Education Issue Update: School of Rock

Who needs education? Well, we all do. And the classroom is a subject that everyone is talking about right now. We here at HeadCount have added Education to our roster of six issue areas, and we hope you find it informative.

  • In the last year we’ve heard mandates to “cut the deficit,” “freeze government spending” and “cut taxes” from both sides of the aisle. But President Obama drew a line in the sand when it comes to education during last month’s State of the Union. His point: if the American work force isn’t educated, more jobs will flood overseas. He called on us to laud science fair winners like sports heroes and warned that cutting spending on education is like “lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine.”
  • So how does this play out in real life? Well just as the Prez was putting the finishing touches on his speech, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution which could decrease the amount of funds available to Federal Pell grants (scholarship money awarded to the nation’s most needy students) by $5.7 billion. The maximum award would go from $5,500 down to $4,705 and 1.7 million students would become ineligible. Meanwhile, even President Obama’s budget calls for $90 billion in cuts to Pell Grants over the next decade. It would freeze the top award at $5,500 and kill grants for summer school and subsidies for graduate school loans. Hmmm, sounds like that airplane engine has a little less gas to burn.
  • If you’re a student, you probably spend at least half the year at school and help support the local economy by working, eating, drinking(!) and paying taxes. But if some state legislatures have their way, you won’t be able to vote where you attend college. A proposed bill in New Hampshire would bar students from the polls near their school, unless they lived there before attending college and plan to stick around after graduation. Now, the Supreme Court ruled in the 1970s that students are eligible to vote where they attend school. It sounds like the NH legislature needs a civics lesson. Anyone have a text book to lend?
  • What makes a person “American”? Since 2001, immigration reform advocates have been pushing for the federal DREAM Act, a bill that would allow illegal immigrants brought to the US as children to gain legal citizenship by joining the military or going to college. The House of Representatives approved it last Fall, but was stalled in the Senate when five Democrats and most Republicans voted in opposition. For now, the DREAM is dead in our nation’s capitol, but Connecticut, Maryland, Arkansas, Nebraska and Virginia, have taken up the issue by proposing to offer in-state tuition rates to undocumented aliens.
  • Have you seen classmates doing push-ups at 4am? They aren’t Greek pledges; they are future military leaders. Due to the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a handful of universities are considering welcoming Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs back to campus.  Many universities nationwide eliminated ROTC programs in the 1970s, citing the military’s policy of barring certain peoples based on gender or sexual orientation. Harvard University is the first so far to officially open a dialog with the Pentagon. The policy’s reversal may not placate all critics of ROTC programs, however, as Army policy still bans servicemen and women who are transgendered or gender non-conforming. At a recent hearing on the subject at Columbia University, an Iraq war veteran was heckled, prompting media outrage.

Education has always been one of the most heated subjects in politics: after all, it’s about the future of America.