Monday, February 20, 2006

The edjumacation preznit

President Bush at Kansas State University:
Q Hi, I just want to get your comments about education. Recently, $12.7 billion was cut from education, and I was just wondering how that's supposed to help our futures? (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Education budget was cut -- say it again. What was cut?

Q Twelve point seven billion dollars was cut from education, and I was just wondering how is that supposed to help our --

THE PRESIDENT: At the federal level?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think that -- I don't think we've actually -- for higher education? Student loans?

Q Yes, student loans.

THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We're 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 works better. Part of the reconciliation package, I think she's talking about. Yes, it's a reform of the program to make sure it functions better. It is -- in other words, we're not taking people off student loans, we're saving money in the student loan program because it's inefficient. And so I think the thing to look at is whether or not there will be fewer people getting student loans. I don't think so. And, secondly, on Pell grants, we're actually expanding the number of Pell grants through our budget.

But, great question. I think that the key on education is to make sure that we stay focused on how do we stay competitive into the 21st century. And I plan on doing some talking about math and science and engineering programs, so that people who graduate out of college will have the skills necessary to compete in this competitive world.

But I'm -- I think I'm right on this. I'll check when I get back to Washington. But thank you for your question. (Applause.)
He did check, and once again he froze the Pell Grants. Why is that a problem? Let's ask candidate Bush, from his 2000 campaign page. First objective:

1. Close the Achievement Gap between Disadvantaged Students and their Peers:

Fully fund the Pell grant program for first-year students by increasing the maximum grant amount by more than 50 percent, to $5,100.

Offer enhanced Pell grants (an additional $1,000) to low-income students who take rigorous math and science courses in high school.

Establish a $1 billion Math and Science Partnership for states, colleges and universities to strengthen K-12 math and science education.

Establish a $3 billion Education Technology Fund to ensure technology boosts achievement.
Top Pell Grants have remained at $4,050 for three years. Tax cuts for the wealthy were more important than "Clos[ing] the Achievement Gap between Disadvantaged Students and their Peers."

Either we have a serious problem with math education (Mr. President, are you aware that $4,050 is less than $5,100?) or we have a mismatch between the values he ran on and the values he's governed on. Bear in mind that the cost of education has risen more rapidly than inflation over the last 15 years, so holding a grant constant is a cut in real dollars.

Call your Congresscritter and tell it you voted for a president who would raise Pell Grants, and that he may not be up for re-election again, but Congress is about to be up for election again.