Archive for the ‘community colleges’ Category

Backing Away: the President’s Budget Proposal

Thursday, April 20th, 2017
diverse community of parents and children at a Colorado elementary

diverse community of parents and children at a Colorado elementary

A notice in the NEA Education Insider, April 9, 2017, reminds teachers that the President’s budget proposal  drops the “U.S. Department of Education funding by $9 billion or nearly 14 percent. The Trump/DeVos agenda calls for voucher schemes that provide billions of dollars for private schools while slashing funding for afterschool programs in public schools, Pell Grants, teacher professional development, and class size reduction.” In addition, such a budget would cut federal food programs for children and health care initiatives that keep children ready for school.

So to go along, three House of Representatives Republicans introduced bill HR 610 on January 23, 2017. It will begin the de-funding process of public schools and effectively start a school voucher system to be used by children ages 5 to 17.

The bill will do just what the president’s budget requests – revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 which is the nation’s educational law and provides equal opportunity in education. Compare the budget proposal above with the comprehensive program that covers needs for struggling learners, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance and Federal Accountability Programs. The bill would also abolish the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. For our most vulnerable, this may be the ONLY nutritious food they have in a day. The bill has no wording whatsoever protecting special needs kids, no mention of IDEA and FAPE.

Moreover, to support Pell Grant defunding, on Tuesday, April 11, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and cabinet member of the current administration, withdrew an Obama administration Education Department policy that requires taking into account the past practices of college loan servicing companies before awarding contracts. It seems that Ms. DeVos is aiding the lenders to make money. There is abundant evidence that the industry doesn’t serve the college graduates and American families trying to get ahead. Rather Americans are burdened by unfair loan practices.

What’s the purpose? School “choice.”

Backing away from support for 86% of American children in public schools is to ensure money for school “choice,” especially with vouchers. Betsy DeVos has been looking at models to provide vouchers like the tax-credit model in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program which has been in effect since 2002. The program offers corporations and wealthy individuals a one-to-one credit on their taxes when they donate to one of several nonprofit “scholarship granting organizations” that have been established in the state for distributing vouchers. For example, a corporation that owes $50,000 in Florida taxes, can donate that entire amount to a scholarship program instead, depleting their tax bill to zero. Nearly 100,000 low-income students in Florida attend private, mostly religious schools, and could benefit from these vouchers. But, the voucher model also reduces state revenues by $50,000 from one corporate taxpayer (in the example), thus eliminating funding that could be used for the almost 3 million Florida public school students.

The research on improvement in student achievement by using vouchers to attend a recommended private or parochial school is not absolute, some school moves help, others don’t. However, The New York Times article by Dana Goldstein, April 12, 2017, “The Hidden Costs in Special Education School Vouchers” does expose features of vouchers that often don’t show better results. Parents must understand all the specifics of the voucher applied for. The protections for special education students from the 1975 federal civil rights law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may be waived once a scholarship voucher is accepted, as in the John M. McKay voucher program in Florida and, at least, seven other states.

On top of that problem, two assistants have been hired to the USDOE. The president hired Carlos G. Muñiz as general counsel to the Education Department. He is perhaps best known for representing Florida State University in a lawsuit brought by a student who accused the former star quarterback James Winston of raping her in 2012.

Ms. DeVos hired Candice E. Jackson, to be the acting assistant secretary for civil rights. She represented one of the women who attended a news conference before a presidential debate in October to impugn Mrs. Clinton’s treatment of sexual assault victims.

Title IX civil rights must be overseen for students of all ages, pre-K through college – the people for whom the President often reminds us he wants to assure a place in a great America – and then backs away from funding public schools and hires people to back his vision.

Take Care Schools urges you to call your representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 610 (HR 610).




Compare Education Views of 2016 Presidential Candidates

Friday, July 29th, 2016

No doubt, no time to linger over the education positions of the presidential candidates for the November elections: the new school year approaches. So, scan this summary.

Donald Trump, GOP candidate, has only a video issues website. In talk, he sticks to education points he has made since 2000. There is too much money, waste, fraud, and abuse in school systems and in the United States Department of Education. It’s not clear what he refers to when he says ‘abuse’ – cruel disciplinary punishment in schools (some evidence exists) or funding abuse.

