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Obama Making Affordable College Education a Priority

Here’s what’s perhaps most unusual about President Obama‘s big budget proposals for higher education: That he’s thinking about higher education at all.

Delineated in a handful of brash proposals Thursday, Obama’s plan to make college more affordable and within reach of more students represents a break from the approach that President Bush took — he focused much of his energy from Day 1 on improving K-12 education, most notably with his signature No Child Left Behind law.

“It was unusual for President Bush to make higher education a significant part of his budget,” said Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education, a lobbying group for college presidents. “President Obama has made this a very substantial part of his first budget.”

See this story at USA Today.

Arne Duncan Confirmed as Secretary of Education

Yesterday, Arne Duncan assumed his official position as part of President Obama’s cabinet as Congress approved him for Secretary of Education. “Mr. Duncan, there is no question that schools across America can benefit from the same kind of fresh thinking that you have brought to the Chicago public schools,” said Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, as he instroduced Duncan to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

During the confirmation hearing Duncan announced “We must do better.”

We’ve yet to see an official plan for his tenure, but he has made it clear that priorities include merit-based pay for teachers and more robust pre-k programs. He also shared three goals with the Committee: Read the rest of this entry »

An Educational Wish List for President-Elect Obama

barack obamaDear Mr. Obama (soon to be Mr. President),

I am a former college professor and a writer who specializes in educational topics.  As such, and as the mother of a young child, I have some serious concerns about education in the United States.  I know you do too, so I thought I would write you a wish list of the changes I hope you will help bring about.  Yes, I know the economy is in the toilet and that you might not be able to grant me all of these wishes right now, but since you are putting together a substantial package to stimulate the economy, I hope you will be keeping education in mind.  After all, if we don’t educate our children well, how will we compete in the global economy?

First, I hope you will take some serious action to make college more affordable to Americans.  In the past 25 years, college expenses have increased at three times the rate of family income, and at the rate we’re going, it’s quite plausible that in the next few decades, a college education will become unaffordable for most Americans.  I know you agree with me that this is unacceptable in America.  Students need more access to financial aid, and not just student loans, since it’s not fair for students to start their careers buried in debt, and state schools need better funding so they don’t need to rely so much on tuition. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama Chooses Arne Duncan for Secretary of Education

It’s official. Barack Obama has nominated Arne Duncan, the current chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, to serve as the Secretary of Education for his upcoming administration.

As the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan has taken some aggressive and controversial stands.  Here’s a rundown of Duncan’s qualifications and what he’s done in the Chicago Public Schools.

He was a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Harvard University in 1987 with a degree in sociology. He was also the co-captain of Harvard’s basketball team. Duncan was Director of Chicago’s Ariel Education Initiative, an organization that seeks to create educational opportunities for inner-city kids through mentoring and tutoring, between 1992 and 1998, and then ran Chicago’s magnet school system from 1998-2001, when he then became the CEO of the Chicago Public schools. During his time as CEO he accomplished the following:

  • Duncan has strongly advocated charter schools and has closed down under-performing schools.
  • Duncan aggressively sought to improve attendance and dropout rates in the Chicago Public Schools.
  • Duncan supported a proposal to open a school for Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender students.

Duncan has quite a full schedule lined up for him over the next few years, with No Child Left Behind badly in need of reform, out of control tuition costs at public colleges and universities, and budget cuts at public schools across the country.

No Child Left Behind: The 2008 Presidential Candidates’ Positions

So what is No Child Left Behind?  And what are the 2008 presidential candidates’ positions on this controversial legislation?  Here’s a little NCLB 101, and what Obama and McCain plan to do about this legislation.

What is No Child Left Behind?

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was a federal law passed under the Bush Administration to increase public school accountability.  It also increased the focus on reading in the public schools, and gave parents more choices as to where to send their children to school.  NCLB is part of what’s known as “standards-based education reform,” which involves reforming schools primarily through improving kid’s test scores.  Schools that fail to meet the NCLB standards are held accountable and are penalized in various ways–including offering parents the option to transfer their kids out of schools who fail to meet the standards two year in a row. Read the rest of this entry »


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