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Spinning support for education …

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My freshman representative in Congress, a Republican named John R. “Randy” Kuhl, has learned quickly the divine arts of legislative and linguistic sleight of hand.

My mailbox today contained a four-page, full-color brochure (“prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense”) titled “Strengthening Education for Our Children.” The cover photo — a tow-headed, blue-eyed young boy apparently holding a microscope — has this legend overprinted: “With the right tools, his dreams don’t seem too far away.”

Keep dreamin’, kid, because last month Rep. Kuhl voted for, repeat, for, H. 4241, the House budget reconciliation bill that, among other things, would slash nearly $13 billion from student loan programs. (See how your representative voted here.)

Says the Washington Post:

[T]he student loan program would endure the largest cut in its history, and most of the money would not be pumped back into education. Instead, under a plan the House approved Monday, the money would be counted only toward reducing the federal deficit.

Parents who take out loans on behalf of their students would pay higher interest rates. And other parts of the college package could indirectly drive up costs for students, if banks pass on new expenses or offer less attractive loans as their profit margin shrinks.

According to the U.S. Student Association and the State Public Interest Research Groups, this bill:

hikes interest student loan interest rates, charges borrower new fees on their loans, effectively freezes student aid, and eliminates key safeguards for students, charges borrower new fees on their loans, effectively freezes student aid, and eliminates key safeguards for students.

But wait! Rep. Kuhl’s Web site proclaims that his vote is “[s]trengthening and simplifying student loan programs.” And the “public document/official business” pamphlet that Rep. Kuhl sent (partially at my expense) to my mailbox proudly says he supports the College Access and Opportunity Act (which would reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965 and set federal education policy for the next six years).

But that bill, too, has spawned its own set of controversies. (See stories here, here and here. Also, here’s a package of analysis from The Chronicle of Higher Education; subscription required.)

If you wish to dash off a letter to your senator to oppose (or support; that’s your democratic right) the cuts in student aid, don’t bother. Vice President Cheney rushed back from his Iraq visit to break a 50-50 deadlock in Senate voting today, leaving the $12.7 million hit in student loan cuts in place. (See how your senator voted here.)

Meanwhile, back in my mailbox, my smiling representative in Congress, pictured on the back page of his pamphlet with three elementary school children, continues to assure me that he supports “Strengthening Education,” “Empowering Parents and Teachers,” “Safe and Drug-Free Schools” and “Increased Funding for Education.”

How many of the other 216 House members and 50 senators who voted to “cut the deficit” (ha!) in part by whacking student loan aid have sent similar, taxpayer-paid-for, franking-privilege mailings to their constituents?

There’s what they say, and then there’s what they do. Watch your mailbox, folks. If your representatives and senators’ mailings make vague, unsupported claims, test the claims and hold those who made them accountable.


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 21, 2005 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. And with next November in mind…
    … how do we persuade the other party to take seriously the prospect of winning this district? I’ve already seen enough out of this freshman to be inclined to cancel his sophomore term before it starts.


    December 27, 2005 at 3:58 am

    • Re: And with next November in mind…
      Yeah, that’ll happen.
      Too many people vote party line to get the shotgun kid out of there.
      Our only hope is that Eric Massa does run for the seat. With General Clark backing the Retired Navy man we might be able to persuade the dyed on the wool conservatives in the district.
      I refuse to hold my breath though.


      December 30, 2005 at 3:44 am

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