Tag Archives: Department of Education

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.

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Social Reform in Education: the Skinny on Race to the Top

27 Feb

Race to the Top. These words have infiltrated the news, our schools, the president’s speeches, and created controversy across America. In homes, high schools, universities, and political sessions, Race to the Top is a hot topic. Scalding hot.

As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund was established to help improve public charters, high schools, and universities. Let’s consider the numbers of the fund for just a moment.

The total monies of the fund amounted to $53.6 BILLION. Out of the $53.6 BILLION, roughly $48 billion of the money was given to state governors. The remaining $5 billion was allocated for what the public knows as “Race to the Top”. Enter the controversy. Continue reading

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

Scoring Consistently Better than the Average – Schools still not making AYP

19 Feb

Preble High School is not making AYP in all the areas required by No Child Left Behind.

As part of my teaching training program, several future colleagues and I visited Preble High School in the Green Bay Area Public Schools District. The school is huge, the third largest in the state with over 2,200 students. While Preble was initially built to house only 2,000 students, its school-of-choice title and impressive academic and athletic programs have drawn media attention and higher student enrollment. Preble students still consistently score above state and national averages in academic areas.

The date we visited was Friday, February 18, 2011, the day after the Wisconsin State Senate was stalled in voting on the controversial bill regarding state workers’ rights. 45 of the school’s 168 teachers were absent, taking personal leave to join the growing protests at the Capitol. Multitudes of students marched outside the building, demonstrating against passage of the  bill. Most school faculty and staff wore red. The school was abuzz in the political climate, yet the school day continued and I was able to see how Preble operated.

I was impressed.

When we arrived, we were greeted by Preble’s MAC scholars, a student group devoted to promoting diversity on campus. These students gave us a tour of the school and we learned about the following aspects of a Preble education:

  • an Advanced Engineering Program
  • the Technical Education Department (which is currently building racecars)
  • the Culinary Arts Program
  • the Advanced Placement Science, Math, and Language Arts Departments
  • the Agriscience Department and corresponding greenhouse
  • the Library Media Center (which recently implemented “Noodlebib,” a new program that guides students in the process of source citation)
  • the five World Languages offered: French, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, and German
  • the school’s Smartboards
  • the Special Education Department

We also learned about Preble’s initiatives to integrate diverse student populations through their ELL and MAC Scholars program. I sat in on a Spanish 5 class, where the students proficiently read and discussed Gabriel Garcia Márquez in Spanish.  I learned about the Phuture Phoenix Program, which assists kids placed at-risk by providing them with one-on-one tutors from University of Wisconsin Green Bay’s education department. The program is wildly successful for students.  The best part of my experience at Preble, however, was the distinct feeling of community. Every administrator, teacher, and staff personnel I spoke with (a librarian and AV Coordinator) cared about their school, their job, and most especially, their kids. The administrator for Student Enrichment called out five students by name while he escorted me  to the Spanish room (about a eight minute walk). He made his high expectations clear to each student he interacted with, mentioning conduct, academics, or getting to class on time. One of the Associate Principals walked the hall to ensure a hospitable atmosphere in the midst of the politically charged day. The Spanish teacher talked about how she collaborates with all the Spanish teachers in the district to create a more uniform foreign language education for all students. The students were responsive, engaged, and respectful. The spirit of learning was palpable.

Right before we left for the day, I learned that Preble wasn’t making AYP in all the required areas. If the school doesn’t improve by the next evaluation, Preble will face serious repercussions, including the potential threat of a state take-over.

I did not know what to make of this. Preble offers their students some of the best technological education available; they have a staff of well-educated, caring professionals; the school offers vocational studies in addition to AP curriculum; there is a “Zero Hour” in which students and teachers arrive before school begins for additional coursework; a night-school is offered for students who may not “fit” the typical school day; there is a distinct focus on diverse education for exceptional learners; their students consistently score above state and national averages. What more could be asked?

The demand that no student be left behind could be asked; the demand that Preble perform better than its overstretched best could be asked. The educational opportunity these students are receiving is incredible; for the above-average, average, and most especially below-average student, Preble has a wide array of programs and incentives to help each individual student achieve. Yet they are still being told by the federal government to improve.

I believe that in any occupation, there is always room to improve. However, when a school is producing the type of results that Preble does while at the same time educating a largely diverse student population and serving more students than its original capacity called for, one must ask themselves, “Why is this considered failure?” Under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top legislatures, public schools are being asked to do more with no additional funding, even when the schools already have a reputation for academic success. The idea that Preble may one day face a state take-over is ridiculous; the environment of learning and community was the best I have ever witnessed in a public or private school. The students are respectful. The teachers care. The administrators are constantly looking for ways to be better. This is the learning environment I want my child to experience.

NCLB has proven to be the failure, not the academically successful schools. The Department of Education needs to seriously reconsider, restructure, and redesign the law. If NCLB had been working over the past ten years, public schools would be drastically improving. However, schools that struggled before the law for the most part remain struggling and successful schools are being labeled as failures. This is wrong. It is time for our government to reassess the validity of laws like NCLB and contests such as Race to the Top. While the goal is to help all schools improve their standards for the good of the kids, we must create legitimate pathways to meet this goal with success. Without hard research and better evaluation methods of teachers, administrators, and schools, the majority of struggling public schools and students will continue to struggle.

Preble High School Website: http://www.greenbayprebleonline.com/index.html

Preble High School Stats: http://www.greenbayprebleonline.com/assets/2010%20PHS_profile.pdf

Preble AYP Info: http://www.greenbay.k12.wi.us/01/info/board/10/MINUTES10_25.htm

About AYP: http://www.nea.org/home/18081.htm

Phuture Phoenix Website: http://www.uwgb.edu/phuturephoenix/