Working together, America can do better. We can improve the economic outlook for
our children by investing in their education. We can add funding for student loans
and grants. We can provide vocational education and job training. We must stop
accepting that low-wage, low-benefit part-time jobs are the best our children
can do. And for all workers, we need to ensure a livable wage and provide for
paid family and medical leave. If the United States can find $250 billion for
a failed war in Iraq and give American millionaires an average tax break of $41,574
apiece in 2006, then the most affluent country in the world can find the funds
to improve its schools and workplaces. Our future depends on it.
Is vocational “education” sufficient to invest our youths with
the tools to confront the collective exigencies of the modern human circumstance?
Does it give them the skills needed to survive beyond the terminal and unsustainable
economic model upon which the industrial sector is predicated?
Is “liberal arts” education simply indoctrination? Does education
take the form of a factory/business model? Is “education” a product?
Or is it the graduates that are the product? Does “education” have
value beyond the market economy and the status quo? Or, perhaps, as some people
believe, is “higher education” infiltrated by “Leftist”
and Communists who are perverting the minds of America’s treasured youth?
These are questions we would be wise to ask ourselves, in these times. I myself
in fact do find value in both “vocational” as well as “liberal
arts” educations. But I see their market economy side as well as their
indoctrinating side. Ideally, critical thinking is encouraged.
[Posted By ShiftShapers]
By Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)
Republished from In
We must stop accepting that low-wage, low-benefit, part-time jobs
are the best our children can do. We need to ensure a livable wage for all.
Funding a war in Iraq and providing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans
does more damage than Republicans in Congress care to admit. As they clamor
on about patriotism, their funding priorities are costing America its future.
The Republican Congress is placing hurdles in front of our children that are
nearly impossible to clear. At every turn, from age zero to 18, roadblocks have
been erected that block them from reaching their potential.
Since 2002, Republican budgets have cut nearly 7,000 slots for children in
low-income families to receive Head Start services. These cuts were made despite
studies demonstrating that Head Start children are more likely to graduate from
high school and are less likely to repeat a grade. Head Start students are also
less likely to commit a crime than low-income children who do not attend Head
Start. But such empirical findings mean little to a party that prefers its policies
based on faith.
After slashing Head Start budgets, it seems only logical for Republicans to
next target poor mothers with children under 6 years old. A recent Republican
budget proposal would require these mothers to double their weekly work hours
from 20 to 40 in order to remain eligible for job training and vocational education.
Yet that plan fails to provide $10.5 billion for childcare funding that the
non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated would be needed for mothers
to afford to work the longer hours and maintain their benefits. The blatant
hypocrisy would be comical if it weren’t true.
As our children – unprepared for the challenges they’ll face –
reach public schools, they will get less help than ever before. After taking
credit for “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB), President Bush and his
Republican allies wasted no time in underfunding the Act, thereby ensuring schools
could not meet new, stricter achievement standards. As of June 2005, the House
Republicans have shortchanged public schools by $40 billion since the passage
of the much-lauded NCLB law. At the same time, yearly progress tests created
by NCLB to determine if individual students are improving in math and reading
show almost a quarter of schools failing to show improvement on state student
If those weren’t enough obstacles to place in front of our children,
the Republicans want to force the average student borrower to pay an additional
$5,800 for college. The single most effective springboard to a well-paying job
is a college degree. So, this year the Republicans are proposing $14.3 billion
in cuts to federal student aid programs.
At every turn, our future is threatened – not by mythical weapons of
mass destruction or by the lack of prayer in the classroom – but by policies
that continually rob our children of the skills they need to compete. The results
of such policies speak for themselves. Since President Bush took office, 1.7
million more Americans live in poverty and the average median income has declined
$2,710. Meanwhile, the federal minimum wage, $5.15 an hour, has not been increased
since 1997, and has its lowest purchasing power since 1990.
Recently, the impact of cutting our children out of America’s future
became abundantly clear when a new Wal-Mart opened in my home community of Oakland,
California. Some 11,000 people applied for 400 jobs that pay less than $20,000
a year and offer few benefits. It was a microcosm of the fate of working families
everywhere, forced to get by with far too little.
Working together, America can do better. We can improve the economic outlook
for our children by investing in their education. We can add funding for student
loans and grants. We can provide vocational education and job training.
We must stop accepting that low-wage, low-benefit part-time jobs are the best
our children can do. And for all workers, we need to ensure a livable wage and
provide for paid family and medical leave.
Not surprisingly, two bills to do just that have been introduced by Democrats
and were quickly buried by Republicans. In May, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced
The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2005, which would have raised the minimum wage
to $7.25 an hour over two years. In June, I introduced the Paid Family and Medical
Leave Act, which would build on the highly successful Family and Medical Leave
Act by providing up to 12 weeks of paid benefits to workers who take time off
for reasons allowed under the new Act. Both bills would easily improve the lives
of working families, but the priorities of this Republican-controlled Congress
are focused in other areas.
If the United States can find $250 billion for a failed war in Iraq and give
American millionaires an average tax break of $41,574 apiece in 2006, then the
most affluent country in the world can find the funds to improve its schools
and workplaces. Our future depends on it.
Rep. Pete Stark has served California’s 13th District
since 1973. He is currently the ranking minority member on the Health Subcommittee.