Tag Archives: Budget Deficit

Fighting Poverty and Media Idiocy in America: Local Activism

14 Mar

If we follow the media, our lives are saturated with not only the indulgent exploits of Charlie Sheen, but more importantly, government spending and cutting. Everywhere we look it’s a program cut, a new bill on spending, a fresh controversy for the budget. While the government is trying to bring the economy out of the tank, the political effect of spending and lack of job creation is taking place at the individual level; poverty is real.

Some in media would like to argue that poverty is not real.

“You know one of my favorite quotes on poverty comes from Benjamin Franklin. I love this quote: We should make the poor uncomfortable and kick them out of poverty.” I love that! There’s compassion for ya. He knew if you made poverty more comfortable, there’s a lot of people that would be like, you know what, I’m just going to kick back here. I’m just going to — you know what I — I’m going to sit back and, you know, let the state give me a candle, you know. Kick them out of poverty! Give them something to strive for. Instead what happens is we enslave people in poverty because we give people everything, we make it easy for them to live in poverty and at the same time — it’s the combination of the two — at the same time the leaders will say, “You can’t make it, you can’t make it.””

Glenn Beck Continue reading

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A Word to our Sponsors: an Educated Response to Federal Funding Cuts

11 Mar

Dr. Joe Lubig, NMU's Director of Field Experiences. Photo courtesy of the NMU Department of Education website.

On page seven of the Thursday, March 10, 2011 edition of the North Wind, Northern Michigan University’s campus newspaper, Dr. Lubig, NMU’s Director of Field Experiences, authored a “Letter to the Editor.” Dr. Lubig lends a local voice to the federal issue of budget cuts in education. To allow a larger base of readers to receive a well-informed opinion on the matter, I’ve reprinted Dr. Lubig’s letter as follows (published with permission):

National service programs shouldn’t have their funding cut

There has been much debate lately about what the federal government should and should not spend its money on. In an effort to address this issue, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 1 – a bill that would eliminate billions from the current budget, and as a result, eliminate various federally-funded programs across the country.

Included in the elimination would be the Corporation for National and Community Service and the national service programs it administers (AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve). As a Governor-appointed board member of the Michigan Community Service Commission, I have seen first-hand the impact of national service in the state. In Michigan, these programs have a long history of addressing critical challenges in communities, improving local economic opportunities, and enhancing the work of area organizations.

Before Congress eliminates national service programs, wouldn’t you like to know more about what national service is and what Michigan will be losing as a result of its elimination?

A loss of $28 million in federal funds to support Michigan’s national service efforts would mean eliminating the opportunity for nearly 47,000 residents to serve. The lack of service would mean low-income individuals and families would lose access to health care, adequate housing, and foreclosure prevention assistance. Struggling young people would be left without literacy services, academic support, and mentoring opportunities. Home bound seniors would be unable to maintain independence in their own homes.

The cuts would also force 2,300 organization and schools to address local issues of critical importance with little to no support or resources – including Goodwill, Red Cross chapters, Big Brother Big Sisters agencies, community health centers, Habitat for Humanity affiliates, and many more.

Let’s reconsider the value of national service and volunteerism – particularly in a state that has benefited so greatly from its impact. By doing so, we agree to prioritize the efforts of current programs and volunteers and ensure they can continue to make a difference in Michigan.

Joe Lubig

Michigan Community Service Commission


Thanks for speaking up, Dr. Lubig.

A Near Impossible Task: Saving the Detroit Public Schools District

25 Feb

The Detroit Public Schools District is closing half its schools.

This is part of the current state-approved deficit-elimination plan drawn up by emergency financial manger, Robert Bobb. The Detroit News predicts an influx of 60 plus students per classroom as a result of the closures (Huffington Post, see source below). While Robert Bobb assured the press today that there would not be 60 plus students per classroom, he did not give an alternate figure. Many Detroit schools are already overpopulated and understaffed, with 30 plus students per class.

Does this make Robert Bobb the bad guy?

In November 2010, Bobb lobbied for the $400 million in state tobacco revenue to be redirected to the DPS district. He hoped to convince state legislators that the money was needed to dig schools out of their current poor academic and financial states. If the money was not granted, Bobb argued, DPS would face severe, detrimental, “draconian” cuts. Bobb needed a political leader to back his proposal. No one stepped forward.

Fast-forward to February. Detroit Public Schools are failing academic standards; the vast majority are not making AYP. The city and state are strapped financially and continuing to hurt academically. What does the state do?

The state orders Robert Bobb to immediately implement his proposed deficit-elimination plan that includes closing half the district’s schools and consolidating academic operations. Bobb needed to find some way to do his job; the state had ordered him to reduce the $327 million deficit in five years. Initially, legislators demanded that he balance the debt in two years. Lucky for Bobb, they threw him peanuts.

Robert Bobb’s job is admittedly not easy to accomplish. Where does one make cuts from a district already plunged in academic and financial straits? Schools have already bumped up class size, laid-off staff and faculty, and minimized academic and extracurricular programs. How does one cut fat from bones?

Bobb clearly does not have a good solution. The state is shirking responsibility by passing off the impossible task to one man. Bobb himself has admitted that the proposal is not good for students academically or educationally.

So why is this plan approved?

