Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Trump Budget Proposal Cuts Funding for Education Department, Student Aid

President Trump Thursday morning released a $1.15 trillion budget proposal that cuts the United States Department of Education’s $68 billion budget by $9.2 billion (or 13.5 percent), down to $59 billion.

According to the budget blueprint called “America First,” the Federal Pell Grants program could be “on sound footing for the next decade” since the administration would keep the program’s discretionary funding at its current $22.5 billion level.

However, there will be “a cancellation of the $3.9 billion from unobligated carryover funding” out of the estimated $10.6 billion surplus. Funding for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions would remain at its current $492 million level.

However, Trump is restricting federal spending on education programs “that do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, or are more appropriately supported with state, local or private funds.” It calls for the elimination of the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, or Title II grants, stating that the program is “poorly targeted and spread thinly across thousands of districts with scant evidence of impact.”

The $808 million Trio and $219 million GEARUP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), two programs that prepare low-income, first-generation and disabled middle and high school students for college, would lose $193 million. In addition, work-study programs will be “significantly” reduced and reformed “to ensure funds go to undergraduate students who would benefit most.”

The budget zeroes out funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, which provide millions in funding for programs at colleges and universities.

The Corporation for Community and Public Service, which funds AmeriCorps, would also be completely eliminated.


Georgia getting tough on failing schools

A bill to grant the state more power to intervene in Georgia's struggling schools is one step closer to a vote in the Senate.

The chamber's education committee on Monday approved the bill creating a "chief turnaround officer" to work with low-performing schools.

The committee maintained a key portion of the bill, which would make the State Board of Education responsible for hiring the new official. Education groups instead want the elected state superintendent to hire the new official because board members are appointed by the governor.

Superintendent Richard Woods, elected as a Republican, also pushed for the change but senators said it wasn't necessary.

The committee did amend the bill to prevent for-profit organizations from being hired to run public schools and decided schools should have three years to show improvement with state intervention, rather than two years in the House-approved bill.

The bill still prescribes some dramatic consequences for schools that show no improvement during that period or that refuse a "turnaround" contract with the state. In both cases, state officials could decide to remove staff, turn the school into a charter or allow parents to enroll their children elsewhere.

The bill must return to the House if it wins Senate approval.


Why the feverish Leftism on American campuses?

First among those reasons is the unique structure of the American university. Unlike Australia where most students are commuters living off campus, US four-year schools are residential. Most students are affluent; a year at Middlebury costs about $US64,000 ($84,000), close to the norm for elite private institutions these days. They arrive fresh from childhoods filled with swimming and music lessons, soccer leagues, and ski and European trips with mum and dad. Many, perhaps even most, of them remain on campus for four full years.

These facts are crucial to the religious intensity of the American scene. Adolescents are the most tribal of human beings, desperate to fit in with their clan and prove their bona fides to their peers. Add the disorientation of being on their own and relatively unsupervised for the first time in their lives — and perhaps loneliness to boot — and you get a ­campus highly vulnerable to contagious youthful obsessions.

“The people in the audience who wanted to hear me speak were completely cowed,” Murray wrote in his Middlebury account. It’s not surprising. The terror of being pointed out and shunned by the people with whom they share meals, dormitories, classes and leisure has to be a powerful censor for most 18-year-olds. It’s also a strong temptation to the inevitable bullies among them.

Making matters worse are the dormitories themselves. American students who go to public high schools have little choice but to study and socialise with many kinds of fellow students. On many campuses, however, when they arrive they are often ghettoised into black, Hispanic, LGBTQ and white residences. With a constant drumbeat of diversity talk, including intensive orientation meetings, the minority dorms become the university’s sign to everyone of the virtuous other.

Commuting students, on the other hand, are at least somewhat spared the tyranny of the identity politics of the faculty and campus in-group for the simple reason that they have lives, friends and loved ones outside the ivy walls. The Occidental College sociologist Lisa Wade calls the American university a “total institution”. By comparison, the Australian university is a partial institution with a more moderate role in the lives of students.

Also aggravating campus intolerance in the US is Donald Trump. Students were already prone to accepting the trinity of racism, sexism and homophobia; the Trump era has intensified their devotion exponentially. The stakes when confronted with a visitor such as Murray, said to espouse a racist ideology, were very high indeed. Many doubtless had come to believe that they were the only thing standing between freedom and sin itself. The President has not made much effort to temper these passions, failing to explain radical policy shifts and giving plenty of reason to be suspicious of his motives.

The third and related reason that American students may be more at risk of joining an impassioned mob at this moment than their Australian peers is the former’s class and economic isolation. These divisions pre-date the election of Trump; indeed, they are one of the reasons he was elected in the first place. Schools such as Middlebury have become ghettos for the children of America’s upper middle class. Even most of the “students of colour”, as they are described, come from the comfortable homes of Indian doctors and African-American professors. Few have had much contact with the more than half of the country that doesn’t share ­either their cosmopolitan tastes in clothes, food and media, their access to good education, or their comfortable family lives. They are not used to suffering serious consequences for their actions.

Ironically, it was precisely this tragic American divide that was supposed to be the topic of Murray’s Middlebury talk. Coming Apart describes “the bubble” that protects America’s professional and creative class from the harshness of working class life as well as poverty and the values that often develop in response to it. As one-time Middlebury professor and my former editor Myron Magnet noted in response to l’affaire Murray, the naive Middlebury students are exactly the sorts who could most benefit from Murray’s analysis. Alas, it was not to be.

Australia may not yet have descended into Middlebury’s religious madness. But the episode showed that substituting doctrinal conviction for reason is a dangerous game for universities. It’s not just the principle of free speech that comes under threat; logical distinctions, scepticism, subtlety, context and reading itself yield to shared dogma impervious to ­question.


No comments: