The following is a statement by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the recent flu outbreak and its impact on schools.
“All of us involved in schools — school leaders, teachers, parents and students — need to pitch in and do our part to prevent the spread of this flu virus. Use the same common sense and courtesy that you would use during winter flu season: Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and stay home if you are sick.
“The Department of Education is closely monitoring this flu outbreak and will remain a resource for all of our nation’s schools, but schools and districts should follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and be in close communication with their local public health authorities and political leadership. Do what is appropriate for the health of your communities, your schools and your students.”
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON HIGHER EDUCATION
Diplomatic Reception Room
1:46 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. That was excellent — we might have to run her for something some day. (Laughter.) That was terrific. Thank you, Stephanie. I want to also introduce Yvonne Thomas, who is Stephanie’s proud mother. And we appreciate everything that you’ve done. And Stephanie’s father, Albert, is around here as well.
There are few things as fundamental to the American Dream or as essential for America’s success as a good education. This has never been more true than it is today. At a time when our children are competing with kids in China and India, the best job qualification you can have is a college degree or advanced training. If you do have that kind of education, then you’re well prepared for the future — because half of the fastest growing jobs in America require a Bachelor’s degree or more. And if you don’t have a college degree, you’re more than twice as likely to be unemployed as somebody who does. So the stakes could not be higher for young people like Stephanie.
And yet, in a paradox of American life, at the very moment it’s never been more important to have a quality higher education, the cost of that kind of that kind of education has never been higher. Over the past few decades, the cost of tuition at private colleges has more than doubled, while costs at public institutions have nearly tripled. Compounding the problem, tuition has grown ten times faster than a typical family’s income, putting new pressure on families that are already strained and pricing far too many students out of college altogether. Yet, we have a student loan system where we’re giving lenders billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies that could be used to make college more affordable for all Americans.
This trend — a trend where a quality higher education slips out of reach for ordinary Americans — threatens the dream of opportunity that is America’s promise to all its citizens. It threatens to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. And it threatens to undercut America’s competitiveness — because America cannot lead in the 21st century unless we have the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world. And that’s the kind of workforce — and the kind of citizenry — to which we should be committed.
And that’s why we have taken and proposed a number of sweeping steps over our first few months in office — steps that amount to the most significant efforts to open the doors of college to middle-class Americans since the GI Bill. Millions of working families are now eligible for a $2,500 annual tax credit that will help them pay the cost of tuition; a tax credit that will cover the full cost of tuition at most of the two-year community colleges that are some of the great and undervalued assets of our education system.
We’re also bringing much needed reform to the Pell Grants that roughly 30 percent of students rely on to put themselves through college. Today’s Pell Grants cover less than half as much tuition at a four-year public institution as they did a few decades ago. And that’s why we are adding $500 to the grants for this academic year, and raising the maximum Pell Grant to $5,550 next year, easing the financial burden on students and families.
And we are also changing the way the value of a Pell Grant is determined. Today, that value is set by Congress on an annual basis, making it vulnerable to Washington politics. What we are doing is pegging Pell Grants to a fixed rate above inflation so that these grants don’t cover less and less as families’ costs go up and up. And this will help prevent a projected shortfall in Pell Grant funding in a few years that could rob many of our poorest students of their dream of attending college. It will help ensure that Pell Grants are a source of funding that students can count on each and every year.
Now, while our nation has a responsibility to make college more affordable, colleges and universities have a responsibility to control spiraling costs. And that will require hard choices about where to save and where to spend. So I challenge state, college and university leaders to put affordability front and center as they chart a path forward. I challenge them to follow the example of the University of Maryland, where they’re streamlining administrative costs, cutting energy costs, using faculty more effectively, making it possible for them to freeze tuition for students and for families.
At the same time, we’re also working to modernize and expand the Perkins Loan Program by changing a system where colleges are rewarded for raising tuition, and instead, rewarding them for making college more affordable.
Now just as we’ve opened the doors of college to every American, we also have to ensure that more students can walk through them. And that’s why I’ve challenged every American to commit to at least one year of higher education or advanced training — because by the end of the next decade, I want to see America have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. We used to have that; we no longer do. We are going to get that lead back.
And to help us achieve that goal, we are investing $2.5 billion to identify and support innovative initiatives that have a record of success in boosting enrollment and graduation rates — initiatives like the IBEST program in Washington state that combines basic and career skills classes to ensure that students not only complete college, but are competitive in the workforce from the moment they graduate.
And to help cover the cost of all this, we’re going to eliminate waste, reduce inefficiency, and cut what we don’t need to pay for what we do. And that includes reforming our student loan system so that it better serves the people it’s supposed to serve — our students.
