway," or the Internet, because teachers still need to be trained.
Lisa McBee, of Columbia, is a member of the class of 2000. She attends the Fulton School for the deaf. In sign language, she thanked the governor for money her school used to make a library.
"It feels great and wonderful to be able to speak with the governor," she signed later in an interview.
Lisa said she feels the quality of education has improved. "I feel like there are more advanced classes in education," she said.
Carnahan told students he will always be reminded to keep education as his top priority because of four murals in his office, which are directly across from his desk. The murals are portraits of some of Missouri's education leaders, including the founder of kindergarten and Mark Twain.
"If I forget education, I've got the symbols here looking at me everyday," he said.