Putting A Pricetag ... On Learning

michelle miller pay to learn
CBS
It was a first for Tonia Jones' four children. None has ever had a library card.

"We'll go to the table and fill them out," Jones said.

What did it take to get them to the library?

Fifty dollars ... each, CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports.

"I'm a single parent," Jones said. "It's hard out here."

A pilot program called Opportunity NYC pays low-income families cash incentives to do what many say they should be doing anyway.

  • $25 dollars for attending parent teacher conferences;
  • $600 for kids passing a standardized test;
  • $200 for getting a yearly physical;
  • All told, up to $6,000 a year in cash rewards per family.

    "I don't think it's a bribe," Jones said.

    So-called "Learn & Earn" payment programs are spreading.

    Private or publicly funded programs exist now in at least 11 states, including Georgia, which pays kids $8 an hour to be tutored after school.

    "We cannot continue to do things as we've done them in the past because it is simply not working," said Robb Pitts, the Fulton (Georgia) County Commissioner.

    "I think it could end up being the most destructive welfare program ever devised," said Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute.

    Critics say throwing money at the problem won't fix it.

    "This is not an economic transaction; it's something that is part of what it means to be a good parent," Mac Donald said.

    But those in favor of the payment programs say it's hard to argue with success. In Dallas, students have been rewarded $100 for passing college prep exams for the past 12 years - with striking results.

    "Over 30 percent are scoring over 1100 on the SAT or ACT college equivalent," said Gregg Fleisher of the National Math and Science Initiative.

    Said Jones' 17-year-old daughter, Gigi Martino. "I don't do it for the money."

    Already No. 1 in her class, Gigi will earn a $400 bonus just for graduating high school.

    "I want to make my future better," Martino said. "Getting an education, doing the right thing and going to college are the best way out."

    And $400 toward tuition doesn't hurt.