Education

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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Proof that Education department policies help students

Several other Georgetown students and I, who all have been able to pursue our educational dreams thanks both to federal student aid programs and Georgetown scholarships, spent our Spring break in Washington.

On Wednesday, we went to Capitol Hill to attend a hearing before the Education and Workforce Committee, where Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified about education policy proposals in the Obama administration’s FY2012 budget.

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Focus on bargaining threatens Ohio education

Over the past few years, educators and lawmakers in Ohio worked together to benefit the students of our state.

In 2009 we passed the Education Opportunity Act, which laid the groundwork for improved student achievement and teaching practice. Since then we have seen a narrowing in the achievement gaps between minority students and their counterparts. We have seen college graduation rates climb. We have seen test scores rise at a pace faster than the rest of the nation.

The Education Commission of the States recognized Ohio’s education reform plans as ambitious, inspired and comprehensive.


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Teach For America's 20th anniversary

In celebration of Teach For America’s 20th anniversary of bringing exceptional young teachers to low-income schools, here are some multiple choice questions. 

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