Wednesday, January 25, 2006
THIS WEEK: We again ask the question. Is he STUPID or LYING? Bush on Education.
By Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Columnist | January 25, 2006
OUR COMMANDER-in-certitude went Monday to Kansas State University. The publicized reason was to defend ultra-secret domestic spying. For much of his speech and question-and-answer period, President Bush served juicy red meat in a red state where he slammed John Kerry in the 2004 election, 62 to 37 percent. He said:
''This enemy cannot beat us. They cannot defeat us militarily. There's no chance."
''In the short term, we'll stay on the offense."
''Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people."
''We're using all assets at our disposal to protect you."
In the question-and-answer period, there was a moment when Bush was caught confused about his assets in another arena. Someone asked Bush, ''Recently, $12.7 billion was cut from education . . . How is that supposed to help our futures?"
There was applause from the crowd.
Bush stumbled. ''Education budget was cut? Say it again. What was cut?"
The person said, ''$12.7 billion was cut from education. And I was just wanting to know: How is that supposed to help our futures?"
Bush said, ''At the federal level?"
The person said, ''Yes."
Bush said, ''I don't think we've actually -- for higher education?"
The person said, ''Student loans."
Bush said, ''Student loans?"
The person said, ''Yes, student loans."
Bush said, ''Actually I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We are not cutting money out of it. In other words, people aren't going to be cut off the program. We're just making sure . . . it functions better. In other words, we are not taking people off student loans. We are saving money in the student loan program because it's inefficient."
Bush continued, ''And secondly, . . . we're actually expanding the number of Pell grants through our budget."
Karl Rove should have told Bush that if you visit a university and offer a question-and-answer session, you might get asked about education. The question came two weeks after Bush gave an address at an elementary school in Glen Burnie, Md., to tout the fourth anniversary of No Child Left Behind. In that address, Bush said, ''We have a moral obligation to make sure every child gets a good education . . . It's not right to have a system that quits on kids. I mean, some schools may not think they're quitting on kids, but when you shuffle kids through the schools without determining whether or not they can read and write and add and subtract, I view that as quitting on kids."
It is stunningly clear that Bush and the Republican Congress have quit on the kids. The questioner at Kansas State was correct. In December, the Senate passed a $12.7 billion cut in loan aid, which would force college students and their families to pay much higher interest rates on their loans. Pell grants would remain capped at $4,050 for the fourth straight year, further depressing a purchasing power which has declined, according to the American Council on Education, from covering 84 percent of the cost of a public four-year college in 1972 to 34 percent today.
On the K-12 front, despite the immense budgetary authority originally granted by Congress to make No Child Left Behind work, Bush and the Republicans took the assets at their disposal and shuffled them over to what is becoming a needless, trillion-dollar war in Iraq. They shuffled them over to the needless, trillion-dollar tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts they still want to make permanent.
Because of those decisions, the gap between what Congress budgets for No Child Left Behind and what states and localities have to pay to meet its rules have sparked nationwide complaints from both red and blue states. The White House and its Department of Education beat back one lawsuit last year brought by the National Education Association, but it faces another from the State of Connecticut, one endorsed by 109 of the state's 169 school boards, according to last week's Hartford Courant.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called the goals of No Child Left Behind ''worthy," but said ''the federal government must be held accountable for its education promises." Evasion of such accountability was abundantly evident in Bush's bumbling answer at Kansas State University. For all his certitude about tax cuts, war, and holding terrorists accountable, Bush never did say how the $12.7 billion cut in student loans was supposed to help our future.