Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Betsy DeVos: President Trump delivers on education promises

President Trump’s first address to the joint session of Congress was clear: promises made, promises kept. The president promised to shake up the status quo in Washington, and he has. From keeping Carrier in the United States to nominating the highly qualified Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, our president continues to follow through on his word.

He’s also delivering on his promises for education.

The president made a point during the campaign to highlight the problems low-income families face in accessing a quality education. We cannot hope to get America back on track if we do nothing to improve education for the poorest among us.

The achievement gaps in education result in hundreds of billions of dollars of lost economic potential every year. And these gaps disproportionately harm minority students. Currently, more than 40% of African-American male students do not graduate high school.

These are more than just stats. They are the product of long-term trends.

For too long, Washington has focused on issuing edicts from its bubble, rather than empowering and amplifying solutions found at the grassroots level. We need to retire Washington’s top-down approach and instead empower answers from the bottom up.

But we also know the answer is not simply an increase in funding. As we saw under the Obama administration, one of its main initiatives was the “School Improvement Grants,” which pumped $7 billion into some of our most underserved schools. The only problem was that as the administration was walking out the door, it released a report showing that the grants had zero impact in improving test scores, graduation rates or college preparedness.

We cannot rely on throwing money at this problem like administrations past. Instead, we need to enact serious, substantive reforms that go to the source of the problem.

This work has already begun. On Tuesday, the president signed an executive order that elevates the initiative on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), giving them greater access to policymaking in the White House.

Their history was born not out of mere choice but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War. HBCUs remain at the forefront of opening doors that had been unjustly closed to so many. They made higher education accessible to students who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity.

We must follow their lead and apply that same thinking to our K-12 system because the same reality exists: Too many students live without access to quality schools. These children and teenagers are assigned to failing schools based solely on the ZIP code in which they live. If they don’t have the means to move to a better school district, then they’re trapped.

This is not only unfair, it is also unjust.

The left continues to say they have a monopoly on compassion for our country’s poor, yet they consistently oppose the very reforms that can do the most good to close the education gap. The numbers continue to show that increasing school options has a positive effect on students generally, and an even greater impact on poor and minority students. If we truly want to provide better education to underserved communities, then it must start with giving parents and students school choice.

Trump has delivered on his promise to support school choice and offer students access to quality options. No child, regardless of her ZIP code or family income, should be denied access to quality education.

Together, we can help our nation’s students: those trapped in underperforming schools and those slipping through the cracks. One of those students was Denisha Merriweather, a guest of the first lady at Tuesday’s address. Denisha is living proof that school choice can break the cycle of poverty and provide transformative change. As a result of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Denisha became the first in her family to graduate high school, college and, later this May, with a master’s degree in social work. Denisha’s story is but one example of the opportunity we should afford to millions of students across our country.

Kids are 100% of our future. It is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure they each have an equal opportunity to a school where they can learn and thrive. The next generation deserves no less.


What Revolution? As American Campuses Roil, Israeli College Students Crack Open the Books

Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election has set off a wave of hysteria across American college campuses. From 'The West Wing' levels of righteous indignation before Election Day, the Zeitgeist settings at many institutions of higher learning have since been ratcheted up to DEFCON 1 nightmare scenario. 

Dear reader, just take a look at what's passing for higher education today: the banning of 'controversial' speakers, a failed attempt to ban hummus (chickpea paste) from campus dining halls, the creeping trend of 'bias response teams' that are thinly veiled thought police thugs, filing of a legal brief by nearly 20 U.S. universities against President Trump's executive order suspending travel to the United States by citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries.

And, to quote Al Jolson in 'The Jazz Singer,' "you ain't heard nothin' yet."

While young Americans are being exposed to toxic levels of illiberal education, their Israeli peers are quietly slogging through their studies without the benefits of frat parties, safe zones or such illuminating courses as 'The Art of Walking' or 'The Joy of Garbage.'

Many American campuses are warping liberal arts education so as to indoctrinate today's naïve students into becoming tomorrow's social justice warriors. And while approximately 60% of all freshmen college students in Israel major in the social sciences and humanities, college life here isn't widely perceived as an ideological training ground for cultural revolution. Rather, Israelis tend to regard higher education as just another stage on the long rite of passage from youth to adulthood, nestled somewhere in between serving in the Israel Defense Forces, a post-army trip to India and starting one's own family.

Why is there such a discrepancy between the respective attitudes to higher education in the United States and Israel?

"Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains," Winston Churchill said. And indeed, age may be a factor in how Israeli and American college students approach their education.

According to a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study, Israelis are the oldest students in the world. The study shows that in Israel, the median age for obtaining an undergraduate degree is slightly above 27, compared with an OECD average of just over 23.

The good news is that students who tend to be more mature and serious than peers abroad has resulted in Israel having the second-highest percentage of adults with a post-high school degree among OECD member states. However, there's trouble afoot in Israel's halls of academe. The country's higher education system is fossilized, operating with outdated methods and at an inadequate academic level, ultimately sending many students out into the workforce unprepared.

This disconnect between academia and employment is a problem Israeli students share with their American counterparts. In the United States, enrollments at colleges and universities nationwide peaked at more than 21 million in 2010, but have been sliding ever since. Out of control tuitions, ballooning student debts and shrinking opportunities in certain professions are three probable reasons for this decline.

If history is an accurate guide, then many of today's student radicals on American campuses will outgrow this acting out phase and go on to assume prominent roles in business, the arts and, of course, politics. Meanwhile, Israeli college graduates will probably have to pursue a good, stable life after receiving their diplomas while under periodic threat of armed conflict. The former group is hell bent on wreaking chaos, while the latter can't avoid it.

However, whether guided by dreams of social upheaval or social mobility, today's world-beaters will eventually come to realize that "education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."


Here’s How Your Tax Dollars Are Going To Mexico

Federal student loans have been criticized by Conservatives for many years now. These loans, backed with no collateral on the students’ part, have inflated the price of colleges over the last decades, rising the price to over $50,000 per year in some colleges. Not only do they burden our debt, but they finance useless degrees such as “gender studies” that will leave these students with no employment prospects out of college.

Could it get any worse? You bet. The Daily Caller reports:

Just over 30 percent of America’s college students with student loan debt admit that they plan to fritter away part of their federally-subsidized loan funds to pay for sun-and-beer-soaked spring break trips this year.

LendEDU, a student loan marketplace website, documented this startling fact in a nationwide survey of 500 students currently attending America’s colleges and universities.

The survey shows that 30.6 percent of debt-laden students say they are using student loan funds to pay for airfare and hotels, and to generally party hard on a super-fun vacation during their post-mid-term breaks.

That’s right, your tax dollars are now being used to finance decadent spring break to Mexico for Spring Break. Mexicans can make money from these irresponsible students, and you’ll be left footing the bill.


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