Education

Changing face of America increases urgency for STEM immigration reform

How to put the nation’s economy on the path for growth and job creation was the central debate in this year’s election. Now that the campaign is over, the public lens remains focused on our economy; but the nation as a whole is also beginning to see a different demographic picture emerge—one that many are calling the New America. According to exit polls, the non-white share of the electorate reached 28 percent, an all-time high. And this changing face of America has prompted the president and congressional leaders to make immigration reform a top priority alongside the economy. 

Yet even with this newfound willingness of our lawmakers, comprehensive and bipartisan immigration reform will be a cumbersome and lengthy process.  There is, however, an aspect to this complex puzzle on which bipartisan agreement exists and that will immediately create jobs and grow the economy: STEM immigration reform. 

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Make interest on student loans deductible

Tax reform is coming fast in the nation’s capital, both Republicans and Democrats agree. The concept of lowering tax rates and eliminating tax breaks is appealing to almost everyone. But it will be hard to find consensus in the details. What deductions go and which stay? That’s where the fight will be.
All sides should lay down their arms on one set of issues: Investments that clearly benefit society and economic growth. In particular, post-secondary education should not only be spared but it should actually get a new tax break as part of an overhaul of the tax code.

The idea is simple. Interest paid on student loans should be made tax deductible.

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Confronting the problem of bullying head on

Newly elected Members of Congress came this week to Washington D.C. for orientation, with a majority of the incoming Democratic members identifying as women, people of color, or a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Many of these individuals come with histories of disenfranchisement and difficulty. Their stories are of struggle, from working in warzones to growing up with homophobia and bullying. Their arrival in town, and their stories, coincides with DC Public Schools’ partnership with The Bully Project to bring together thousands of students and educators for a screening of the film Bully -- all to raise awareness about bullying in the District.

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Make English our official language

One of the greatest things about the American Democracy is that citizens have the Constitutional right to vote for government representatives whom we believe will best represent our interests, our communities and our individual freedoms.

With election season coming to a close, federal government officials will slowly begin preparations for a new session of Congress. Newly elected representatives will soon learn that fixing our nation’s problems is a slow moving process primarily because there are very few issues on which everyone, regardless of political affiliation, can agree. One of these few unifiers, however, is the belief that all Americans, regardless of background, should have equal opportunity to achieve the endless successes the United States has to offer.

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Parents fight for better schools

Several weeks ago, parents in Adelanto, California made history by successfully employing the state’s 2010 parent trigger law for the first time.

Their story is a triumph of community over bureaucracy and political inaction. After months of attempting to undermine and delegitimize parents’ demands, the Adelanto School District was ordered in court to comply with the parents’ petition to establish a nonprofit charter school at Desert Trails Elementary by the start of the 2013 school year.

Their victory is not only good news for the students of Adelanto, it has the potential to impact kids across the country. That’s because parent trigger laws are already on the books in California, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and are also in the process of being introduced in more than a dozen other states.

For those who have not heard of the concept, parent trigger laws allow parents whose children attend persistently low-achieving schools to petition for change.

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Give charter schools a chance

Despite efforts by both parties to paint President Obama and Governor Romney as opposites, there is at least one policy area they agree on — the need to bolster our education system and expand the use of charter schools.

Teachers unions and their allies object to this concept, arguing that expanding student choice takes money away from (and thus weakens) traditional public schools. Opponents also question whether charter schools have the capacity to outperform their traditional counterparts. By examining Ohio’s charter school experience, we’re able to compare the performance of charter schools relative to their public counterparts.

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Congress must help more foreign-born STEM graduates stay in US

No one says that the U.S. doesn’t produce enough lawyers. Today, almost 150,000 students are attending U.S. law schools. Almost all of them are Americans, and barely more than half will find jobs in their field here. Their supply exceeds our economy’s current demand. But the exact opposite is true for students of science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM).

This year, 40,000 computer science graduates will find 120,000 new and unfilled jobs waiting for them. Worse, many of those students are foreign born and barred by our current immigration policy from using their talents to meet this demand to help grow the U.S. economy. Consider that by 2009, according to the National Science Foundation, a full half of those graduating with a doctorate in computer science were foreign-born students here on a temporary visa. Although we clearly have an economic need for these graduates, and they’ve been educated here in the United States, we are currently sending these inventors and job creators home to compete with us in the global marketplace.

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Fisher v. Texas is not about quotas, It's about the economy

Members of Congress and advocates on the Hill should take notice of a case being heard today at the Supreme Court. Fisher v. Texas has gotten much attention as “the affirmative action case;” however, the outcome of the case may also have ramifications on the country’s economic future. For this reason, Fortune 100 companies, small business organizations, military leaders and the Brennan Center for Justice have filed amicus briefs asking the Court to uphold its longstanding precedent.

As lawmakers search for ways to boost our economic growth – by trying to create a bipartisan deficit reduction plan and figuring out how to create jobs – they should also keep in mind policies that affect our human capital – our largest economic asset.

Fisher considers a challenge to the admission policy of the University of Texas at Austin. That policy seeks to create a diverse student body, and therefore a diverse workforce. Diversity spurs innovation. When people from different backgrounds and those with different viewpoints come together to exchange ideas and knowledge, it produces new ideas and new knowledge. It creates intellectual and business leaders. In an increasingly competitive world, the United States’ singular advantage is our ability to create, not imitate. As the Fortune 100’s brief notes, inclusive admissions are a “business and economic imperative.”

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In Fisher v. Texas, Supreme Court should rule in favor of Texas

As high school seniors across the nation get ready for Homecoming, today the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments that could determine what kinds of experiences they will be exposed to in college next year. The Court will hear Fisher v. Texas  and decide whether the University of Texas -- and, by extension, all institutions of higher learning -- can consider the race of a student as one factor among many in a holistic review of a student applicant. The Supreme Court has already endorsed, as constitutional, an admissions policy very similar to that used by Texas a half-dozen times over the last half century, and, most recently, nine years ago in Grutter v. Bollinger. Yet, despite having this matter settled many times previously, we are somehow again debating the importance that quality and diversity play in our nation’s colleges and universities.

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Fisher v. Texas: It's wrong to curb diversity

When I started school in Virginia in 1968, the public schools in my county were still segregated by race. When our school board finally began complying with Brown vs. Board of Education, a group of parents decided to start an all-white private school. They showed up in our driveway one evening to convince my parents to join them. My father — a white factory worker and a son of the brutally segregated South — sent them away unhappy. Years later I asked him what he'd told them. "I told them you and your sister had to learn to live in the world," he said. "And I told them the world wasn't going to be all white."

On October 10, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Fisher v. Texas. At stake is the freedom of a public university to fulfill its educational mission by selecting a diverse student body. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Texas to preserve our own ability to achieve our mission — and ultimately, the ability of public universities nationwide to prepare their students for lives in a world that is increasingly more diverse.

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