The plan has been approved because politics have overthrown the responsibility of government. It is the responsibility of a government to protect its people, especially those people who cannot defend themselves (i.e. children). While reducing the deficit is included in this description, the disregard of an equal education opportunity for over 70,000 plus students is NOT. Just because a plan exists that shows “zero” figures to the eyes of politicians in five years does not mean this plan should be automatically endorsed. Rather than simply look at numbers, politicians should look into the eyes of the children they are cheating. A classroom of 30 students is difficult to manage, difficult to ensure academic progress. A great teacher in the best circumstances can reach many of the 30. Teaching in a class and ensuring the academic success of 60 students, many who are placed at-risk from living in a low-SES, high poverty district, is like being asked to cut a $327 million deficit in five years in a district that already cannot compete financially or academically with its suburbs. The state is asking Robert Bobb and the district’s teachers to achieve a near impossible task.

What is the solution? While I cannot offer any solidified plan, I hope that our state rethinks its current agenda with the Detroit Public Schools. We must remember that schools serve children; equal education for our kids is the goal of our schools. Closing half the schools and jamming 60 kids in a classroom is not a service to our kids. Legislators and policymakers need to undertake the task of creating a new deficit-elimination plan for the DPS district, instead of throwing the weight of the world on one man’s shoulders. They need to sit down, work hard, and develop a long-term deficit-elimination plan for the DPS district, instead of asking for immediate, impossible results. If our legislators can work toward a new, less severe proposal, Detroit schools will still struggle, but they will struggle less each year. We cannot resign the Detroit schools to the mercy of the economy. We need to rebuild them. We cannot give up on our state’s neediest children; we must rise to the challenge and help them.

Bobb is set to re-work a new budget, due to the state by May 31st. While I lack confidence in one man to solve all the deficit problems of an impoverished district, I’m rooting for him. Better yet, perhaps our state will come to its senses and form a committee to help him in his endeavor. This is the least Detroit’s kids deserve.

Huffington Post Source:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/16/robert-bobb-400-million-for-detroit-schools_n_784353.html

Gainful Employment, Pell, Federal Regulations We Should Have, and Federal Regulations We Don’t

20 Feb

Yesterday, the House added an amendment to a bill that blocked efforts to regulate for-profit college programs. The big debate stems from the right to “gainful employment” in higher for-profit education. What is “gainful employment?”

Gainful employment is the promise to a student who has attended an accredited university program that the training received at the university will adequately prepare to student to enter the workforce (i.e. the promise of competitive job opportunity so the student can pay off thousands of dollars of debt).

Because federal funds are used to supply students with grants to attend colleges, for-profit or not, some citizens and officials are concerned that many for-profit colleges draw out the training programs or offer bunk programs to attract students to the school in order to receive funds. The concern is what happens to students once they leave these programs; are they actually qualified for the workforce?

The regulations on for-profit colleges regarding gainful employment aim to reduce waste and abuse in the for-profit education system. Some of the regulations include requiring colleges to disclose factual graduation and job placement rates of each eligible program (an eligible program can receive federal funding), ensure that only eligible students receive federal funds, prevent misrepresentation of programs by college recruiters, and require states to enforce existing laws that obligate the states to approve and monitor post-secondary programs that receive federal aid.

Here is a link comprising a summary of regulations on for-profit colleges regarding gainful employment (and 13 other issues) as proposed by the Department of Education: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/department-track-implement-gainful-employment-regulations-new-schedule-provides-

Those opposing the regulations claim that putting regulations on for-profit college programs will prevent students from receiving federal funds, and therefore prevent certain sects of people from the right to better job opportunities (i.e. a degree).  However, those supporting the regulations state that the regulations will do the opposite by protecting students from fraudulent programs that leave college graduates unqualified and sacked with debt. This all has to do with the taxpayers money. How are federal funds being spent?

To me, it seems logical that anyone receiving government funds should face certain regulations. The government is not only giving money away in the forms of grants, but also offering federal loans: federal loans are not grants. To protect taxpayers, there should be certain requirements to receive federal grants. These requirements should be regulated. To protect students, college programs should be clean, efficient, and prepare the student for the workforce in a timely manner; this way, the student isn’t loaded down with thousands of dollars of debt with no way of procuring a job.

However, there is an aspect to the federal funding of colleges that is more ridiculous than all the politics involved with this single issue.

The Pell Grant. What a wonderful, wonderful thing. Pell Grants provide multitudes of students who normally would never have the opportunity to attend college to receive degrees that provide better jobs, better incomes, and better quality of living. Pell is a laudable effort to improve the socioeconomic status’ of low income students everywhere. However, there is one problem with Pell.

Under current guidelines, undergraduate students working toward their first-time Bachelor’s degree can receive the Pell grant for 16 full semesters as long as they meet the income and program requirements. This is EIGHT years of undergraduate college. Eight. I completed my bachelor’s in three and one-half years. Allowing students to receive federal funds for eight years to complete one degree is absolutely ridiculous.

If the government wants to cut the budget (in addition to protecting taxpayers and students), perhaps we should restrict Pell Grants to five years of funding, or perhaps even six for the struggling student. Students can receive up to $5,000 per semester with a Pell Grant.  If each student were receiving maximum funding and the government reduced the years of funding from eight to five (and for the sake of numbers, we are assuming each student receiving a grant continues schooling for eight years), this would be a savings of $30,000 per student. Considering that most colleges boast that the majority of enrolled students receive federal aid, we could imagine a reduction in the budget deficit. Or who knows. Maybe not.

A good article on gainful employment from the Huffington Post:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11050/1126585-84.stm

Info on Pell:

http://www.bmcc.cuny.edu/finaid/grants/pell.html#16

http://www.westminstercollege.edu/financial_aid_undergraduate/index.cfm?parent=4210&detail=7018