He threatens to cut the Department of Education because it is a federal body, and it set up the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that he wants to get rid of. Education should be managed through each local, not the federal, government (i.e. the state). However, The Washington Post’s article by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, 2/2/2016, reminds us that the CCSS was crafted by bipartisan state governors and school chiefs (with major funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), and the decision for states to adopt was voluntary – so it is already a local choice, not federal.

He does know about for-profit higher education, as we’ve all heard. He is likely to desire loosening regulations for accreditation, although he has not approached the higher education issue since word has spread about his attempt at a for-profit college. Also, Trump is opposed to ‘gun-free’ zones on school campuses and, last, he has come out against unions.


One can read in depth about Hillary Clinton’s education plans. The most written about is her proposal for higher education students to reduce debt from loans and tuition fees. A student from a family making $85,000 will be compensated to go to a four-year institution by 2017, and a student from a family making $125,000 by 2021. It is proposed to make community college tuition free. States must invest, colleges and universities must account for student success and low tuition. In addition to money for minority student colleges, all proposals will be paid for by limiting tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers.

For K-12 education, the most valuable programs are to modernize teacher preparation, support, and pay; to use a “Modernize Every School bond” to provide capital for infrastructure needs: energy efficiency, asbestos removal, science labs, and high-speed broadband; and to provide universal pre-school and child care investments for which parents pay less than 10% of their income.


Now, Mike Pence, Trump’s Vice-Presidential running mate, has one neutral education position: he voted against No Child Left Behind (because of federal intrusion) before the standards were seen as impossible. When he became governor in 2012, he got rid of CCSS to which his predecessor had agreed. He insisted the standards were a federal intrusion. Then he turned around and spent money to devise Indiana’s own standards, suspiciously similar to CCSS. Because of turmoil about CCSS-based testing Mr. Pence paid for a new test based on the Indiana standards. Everyone complained and so another test is being designed to use in 2018. Is this expensive or what?

The governor has been a full-throated supporter of charter schools and school vouchers. A second good thing is he started pre-school programs, but dancing around his dislike of federal money, grant applications have been written, pulled, and submitted again, destabilizing anything good for schools. In addition, he has slashed public school funds in order to pay for corporate tax exemptions.


What can Clinton’s Vice-Presidential candidate Tom Kaine bring to the ticket? His emphasis has always been civil rights, but as governor he is known for the gun safety laws he pushed through the legislature after the massacre at Virginia Tech. Also he pushed for high quality pre-K accessibility. He opposes school vouchers. In the Senate, he wrote a bill to extend the interest rate cuts for college student loans and increase in tuition assistance at the state level.

On July 27, 2016, Vice-President Joe Biden reminded voters that “Being a teacher is not what you do, it’s what you are.” That is how Take Care Schools looks at the candidates – to see who is supporting what you are.

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?

Not only K-12 kids are losing out!

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The furlough days in California, the shortened school year in Hawaii, minimum required hours in West Virginia fill K-12 teachers and administrators with gloom. Editorial after opinion piece describing the poor high school graduation statistics and increasing middle school drop-out rates lead to hand-wringing.

California middle school

California middle school

And this week in California Jack Scott, community college chancellor, and Charles Reed, state universities chancellor, have chastised the state legislature and Congress for looking away when students pay $10 more per unit in community college fees and CSU student yearly fees have risen 19%–AND students still can’t get into classes needed for timely graduation.

Surely everyone knows the government’s problem: an inability to raise revenue, not only by cutting unnecessary spending but raising revenue from taxes. How is the country going to hire job seekers with the abilities needed for work in the U.S. economy without a strong education component?

One of the few areas where jobs were lost but soon recovered after 2009 is Silicon Valley. Those workers DID NOT finish their education with a high school diploma!

People still think manufacturing jobs will return. They think health and service jobs will be enough to put us back into the middle-class. It’s not going to happen. The only private industry that needs lots of brawn and a few college-grad engineer brains is the oil industry. The country better get used to the idea of education, both K-12 and college, and the funds needed to make public universities accessible to Americans.

In California, one conservative assemblyman, Tim Donnelly (San Bernardino) offered that “they’re  whining about…more taxes to chase more business out of the state. You can’t have a high level of investment when you’ve killed off the golden egg.” This legislator thinks professors should be paid less and labor unions and trial lawyers reined in. See the San Francisco Chronicle “Chancellors blame campus woes on GOP” by Nanette Asimov, August 23, 2011.

