ATLANTA-- In his inaugural speech, Mayor Kasim Reed called it "The Atlanta Challenge" -- envisioning a college scholarship for every eligible student graduating from the Atlanta public school system.

"The results in Kalamazoo, Michigan have been pretty phenomenal," Reed said shortly after he was inaugurated Monday.

There it's called the Kalamazoo Promise -- an endowment created by anonymous corporate donors that has paid college tuition for students graduating from Kalamazoo's high schools. Reed wants the same thing for APS students.

Newly elected APS board member Steven Lee says it would reach kids ineligible for the state's HOPE scholarship. "Sometimes they don't have a B average. They don't have a 3.0 or 4.0," Lee said. "That doesn't mean that they're not college material."

But Lee as well as the mayor acknowledge that APS is a troubled system -- reeling from a cheating scandal and struggling with a high dropout rate. Fixing those problems ought to be the priority, says former APS administrator Lori James.

"If they were to ask my advice, I would tell them to pursue" the scholarship, James said. "But I would tell them also to put a whole lot more emphasis in K thru 12."

Reed says he would like to see the scholarship program take shape in the next four years.

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