The Fiscal Cliff Deal’s Impact on K-12, Higher Ed

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If you thought what you saw over the past few days was frustrating, just wait for what the next two months have in store.  The fiscal cliff bill passed last night only delays the impact of the fiscal cliff.  There’s no doubt that many people are concerned about what the incoming Congress will decide on a number of issues–including education.  I’ve compiled a list of pieces on the fiscal cliffs impact on education below:  

  1. Education Services and Special Education Cuts are at Stake

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten summed the problem up best, noting that, “Kicking the can down the road for two months means that we still face the possibility of staggering and debilitating cuts to public schools, health care and services that our kids and families count on.”

Indeed, a looming $1.2 billion cut to Title I funding alone will reduce or eliminate education services for over 1.7 million low income children and federal spe­cial education funding could still be slashed by $1 billion, eliminating support for 536,000 students and resulting in 12,000 special education teachers and paraprofessionals losing their jobs. That means school districts still face significant financial uncertainty as they make budgets for the 2013-2014 school year.”  Read  more: GOOD’s Why the Fiscal Cliff Deal Doesn’t Solve our Education Crisis

2.  Early Childhood Education on the Chopping Block

“If the sequestration cuts do end up going through in March, most school districts wouldn’t feel the pinch until the start of the 2013-14 school year, because of the way that key programs, such as Title I grants for districts and special education aid, are funded. That gives districts a planning window to figure out how to implement the cuts without hurting student achievement—and it gives Congress and the Obama administration more time to work out a deal.

But other programs, such as the Head Start preschool program for low-income children, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would be cut right away. And the impact-aid program would feel the sequestration sting in April, when districts receive their next payments. That program helps districts with a large federal presence, such as a military base.”  Read about this and more on Ed Weekly:  K-12 Aid Faces Uncertain Future, Despite ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal

3.  Higher Education Saved 

The final agreement to avoid certain tax increases and spending cuts passed both houses of Congress late Tuesday, staving off several measures that would have raised the tax bill for college students and potentially deprived universities of critical research funding.

The deal to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff”spared the American Opportunity Tax Credit and extended the measure for five years, EdWeek reports. Born of the 2009 stimulus bill, the American Opportunity Tax Credit allows middle- and low-income families a tax deduction of up to $2,500 a year in education expenses for four years. It can trim the overall cost of a college degree by $10,000. Read more on The Huffington Post:  Fiscal Cliff Deal Spares Higher Education Research Funding, Tuition Tax Credit 

I’m glad higher education was spared.  I hope that K-12 comes out victorious when the final legislation is passed in two months.  Call your representatives and let them know to save education! Our nation’s future depends on our ability to educate our children today. 

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Not Every Low-Income Student Who Makes it to College makes it through College

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Today, The New York Times shared the stories of Angelica, Bianca and Melissa, who despite being academically prepared for college, faced other obstacles that have hindered them from obtaining their degrees. These stories are not atypical. I’m afraid they continue to disproportionately affect students from low-income households because of what Maslow describes as “safety needs” aren’t met. I know that there is more we can do to support our students in selecting the right colleges to fit their circumstances and ensure they graduate once they get there.

Check their stories below:

GALVESTON, Tex. — Angelica Gonzales marched through high school in Goth armor — black boots, chains and cargo pants — but undermined her pose of alienation with a place on the honor roll. She nicknamed herself after a metal band and vowed to become the first in her family to earn a college degree.
“I don’t want to work at Walmart” like her mother, she wrote to a school counselor.

Weekends and summers were devoted to a college-readiness program, where her best friends, Melissa O’Neal and Bianca Gonzalez, shared her drive to “get off the island” — escape the prospect of dead-end lives in luckless Galveston. Melissa, an eighth-grade valedictorian, seethed over her mother’s boyfriends and drinking, and Bianca’s bubbly innocence hid the trauma of her father’s death. They stuck together so much that a tutor called them the “triplets.”

Low-income strivers face uphill climbs, especially at Ball High School, where a third of the girls’ class failed to graduate on schedule. But by the time the triplets donned mortarboards in the class of 2008, their story seemed to validate the promise of education as the great equalizer.
Angelica, a daughter of a struggling Mexican immigrant, was headed to Emory University. Bianca enrolled in community college, and Melissa left for Texas State University, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s alma mater.

“It felt like we were taking off, from one life to another,” Melissa said. “It felt like, ‘Here we go!’ ”

Four years later, their story seems less like a tribute to upward mobility than a study of obstacles in an age of soaring economic inequality. Not one of them has a four-year degree. Only one is still studying full time, and two have crushing debts. Angelica, who left Emory owing more than $60,000, is a clerk in a Galveston furniture store.

Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net.

The story of their lost footing is also the story of something larger — the growing role that education plays in preserving class divisions. Poor students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing. With school success and earning prospects ever more entwined, the consequences carry far: education, a force meant to erode class barriers, appears to be fortifying them.

“Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.”

The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.

Read more of For Many Poor Students, Leap to College Ends in a Hard Fall

How can we ensure that students who make it to college, make it through college?