Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Hillary's Federal Education Jackboot Squad

Brace yourselves, parents: Hillary Clinton's Fed Ed jackboot squad is from the government and is here to "help."

Clinton wants a cadre of new government educrats to undo the decades-old damage of old government educrats in America's worst public schools. She pitched her creepy proposal at the Democratic presidential debate in Michigan on Sunday for an "education SWAT team" to swarm down and rescue students from failing districts in decrepit cities such as Detroit (run by whom? Oh, yeah. Democrats!).

"I want to set-up inside the Department of Education, for want of a better term, kind of an education SWAT team, if you will," Clinton explained in a bizarre, semi-blaccent, "where we've got qualified people, teachers, principals, maybe folks who are retired, maybe folks who are active, but all of whom are willing to come and help."

Clinton's SWAT team solution, you should know, is like all her other authoritarian plans: a moldy, recycled oldie. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education already has a real military-like enforcement division housed in its Office of the Inspector General — and armed with its own arsenal of Remington pump-action shotguns and Glock pistols.

As usual, Big Sis's brilliant idea to fix the schools boils down to throwing yet more money down the sinkhole. According to the latest data, America spent more than $600 billion to fund K-12 education in 2011, mostly from state and local taxes. Last year, the feds allocated an estimated $154 billion on education, with a large chunk going to Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I Grants to Local Education Agencies, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act State Grants, and the Pell Grant program for college students.

Washington already spends more per student (nearly $13,000 per pupil) in both primary and secondary education than any other of the 34 wealthiest countries in the world except for Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland, according to analysis of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Under the Bush administration, the No Child Left Behind behemoth authorized $23 billion a year on intrusive and ineffective federal testing and accountability mandates.

Under the Obama administration, the feds threw $4 billion into the "Race to the Top" racket, $10 billion into an Education Jobs Fund for teachers unions, and $100 billion in pork-stuffed stimulus funding for school programs and initiatives administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

Detroit Public Schools, plagued by massive deficits, financial mismanagement and graft, collected a whopping $530 million of that stimulus slush fund — nearly $50 million of which went to a technology boondoggle that provided 40,000 Asus laptops to students and teachers despite little evidence nationwide that such programs do anything to raise student achievement.

States are spending upwards of $10 billion to implement the bipartisan Common Core racket of testing, textbooks and technology. That's on top of the pre-existing $700 million spent by schools nationwide on other standardized tests and assessments and the $24 billion in annual spending required by the NCLB successor, the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act.

Mo' money has only produced mo' problems. American test scores are still abysmal. One in 10 high schools remains a dropout factory. Highly touted improvements in graduation rates, such as those in Alabama, were achieved by abandoning requirements that students pass a high school exit exam.

Detroit's schools, swimming in $3.5 billion of accumulated debt, face bankruptcy in April. The district is now under FBI investigation for a vendor kickback scheme involving the very kind of "experts" — entrenched teachers, self-serving principals, and profligate school officials — whom Clinton would enlist to rescue the schools they are guilty of plundering.

It's government SWAT team business as usual: Destroying the village to "save" it


Bankrupt Mass. dad battles to get student loan debt forgiven

Robert E. Murphy lost his job nearly 16 years ago and says he hasn’t been able to find a new one. Now 65, he has already depleted his retirement savings, which has left him and his wife largely dependent on her $13,200 yearly salary as a teacher’s aide. And a bank is trying to foreclose on their Duxbury home.

Based on these facts, Murphy might seem a sympathetic petitioner for relief from the more than $246,000 he still owes on student loans he borrowed to send his three children to college. But a federal bankruptcy judge denied Murphy’s request, ruling that he has not proven that paying the debt would present an undue hardship.

His case, now pending before the US First Circuit Court of Appeals, is being closely watched across the country because it challenges the standard many courts use to determine when the burden of repaying student loans is too much and comes as more people are turning to the courts for relief.

“If this doesn’t constitute undue hardship, what would?” one of the appeals court judges asked last December during oral arguments in Murphy’s case.

The appeals court postponed a decision on whether to overturn the bankruptcy court’s denial of Murphy’s request to discharge his debt. The panel urged Murphy and Educational Credit Management Corp., a Minnesota company hired by the government to fight Murphy’s bankruptcy complaint, to try to reach a settlement. A report on their progress is due by the end of the month.

The bankruptcy judge found that Murphy might find a job because he is healthy and well-educated, yet commiserated with his situation.

“You’ve raised a case that I think we’ll see a lot of in this court in the next few years, and, that is, people who got to the peak of their career in a way, lost their jobs, and incurred debt to educate their children, and . . . are going to have a hard time in this market,” US Bankruptcy Judge Frank J. Bailey told Murphy during a 2013 hearing, adding, “I’m darn near in that situation myself.”

John Rao, of the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center, said in an interview, “We are starting to see more of these cases where people are asking to have loans discharged in bankruptcy. . . . People have paid more than the principal borrowed and still owe three or four times that because of the way fees and interests are calculated.”

Murphy took out a dozen Parent Plus loans between 2001 and 2007, with original principal of $220,765, plus interest, to send two of his children to Loyola University Maryland and a third to the University of Connecticut and Bridgewater State University. The children, who took out their own loans for undergraduate and graduate study, are not legally responsible for Murphy’s debts.

