Education

Education Department rules should help, not hurt, students

In his first State of the Union address, President Obama proclaimed that, by 2020, the United States would once again lead the world in college graduates. However, despite the president’s ambitious goals, the Department of Education is proposing arbitrary restrictions on private sector colleges and universities that will disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged segments of the student population.

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Let's be serious about education reform

House Speaker John Boehner made the following remarks today on the House floor in support of H.R. 471, legislation renewing the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. 

Today, the House will have the opportunity to do something special for the future of our country.

I think just about every member would agree we have work to do when it comes to our education system. Americans are concerned that their children won’t be able to have the same blessings they’ve had. And if we want to protect the American Dream, there’s no substitute for a quality education.

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Sash and crown a step to cap and gown

This spring, thousands of high-school seniors will proudly count themselves among the graduating class of 2011. For many students, whether from big cities or small towns, like mine in Nebraska, the possibilities seem endless.

But they also face the very adult reality of affording a college education. As higher education costs skyrocket across the country, a generation of young Americans will cobble together family and personal savings, financial aid and decades of debt in order to prepare themselves for an increasingly competitive global economy.

My saving grace? The Miss America Scholarship Program. Yes, you read that correctly. Beyond the glitz and glitter of the stage, as it reads on its website: “The Miss America Organization is one of the nation's leading achievement programs and the world's largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. Last year, the Miss America Organization and its state and local organizations made available more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance. This assistance is not just for the handful of young women who become Miss America, but is available to the over 12,000 young women who compete in the state and local competitions as well.”

In fact, every girl who competes walks away with a scholarship, making winners out of us all.

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Putting kids before politics

Who should decide where a child goes to school? The government? A bureaucrat?

Most Americans believe that a child's parents should have that power. But unfortunately, in this country, not all parents do. Only those parents with financial means can really decide where they send their kids to school. Many underprivileged families are forced to send their kids to consistently failing public schools. In fact, many of these families live in the nation’s capital. Washington D.C. is home to some of our country’s most troubled public schools.

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Gov. Walker's educational budget

There’s a battle going on in Wisconsin. Actually, there are many battles going on. Public labor unions are under assault, democracy is being attacked, and good government is at risk. Republican Governor Scott Walker and his allies in the Legislature are waging a scorched-earth campaign to lock down political power for years to come.

Yet, the most important story is going under-reported. If Gov. Walker wins the battle, the best days of the Badger State’s once proud public education system will definitely be in the rear view mirror.

Here’s what happened. On March 16, the Governor went before the media with school district administrators by his side and said he was giving them the flexibility to reduce costs, control taxes, and increase the quality of public education.

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Education funding should have bipartisan support

On March 14, 2011, nearly 20,000 college students descended upon the California state capitol in Sacramento.  While student rallies aren’t exactly a rare occurrence, the situation facing public higher education in California is like little else.

Should Governor Brown’s budget pass, the California State University (CSU) budget will have shrunk by more than 22 percent, almost $700 million dollars, since the 2007-2008 fiscal year. Unsurprisingly, students have had to make up for this shortfall – since 2002, tuition at the CSU has increased by 303 percent.

Yet, the situation in California can become even more dire: should voters reject Brown’s proposed tax extensions, the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates the CSU will need to reduce enrollment by 21,650 students and increase tuition by another 10 percent.

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Gov. Daniels needs to work with ISTA

Public education is under assault in Indiana and teachers have become the prime target. Instead of focusing on ways to strengthen public schools, support our students and create jobs, some politicians in our state are just looking for someone to blame. Unfortunately, teachers – the people who work hard every day to give their best for Indiana’s students - have become the scapegoat.

For years, self-proclaimed education “reformers” have promoted unproven ideas and gimmicky proposals that would, in reality, harm our public schools. 

Our current governor supports many elements of this so-called “reform” agenda – including the creation of more charter schools using public school resources, funneling public funds to private or religious schools through the use of vouchers, and basing teachers’ pay on how their students perform on standardized multiple-choice tests.  

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Reform should create a student-centered education

Nearly three decades ago, the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued “A Nation at Risk,” a compelling report that sounded the alarm on the state of public education in America. Since then, we have spent billions of taxpayer dollars to improve our public schools. Yet American students have fallen behind their international peers in math and science, and our achievement gaps remain. 

We must do better. Our economic prosperity, national security, and quality of life for all Americans depend upon the ability of our students to compete successfully in the global economy, which places high value on knowledge and innovation in math, science, technology and engineering. As President Obama has said, “America’s prosperity has always rested on how well we educate our children – but never more so than today.”

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Cutting Pell Grant funding

Pell Grants are the foundation of our student aid system, which seeks to make sure that students with low and moderate incomes can afford a college education. Right now, Pell Grants are helping more than 9 million people go to college. 

There is no doubt that the cost of the Pell Grant program has been rising rapidly. As I understand it, the single most important factor has been growth in the number of eligible students. Between 2008 and now, the number of students receiving Pell Grants has increased by more than three million. 

The Great Recession that started in 2008 was a major factor contributing to this growth. People who have lost their jobs and incomes are going back to college to acquire new skills for the economy recovery. That’s exactly what we hope people would do – take advantage of opportunity to retool their skills for the jobs of the 21st century. 

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Don't cut the future

Now, I just had a chance to talk with some of your teachers, as well as some students, who told me about your all-school project that’s weaving the life and music of Duke Ellington into your classes. And by getting students engaged in learning, you’re teaching the kinds of skills about how to think and how to work together that young people are going to need in college and beyond. That’s what all of our schools need to be doing.

And in an economy that’s more competitive and connected than ever before, a good job and a good career is going to demand a good education. Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs are going to require more than a high school diploma. So, if you want a bright future, you’re going to need a college degree or advanced training.

And as Arne [Duncan] mentioned, unfortunately too many students aren’t getting a world-class education today. As many as a quarter of American students aren’t finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. And America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. Understand, we used to be first, and we now rank 9th. That’s not acceptable.

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