Right now, there are two main kinds of federal loans. First, there are Direct Loans. These are loans where tax dollars go directly to help students pay for tuition, not to pad the profits of private lenders. The other kinds of loans are Federal Family Education Loans. These loans, known as FFEL loans, make up the majority of all college loans. Under the FFEL program, lenders get a big government subsidy with every loan they make. And these loans are then guaranteed with taxpayer money, which means that if a student defaults, a lender can get back almost all of its money from our government.
And there’s only one real difference between Direct Loans and private FFEL loans. It’s that under the FFEL program, taxpayers are paying banks a premium to act as middlemen — a premium that costs the American people billions of dollars each year. Well, that’s a premium we cannot afford — not when we could be reinvesting that same money in our students, in our economy, and in our country.
And that’s why I’ve called for ending the FFEL program and shifting entirely over to Direct Loans. It’s a step that even a conservative estimate predicts will save tens of billions of tax dollars over the next ten years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the money we could save by cutting out the middleman would pay for 95 percent of our plan to guarantee growing Pell Grants. This would help ensure that every American, everywhere in this country, can out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world.
In the end, this is not about growing the size of government or relying on the free market — because it’s not a free market when we have a student loan system that’s rigged to reward private lenders without any risk. It’s about whether we want to give tens of billions of tax dollars to special interests or whether we want to make college more affordable for eight and a half million more students. I think most of us would agree on what the right answer is.
Now, some of you have probably seen how this proposal was greeted by the special interests. The banks and the lenders who have reaped a windfall from these subsidies have mobilized an army of lobbyists to try to keep things the way they are. They are gearing up for battle. So am I. They will fight for their special interests. I will fight for Stephanie, and other American students and their families. And for those who care about America’s future, this is a battle we can’t afford to lose.
So I am looking forward to having this debate in the days and weeks ahead. And I am confident that if all of us here in Washington do what’s in the best interests of the people we represent, and reinvest not only in opening the doors of college but making sure students can walk through them, then we will help deliver the change that the American people sent us here to make. We will help Americans fulfill their promise as individuals. And we will help America fulfill its promise as a nation.
So thank you very much. And thank you, Stephanie. And thank you, Stephanie’s mom.
All right. Thanks, guys.
This year, May 3-9 is the special week we will honor the hardworking men and women leading our classrooms, with observance of National Teacher Day on Wednesday, May 5.If you would like more information about becoming a teacher in Oklahoma, please visit the State Department of Education’s Web site.
Because we agree that “Great Teachers Make Great Public Schools,” we always want to recognize our teachers for the hard work they do each day to help boys and girls reach their full potential.
Being a teacher is a calling. To do it well, requires long hours for modest pay. Yet, speaking from experience, the rewards are numerous!
A person decides to become a teacher for various reasons. Some are practically born into teaching, following in the footsteps of family members. Others are inspired by a favorite teacher they had in class.
For example, the 2008 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, Heather Sparks, was inspired by her Jenks High School geometry teacher, Alice Ward. Sparks is now a National Board certified math teacher at Taft Middle School in Oklahoma City, and it is her mission to teach students not just to learn math, but actually like it.
While many teachers become teachers the traditional way –
The process outlined in state law requires: determining eligibility, taking competency tests, fingerprinting for background checks, and applying to the Teacher Competency Review Panel (TCRP) for approval. After the license has been received, some requirements for a standard certificate must also be completed.
Another path to becoming an Oklahoma teacher is through the Troops to Teachers program. This federally funded program of the Department of Defense and the State Department of Education helps active and retired members of the armed forces or reserves obtain teacher certification.
Military men and women must go through the same alternative certification process that other degreed professionals go through if they don’t have an education degree. The program provides help with job placement, a stipend to cover testing fees, and a bonus for those willing to teach in high-poverty schools and/or schools with high percentages of children with disabilities.
Recent Teacher of the Year finalist Nolan Watson became an educator this way after a 20-year career in the U.S. Army. His experience in the military and travels around the world help him bring history to life in his classroom at Cache Middle School near Lawton.
We truly have thousands of remarkable, dedicated and caring teachers in our state. It is an honor to know and work with them.
Monday is the start to National Turnoff Week, an annual initiative to urge people to turn off their televisions and computers.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health urges families to spend time outside instead.
Statistics show that execessive TV watching is linked to childhood obesity, and can lead to poor school performance, sleep problems and less imaginative play among children.
Will you turn off your TVs and computers? At my house, we may try a little restrainst but probably not an all-out ban.