Murphy, who earned a master’s degree in business administration at Babson College, was earning $165,000 a year as president of a Canton manufacturing company when it moved overseas in 2002. He testified that he launched an exhaustive job search and blamed his inability to find work on his advanced age, a failing economy, and the loss of manufacturing jobs.

After depleting his retirement savings to pay bills — including more than $61,000 toward the student loan debt — he still owed $246,539 when he filed his bankruptcy complaint in 2012.

Congress made it difficult to erase student loan debt in 1978 by requiring proof that repaying was an undue hardship but left it to the courts to define hardship.

Rao contends that most courts are too strict when assessing hardship and require borrowers to show extraordinary circumstances, such as a serious illness, psychiatric problem, or permanent disability.

In a brief filed in support of Murphy by the law center and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, Rao urged the appeals court to take a fresh look at what constitutes hardship, arguing that many of today’s borrowers “have already been burdened by the obligations for decades and, if denied a discharge, face a lifetime of crushing debt.”

The US Department of Education said in court filings that the fiscal integrity of the federal education loan program requires people to repay debts unless they are in “the most dire circumstances” and can show they can’t make payments now or in the future.

The nation’s student loan debt currently exceeds $1.2 trillion and, according to statistics released by the government last fall, the percentage of students defaulting on loans within three years of beginning repayment was 11.8 percent. Those who default may have their wages or Social Security checks garnished.

The department has been steering those who have difficulty paying into income-based repayment plans, which may require minimal or no monthly payments. The remainder of the debt is canceled after 25 years.

Critics say the program might benefit those who temporarily can’t pay but is detrimental to those who cannot pay over the long term. Interest is added to the debt during nonpayment periods, and borrowers may face a tax liability after the debt is canceled.

Murphy, who initially represented himself and was appointed a lawyer pro bono by the appeals court, declined to comment on his case.

Parent Plus loans are not eligible for the income-based repayment plan. But, Murphy testified that after he filed his bankruptcy claim, he was advised he would qualify if he consolidated his loans under the Department of Education’s William D. Ford program. Based on his current situation, his monthly payments would be $0.

Murphy said he declined because he estimated that his debt would grow from $247,000 to more than $500,000 over 15 years, as interest accrued, and he could face a potential tax penalty of $10,000 when his debt was forgiven.

Lawyers for Educational Credit Management Corp. disputed Murphy’s calculations.

Most courts rely on one of two tests when defining hardship. The Brunner test, which is most common, was established in a 1987 case involving a New York woman who tried to erase her college debt two months after graduating.

It requires a borrower to show that he can’t maintain a minimal standard of living for himself and his dependents if forced to repay the loan, additional circumstances make it unlikely he’ll be able to pay in the future, and he has made a good faith effort to pay the debt.

Some courts have gone further, requiring that borrowers have a “certainty of hopelessness” or suffer total incapacity.

The second test used by courts, which is similar, is called the “totality of the circumstances” test. It considers a debtor’s past, present, and future financial resources, living expenses, and any other facts and relevant circumstances surrounding each particular bankruptcy case.

Others burdened by student debt have won in court. In December, a bankruptcy judge discharged nearly $50,000 in student loan debt owed by a Fall River couple — the woman is legally blind and her husband is disabled.

In 2014, a Methuen man who was permanently disabled and a Chelsea woman who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer had their student loan debts discharged by a bankruptcy judge.

Another case that was brought by a Groton couple and closely resembled Murphy’s was dismissed by a bankruptcy judge last year after a settlement was reached. The couple, who borrowed Parent Plus loans totalling $263,756 in principal to send their three children to college and still owed $337,479 — despite paying $98,000 toward the debt — agreed to enter an income-based repayment plan.


Sanders, Socialism, and Schooling

Owing to his enthusiasm for the Soviet Union during the Cold War (he actually spent his honeymoon there!), Bernie Sanders may indeed be morally unfit to be President of the United States, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan argues in The Beacon. According to a recent poll, however, the senator’s socialist credentials pose no problem for one-fourth of the Millennials it surveyed; they may even favor a socialist on principle. Could this attitude have anything to do with the decline of American education? Independent Institute Senior Vice President Mary L. G. Theroux argues that this may indeed be the case.

Since its creation more than three decades ago, the U.S. Department of Education has been a troubled underachiever—at least by the standard of ensuring academic excellence. But there is, of course, more to the story. Citing Charlotte Twight’s article in the Winter 2016 issue of The Independent Review, Theroux suggests that while the agency is a failure when it comes to the three R’s, it may be judged a success by a different standard: the undermining of support for liberty.

“American students,” Theroux writes, “have ‘unlearned’ the concept of liberty during their passage through the government education system—with the result that they have been formed into increasingly compliant subjects of an increasingly powerful state.” The situation is desperate, but not irreversible. “If we want children who can succeed in a global economy that runs on tech, children who embrace and defend individual and civil liberty, who value and help their fellow-man, we’re going to have to educate them ourselves,” Theroux continues. “And that can only be done privately, wholly divorced from government involvement.”


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