There was no evidence in the quotation to support his positions and in fact California’s business relocations have been minimal. Joseph Vranich’s June 2011 blog post had counted 129 businesses relocating out of 3.2 million small businesses in the state in 2011. That hardly seems like the golden goose has flown away. We’re not talking corporations in this post for which no statistics were found in the search.

However, Jack Scott and Charles Reed are adamant about the difficulty of keeping faculty courted by other universities. Lower salaries are going to help retain faculty to teach the students who need to graduate?

One can read reports from both liberal and conservative education foundations and institutes galore to see improvement to K-12 academic growth. The uniform graduation rate that requires all states to report the number of students who graduate in four years with a standard high school diploma; the U.S. Department of Education agreement to give waivers to improve the process to close the gap between poor and well-off students; and schools that have managed to set in place extended days instead of furloughs and still keep the budget under control. Not many: 1000 of the 300,000 schools in the country, but a start.

If only the minority of legislators that look at the budget or debt-reduction plan in their hands could see the consequences of shortchanging students, K-12 and college, both immediately and long term.

Buddy, Can You Spare Another Dime?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Each article about prisons brings to mind “at risk” school kids who could benefit from the millions of dollars spent on building and staffing one more prison facility. In 2011 California needs to consolidate programs to address budget problems, but like many states, it has a crazy quilt of laws about prison sentences. When the quarreling stops, state prisoners will be sent to county facilities after the decision to reduce prison populations from the U. S. Supreme Court.

Look back two years.

“California Passes Bill Addressing Prisons,” by Solomon Moore, The New York Times, September 13, 2009, is another in the unending line of commentary on the cost of  felonies and misdemeanors, building another prison, overcrowded prison facilities, and court mandates to reduce prison populations.

Make no mistake.  Major criminals should be incarcerated, though FBI statistics in “Violent crime falls sharply…” by Devlin Barrett, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, September 15, 2009, show that killings, for example, decreased 3.9% in 2008.  Still, the laws that send men and women to jail for petty theft or small drug sales, as if they had robbed the federal gold depository or had lorded over a multi-state drug cartel, need reform.

Know why?

Students “at risk” need every dime of help they can get.  And they need every adult who can be rehabilitated to support their children.  In California $7000 a year (in 2009 down to $6000) is allocated per student attending public schools.  At the same time, an average of $49,000 per year is spent for each prison inmate (current prison population-167,000).  However, the bill just signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger will release 16,000 inmates without violent records or serious offenses through changes in parole regulations and early-release rules.

Sound better?  Let’s see…

Studies (see post 6/30/09) have shown that for an “at risk” student to succeed, attendance is important, adequate safe facilities are necessary, highly-qualified teachers must be hired, adequate books and other resources are required, assessment and time/money for analysis of student academic needs is mandated, tutoring and before or after school programs should be provided, and parent commitment to encourage the student’s achievement must be supported.  Not counting the funds for a district to oversee each school’s budget in order to get every bit of use from each thin dime.  All that for $7000 a year per child in California (2011 investment).

Now for each person spending the year in prison, food must be provided; health care, a safe facility, rehabilitation services should be allocated; and prison guards and administrators must be paid to run the facility.  All for $49,000 a year per inmate.

Rarely is a word printed about any funded services to guide inmates ready to be released into programs that will help them return to their family responsibilities.  In fact, the local public school is held responsible for guiding parents: providing counseling, direction to family health services, and parent education so they can support their children’s academic success.  Again, unless the school receives a grant or qualifies for Title I monies, all those services are included in the $7000 per child per year (2011).

Rethink priorities.

Along with the entire financial mess that California has brought upon itself, how different groups in this state are supported financially must be carefully reviewed.

In the article “California’s costly budget decisions,” by Larry N. Gerston, San Francisco Chronicle, September 14, 2009, we are reminded that budget-cutting at the expense of students, who with education get jobs and enter professions, leaves them to drop out.  How many will think the only way to get money is to rob, sell drugs, or steal cars, eventually landing in prison at $49,000 a year?  Instead, how about spending “the fraction it might take to keep them in school?”

In addition, wouldn’t it be better to spend money on community colleges, half-way houses, drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities for no other reason than to teach paroled adults the skills to help their children succeed in school.

Sanity must return to California’s finances.  What teacher wants to grovel, asking, buddy, can you spare a dime?