otherwords.org — Patrick Pylvainen grew up in a small town outside Minneapolis. The Minneostan college student has seven siblings, so he borrows money for his tuition. Now, those more affordable federal loans are in jeopardy. The cascade of federal budget cuts expected to begin in January would slash every single program the government classifies as "discretionary," including funding for education. That's heartbreaking, since public investment in education was a driving force behind historic U.S. prosperity. But this isn't how it has to be. One of the most heated debates this election season is what to do about the Bush-era tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Those tax cuts aren't often mentioned in the same breath as education funding, but they should be. That's because the Bush tax cuts siphon off money that could fund education and other crucial programs.
commondreams.org — The world’s largest private-sector employer and the country’s most prominent conservative entertainment company have teamed up to sponsor a fundraiser called “Teachers Rock.” Backed by Walmart and Anschutz Film Group, the August 14 event will feature live performances from musicians like Josh Groban and appearances from actresses like Viola Davis; it will be broadcast August 18 as a CBS special with messages from actresses like Meryl Streep. And it will promote the upcoming feature film Won’t Back Down, Anschutz’s entry in the “education reform” wars. Won’t Back Down is reportedly a highly sympathetic fictional portrayal of “parent trigger” laws, a major flashpoint in debates over education and collective bargaining.
policyshop.net — Social Security turned 77 today. Unfortunately, it's not a happy day for the historic program: new data compiled by the U.S. Treasury Department for Smart Money reports: "From January through August 6, the government reduced the size of roughly 115,000 retirees' Social Security checks on those grounds. That's nearly double the pace of the department's enforcement in 2011; it's up from around 60,000 cases in all of 2007 and just 6 cases in 2000." So, we're garnishing Social Security checks. This development can't be blamed on poor personal finance and bad life choices. Most of these retirees took on this debt later in life to help others (mainly family members) pay for increasingly expensive and necessary higher ed degrees.
Even if you don't have school-aged children, you can tell schools are about to open in many places because the airwaves, mailboxes, and newspaper inserts are stuffed with "Back to School" advertising. It's also the time of year when we hear most about research studies and serious-sounding reports about public education. more »
propublica.org — The for-profit higher education industry was the target of a bruising report issued last week. Based on a two-year effort, the report detailed high rates of loan default, aggressive recruiting, higher than average tuition, low retention rates, and little job placement assistance. It was spearheaded by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a longtime critic of the industry. The report has provoked some pushback. The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a membership organization composed of accredited for-profit schools, issued a statement criticizing what it saw as "continued political attacks" on the for-profit sector. Saying the report "twists the facts to fit a narrative," it went on to challenge several figures. It didn't contest the following numbers.
commondreams.org — Since No Child Left Behind became law, schools where there are lots of poor kids have been turned into brutal testing factories, where the focus is on raising test scores rather than raising children. Even so, the test scores inexorably reflect the economic disadvantages of poor communities, as parents each year continue to receive the federally-mandated letters telling them their schools are failing. Some parents shake their heads and shrug off the letters because they know their child’s teacher is doing the best she can. Others get frustrated and angry. And yet most of these parents do not know that Karl Rove and his little band of Texans created NCLB with their dismay and frustration in mind, in order to replace public education, or to “blow it up a bit,” as former Assistant Secretary of Education Susan Neuman told Time Magazine in 2008.
otherwords.org — Let's take a trip deep into the magic kingdom of "Laissez Fairyland" and prostrate ourselves before the infallible and inscrutable force known as the free market. While this awesome deity cannot be seen, the high priests of free-market fundamentalism insist that we mere mortals must simply have faith that its mysterious workings are always in our best interest. Yeah, sure, your holiness. We saw how well that worked out for us wandering pilgrims after you true believers deregulated Wall Street, which then crashed on our streets. Well, get ready. Free-market purists want us to have another ungodly religious encounter with their omnipotent deity. Looking at America's trillion-dollar student debt crisis, these spiritualists had a burning-bush revelation.
guardian.co.uk — I may not look like it, but I am a modern-day serf. Saddled with thousands of dollars of student debt – debt that has been stripped of all consumer protections and is non-dischargeable in bankruptcy – I am part of a screwed generation. Earlier this year, the collective student loan burden in the United States passed the $1trillion mark. Analysts are increasingly referring to a student loan bubble that could result in a crisis similar to the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008. A bad job market for recent graduates and skyrocketing education costs have greatly exacerbated the problem. And among the nation's elite, there is a terrible sense of denial about just how bad the younger generations have it – old white guys in Congress believe we're merely lazy and entitled, having not had the good grace to be born into families with trust funds. It's a class war, and the middle class is losing.
salon.com — The “Overton Window” is not a new kind of low-glare, high-insulation windowpane. Identified by Joseph P. Overton of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Overton Window refers to the boundaries of the limited range of ideas and policies that are acceptable for consideration in politics at any one time. In other words, the Overton Window is the “box” that we are constantly exhorted to think outside of, only to be ignored or punished if we succeed. The debate about K-12 educational reform in the U.S. is an example of the Overton Window at work. For a generation, almost all of the debate about improving American schools has been limited to minor variations on two themes.
If you've noticed lately the tendency in car commercials to show the vehicle against a background of an empty city street, you can assume it's likely due to the abundance of empty city streets available in the place famous for being home to the major automotive companies -- Detroit. more »