Archive for May, 2012

Turn Around

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Do you want to know some ideas to turn around schools-the well-known words from the current administration? Everyone who thinks he/she knows something has been writing about the mess of the impoverished communities and often blames the teacher unions.

Read the following from the recent NEA today journal and find out what the largest teachers union in the United States offers:

Appreciate Teachers

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

This year Teacher Appreciation Day lands almost at my turn to post. Good!

I’m feeling grateful that my Master’s degree program is almost complete. Yippee! I did well too!

My fourth grade students have performed well this year, and parents are already questioning if I can be their child’s teacher next year. What more can you ask for? A bountiful lunch is always served and greeted with delight, but “thanks” is most valued.

As if the negative words won’t be felt, I have seen a few full page ads thanking teachers again and again. Maybe some influence has been felt as those experts at negativity have heard from constituents, parents, teachers, or children.

How have I learned to speak to students? Find the positive. More likely to stick (if the administration is relentless) than telling kids how bad they are.

I read in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 2012, that San Francisco teachers, having worked without a contract for many years, are ready to strike. It turns out collective bargaining hasn’t worked for them in spite of cooperation through years of budget shortfalls, layoffs, furloughs, increased class size, and elimination of summer school. Nor has mediation worked this time. My mom said I was in my first walkout when I was only a year old. No babysitter was available, so she took me. The district and the local union settled but not until a lot of howling on both sides. San Francisco School District is the big local urban district that is really hurting.

Now that budgets are such a mess in the state (see the EdSource report), I’m happy that our district looked ahead and the teachers are middle-of-the-road types so they listen, even when they have objections.

As long as teachers feel appreciated, and not denigrated, they keep teaching all the children, easy and difficult, in schools in America.

My advice: celebrate and don’t listen to the nay-sayers.

When is a loan not a loan?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Does the student really need a loan? Has the student picked a high-priced school counting on loans to get through? Has the student chosen a community college for his/her lower division courses, thereby saving the money needed later? Has the student applied for the millions (hyperbole) grants, scholarships, and other loans with low interest rates? Does the high school kid even know what’s available?

News about loans to pay for college have been on TV, papers, magazines, and blogs a lot. Congress is fighting over Stafford loans. In case you haven’t read, the on-line website carefully and clearly tells the reader about two kinds of Stafford loans-subsidized and unsubsidized. The interest rate increase scheduled for subsidized Stafford loans in July 2012 is causing the outrage. The loan proposal was negotiated in 2006, the cost was realized, and then amended to sunset in July 2012-allowing a five year window before further decision had to be made, i.e. extending the interest rate of 3.4%.

If you were still in high school or were a parent helping your college student, wouldn’t you be in disbelief that the House of Representatives you voted for now has a budget plan to eliminate the interest rate change for Stafford subsidized college loans (making it rise to 6.8% again) to reduce the federal government’s deficit? Pell Grants for college finance would be reduced also. Over seven million college students currently rely on subsidized Stafford loans. House members say 6.8% is cheap compared to for-profit student loans. So?

The House budget plan has already received extensive coverage. The fight was not over extending the legislation. Everyone assures the U.S. that college students need help. Instead, it was over how the budget bill would allow the interest rate to remain.

Some House members thumped their foreheads and thought who won’t vote in the next election? M-m-m. Oh yes, women and children worried about their health. Cuts were made to safety net programs for women and children. Other House members who voted against the budget bill offered to erase gas and oil subsidies that could have more than paid for the interest rate change. Representative Clarke, Democrat from Michigan, introduced a bill to give up to $45000 rebate after ten years of on-time payment at 10% of income. Too late. Didn’t pass. The original budget did.

The bill is now in the Senate. “Senate Democrats have proposed a one-year extension of lower rates by eliminating a tax break for S corporations, which pass corporate income, losses, deductions and credit through to their shareholders for federal tax purposes,” said Alexander Bolton in The Hill. Another Democratic Senate proposition is to close a tax loophole that doctors, lawyers, and small business owners use to avoid the payroll tax. Senate GOP members have not offered a way to pay to keep loans at a low rate. They must like the House way.

According to Katrina vanden Heuval (May 1, 2012) of The Washington Post, Pell grants are a much better deal and should be given, not cut, to college students because they were initially designed for those with low-income needs to attend college.

Jennifer Mishory and Nicholas Kelly of The Huffington Post wrote,Yet even while this generation has been hit hardest, college graduates fare much better than their non-college peers, and a degree is increasingly becoming more important to 1) having a shot at entering the middle class, and 2) increasing the economic strength of our country.”

Should college education be unaffordable?