The American Dream is a step closer to reality for some 1.9 million undocumented children and young adults. Most undocumented students who arrived here as youngsters face barriers to higher education, since even if they can enroll in college, they can’t get the same state and federal financial aid as others.
At a press conference on May 11, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced the introduction of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act. Hours later, Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced a House version of the bill. The legislation is designed to blaze a path to citizenship—and educational opportunity, including state and federal financial aid.
New details are emerging about reauthorization plans for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from the House Education & the Workforce Committee. And so far, not so good.
Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) plans to introduce a series of smaller bills rather than one comprehensive piece of legislation. The first proposal in that series sets an ominous tone. It would let districts walk away from the federal commitment to provide low-income students with the extra supports they need to achieve in school.
Can our fourth-graders name two rights of U.S. citizens? Can our eighth-graders make sense of a graph on voting patterns? And can our high school seniors relate the “melting pot” to U.S. history?
New 2010 data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress paints a mixed picture of school achievement in civics. The good news: Among fourth-graders, scores climbed overall. Since 1998, achievement gaps between blacks and whites, and between Hispanics and whites narrowed slightly.
Much of the nation’s debate about education reform has focused on accountability and standards, with an emphasis on improving student competency in math and reading. Critics fault this emphasis for squeezing out studies in other subjects such as civics. Yet without reading, kids don’t have a chance at mastering content. At the same time, exposure to a rich array of subject matter, including civics, strengthens students’ reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. That interplay could very well explain the civics gains seen among fourth-graders.
The Federal Pell Grant Program enables millions of students to attain their college dreams every year. These individuals include Erin Way of Virginia, whose father lost his job while she was in high school. Thanks to her Pell Grant, Erin managed to attend college anyway. She eventually went on to earn a Ph.D.
If the U.S. Senate approves the budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives recently, it will shatter the dreams of promising young people like Erin. That budget slashes the maximum Pell Grant from $5,550 to $3,040 and puts these grants completely out of reach for 1.4 million students.
Until now, the fight to protect students from exploitative practices at for-profit college companies has mostly taken place in Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. Earlier this week, however, 10 state attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice joined the fray. Led by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, the states announced a joint investigation into misleading recruiting practices, specifically related to the collection of financial-aid money.
The Maryland legislature voted recently to extend in-state college tuition discounts to undocumented immigrants. While not yet the national DREAM act so many of us hope and advocate for, it is a step in the right direction. Opponents of the bill, however, are “angry” and “fearful” like never before. Or so we are told by Maryland State Rep. Patrick L.
The swift, strong reaction of thousands of citizens across the country to ruthless cuts the U.S. House of Representatives made to the Pell Grant Program in its 2012 budget bill appears to be getting the attention of key Senate leaders. But this is no time to let up. More action will be needed in the coming weeks to protect Pell and the opportunity that it offers to millions of Americans.
It’s been reported that Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has identified Pell as a key issue for Democratic Senators seeking re-election in 2012.
Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn (D-Texas) has no doubt also sensed the power of the issue and the advocacy effort behind it. The chair of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, he recently voiced his support for Pell. “I certainly think we ought to make Pell Grants a priority, but I tell you, everybody is going to have to share a little bit of pain probably to deal with the cuts that are going to have to be made at the federal level,” he said.
In statehouses around the country, lawmakers are taking bold steps to improve the effectiveness of our classroom teachers. Ohio, Indiana and Illinois are three of the most recent states to pass legislation that could raise teacher quality. The Ohio and Indiana bills improve systems for evaluating teachers and link teacher pay directly to performance. The Illinois bill ends teacher layoffs based solely on seniority and connects tenure for teachers to their evaluation ratings.
However, all of this legislation is missing a crucial piece: ensuring that performance management, compensation, and staffing systems give all students fair access to effective teachers.