Stimulus Bill Addresses Neglected Educational Goals

    While the bill’s passage may have been necessary to address short-term needs, it must be molded in a way that will create a solid foundation for future progress. New York Times columnist David Brooks called the entire stimulus package a ‘muddled mixture of short-term stimulus haste and long-term spending commitments.’ However, the last eight years have shown that high expectations cannot be paired with a lack of support. Politicians are finally putting their money where their mouths are, and with adequate oversight their investments will pay off in the long run. To not pass the bill would simply leave the job of economic recovery to a generation of students who remain largely uneducated and thus unable to meaningfully contribute to the taxpayer system.

    But even with all its positive and necessary funding, the bill contains questionable provisions that reek of special interests ‘mdash; more specifically, a provision that would temporarily increase subsidies for banks in the student-loan program. This could be likened to the ineffective bank bailouts, after which bank lenders tightened credit standards and, according to a New York Times report, students had a harder time qualifying for private loans. As this bill currently stands, it contradicts Obama’s campaign plan to eliminate government subsidies and guarantees for banks and lenders, and undermines his goal of allowing greater student access to loans. The bill’s problems are not unsolvable and can be amended to ensure taxpayer money isn’t being misused.

    Obama’s new Education Secretary Arne Duncan must ensure this boost in funding over a two-year period will be used efficiently and will remain consistent with Obama’s education policy goals ‘mdash; such as removing complex financial-aid forms like the FAFSA, and creating a program to make students aware of their college readiness early on.

    An increased government role in education will not solve all the system’s troubles ‘mdash; $150 billion won’t convince students of the importance of college nor will it be the sole factor in determining their success later on down the road. What it does provide is a lifeline and an opportunity for students to succeed.

    With a competitive global economy, there is not a moment to waste in investing in America’s future.’ As America rises out of its economic collapse, it needs educated citizens who will fill jobs and generate taxes. This bill is the first step toward that recovery.

    Readers can contact Jonathan Shan at [email protected].

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    NATIONAL NEWS ‘mdash; All across the country, students, teachers and administrators gave a small sigh of relief as the $819 billion economic stimulus bill containing $150 billion for education made it through the House of Representatives yesterday. Now, they are holding their breaths once again, anxiously awaiting Senate approval of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ‘mdash; a bill that will increase the federal Pell Grant budget from $19 billion to $27 billion and provide extra aid to school districts, special education and pre-kindergarten programs.

    The bill provides a short-term boost in education funding, which is particularly essential for students who fall on the socioeconomic scale’s lower end and rely on Pell Grants to finance their college tuitions. The maximum amount of Pell funds will be raised to $4,860 per student for the 2009-10 award year. This bill is one step closer to achieving President Barack Obama’s campaign promise of increasing Pell Grants while at the same time keeping up with college inflation. Obama plans to expand the Pell Grant to $5,400 per student in the next few years. With the proposed cuts for Cal Grants and ever-rising tuitions, other means may be needed to compensate, and the Pell increase will help blunt the blow of any cuts.

    By adding $1.6 billion to Title I programs ‘mdash; those that support students in low-income families ‘mdash; in California, the bill will also resuscitate No Child Left Behind, largely criticized by educators for demanding high standards without financial support. According to the Forum on Educational Accountability, the Bush Administration’s budget fell $15 billion short of the amount Congress and the administration authorized for NCLB in 2007. With proper funding, NCLB can promote student performance, rather than punish failing schools. By giving this program more funding, educators will come to respect NCLB not just for its high-minded ideals but also for its ability to support schools while encouraging greater accountability.

    Students in California with learning disabilities would also receive $1.4 billion through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, legislation that oversees and guides special-education programs. I.D.E.A. has been criticized as an unfunded mandate, receiving less than a quarter of Congress’s pledged funds. The process of fully funding programs to help special-education students must start again, because these students require additional attention and support early on to help them become independent members of society, which will reduce the requirement for social services later on.

    While the bill’s passage may have been necessary to address short-term needs, it must be molded in a way that will create a solid foundation for fu
    ture progress. New York Times columnist David Brooks called the entire stimulus package a ‘muddled mixture of short-term stimulus haste and long-term spending commitments.’ However, the last eight years have shown that high expectations cannot be paired with a lack of support. Politicians are finally putting their money where their mouths are, and with adequate oversight their investments will pay off in the long run. To not pass the bill would simply leave the job of economic recovery to a generation of students who remain largely uneducated and thus unable to meaningfully contribute to the taxpayer system.

    But even with all its positive and necessary funding, the bill contains questionable provisions that reek of special interests ‘mdash; more specifically, a provision that would temporarily increase subsidies for banks in the student-loan program. This could be likened to the ineffective bank bailouts, after which bank lenders tightened credit standards and, according to a New York Times report, students had a harder time qualifying for private loans. As this bill currently stands, it contradicts Obama’s campaign plan to eliminate government subsidies and guarantees for banks and lenders, and undermines his goal of allowing greater student access to loans. The bill’s problems are not unsolvable and can be amended to ensure taxpayer money isn’t being misused.

    Obama’s new Education Secretary Arne Duncan must ensure this boost in funding over a two-year period will be used efficiently and will remain consistent with Obama’s education policy goals ‘mdash; such as removing complex financial-aid forms like the FAFSA, and creating a program to make students aware of their college readiness early on.

    An increased government role in education will not solve all the system’s troubles ‘mdash; $150 billion won’t convince students of the importance of college nor will it be the sole factor in determining their success later on down the road. What it does provide is a lifeline and an opportunity for students to succeed.

    With a competitive global economy, there is not a moment to waste in investing in America’s future.’ As America rises out of its economic collapse, it needs educated citizens who will fill jobs and generate taxes. This bill is the first step toward that recovery.

    Readers can contact Jonathan Shan at [email protected].

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