Paige’s resignation is good news for students

    The decision by U.S. Secretary of Education Ron Paige to leave his post at the Department of Education is a much-welcomed move for universities. Now that President George W. Bush has appointed Margaret Spellings to replace him, she must put the interests of students before politics.

    During his four-year term, Paige accomplished little of value for college students. While the administration emphasized reforming secondary education, Paige failed to advocate for increased financial aid within the administration — the top Pell Grant remained nearly stagnant — and the department failed to correct a Clinton-era mistake that denied federal money to students convicted of drug offenses.

    In fact, in his resignation letter, Paige fails to mention one higher education initiative, though he praises the improvements made to his department’s Web site.

    When a comprehensive study by the American Federation of Teachers showed that public school achievement far outdistanced that of administration-backed charter schools, Paige lashed out at the newspapers that reported the story instead of facing the problem. The department also launched an unprecedented effort to refute the study, which critics argued might have violated normal department procedures. Several months earlier, in a loss of judgment, Paige called the teacher’s union a “terrorist organization.”

    It is now imperative for Spellings, who is held in high regard by the education community, to represent the needs of lifelong learners in all age groups.

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