Where else but in Oklahoma would you have tornado and thunderstorm watches along with snowstorm warnings all in one week? It’s springtime! Crazy weather is just one of the concerns this time of year.The nicer weather (for the most part) sends people of all ages outside to enjoy ball games, walks and spending time at local or neighborhood parks.This is also a good time for spring cleaning; for example, getting rid of or removing any poisons in and around homes that could get into little hands. This includes locking up prescription drugs and alcohol. on SAFE-CALL is the nation’s first statewide school safety hotline, provides callers an anonymous, toll-free phone line 24 hours a day, 365 days each year. The purpose of the hotline is to report potential dangers or unsafe conditions at school so administrators can take preventive action. Concerned parents, students and community members are encouraged to report any suspicious activity or potentially dangerous situations as soon as possible.The hotline number is 1 (877) SAFE-CALL, extension OK1 (or 1-877-723-3225, extension 651), and reports can now also be made online at www.oksafecall.com.
Yet, these opportunities also mean thinking about safety.
Playground safety: April 19-25 is National Playground Safety Week and it’s time to remind children, parents and other caregivers about the potential dangers on playgrounds and the importance of playing safe.
The Oklahoma Department of Labor has once again partnered with the Oklahoma State Department of Education and Oklahoma Recreation & Park Society to sponsor the 2009 Playground Safety Poster contest for boys and girls in Grades 1 through 6.
Winners announced April 7 include grand prize winner Rachel Hackney, a 4th grade student at Sky Ranch Elementary in Moore. Her poster will appear on the new calendar, and other winning entries will be featured for each month. The calendar will be available in the fall.
Mental health professionals indicate that spring is, ironically, a time when people are more likely to suffer with depression or even consider suicide. Consider whether you know anyone in that difficult situation, and please encourage them to get help locally or by calling a suicide prevention hotline.
When it comes time to have springtime celebrations, many community groups sponsor after-prom or graduation night activities. Teachers, sponsors and parents also can encourage our children to make good choices by taking a stand against drugs or alcohol. Remind them that fun can be experienced and safety enhanced when no substances are used.
- Sandy Garrett, state schools superintendent
“Community involvement is so important. The community backs you. They back every sport and they also need to back the students. … [And, in turn,] schools need to invite the community in. We need mentors, volunteers, businesses and churches…”www.sde.state.ok.us. The Web site has information about the high school dropout crisis facing every state; resources include a powerful video featuring Oklahoma students, dropouts and graduates.
Carly Cox, a senior at Altus High School and member of the State Superintendent’s Advisory Council, in those few words summed up the focus of the state’s Dropout Summit, “OK Graduation: DO IT” on March 25.
Summit participants – which included educators, parents, students, business and community leaders, lawmakers and Carly’s peers on the State Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council – gathered at Oklahoma Christian University, in Edmond, to start defining a strategic plan to keep Oklahoma students in school, to chart the course for actually how Oklahoma schools and communities should “DO IT,” if you will.
The summit, hosted by the Oklahoma State Department of Education with funding from America’s Promise Alliance and State Farm Insurance, was focused on identifying prevention and intervention tactics that can be used in every school and community.
Participants expressed the need for additional counselors, more hands-on classes, teachers who were more engaging, fair and knowledgeable, and helping parents be more involved in each child’s education. Many agreed that having just one caring adult to listen, say a few encouraging words or mentor an at-risk student would make a world of difference in the student’s life.
One thing on which all agreed: A coordinated approach in every community is needed to better support students at risk of dropping out of school, and to recover those who already have done so.
That is why we are recruiting Dropout Intervention Team (DO IT) members from every school and community, large and small across the state.
Sign up today to be an OK Graduation: DO IT partner at the State Department of Education’s Web site
- Sandy Garett, state schools superintendent
Parents, students and teachers can find out more about MAPS for Kids projects at two schools in the coming week.
Northeast Academy High School for Health Sciences and Engineering will host a MAPS for Kids meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the school’s cafeteria, 3100 N Kelley Ave. The school will receive a $4.8 million renovation.
The final MAPS for Kids meeting at Cesar Chavez Elementary School will be at 6 p.m. April 9 in the school’s auditorium, 2717 S Robinson. The school is set to receive $10 million in renovations.
- Staff Writer Dawn Marks
Teachers have until Friday to register for the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum’s annual education summit.
At the June 9 and 10 summit, participants will discuss how to use in their classrooms the lessons learned on April 19, 1995. They will hear from several presenters including survivors and family members, FBI agents involved in the investigation of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who arrested Timothy McVeigh.
Cost is $25 and applications can be found at www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org and should be turned in to the memorial office by 5 p.m. Friday.
- Staff Writer Dawn Marks
Oklahoma City Community College will host the Oklahoma Electronic Game Expo from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 11 on campus, 7777 S May Ave.
During the expo, gamers can try new software, compete in tournaments and meet other video game enthusiasts.
Admission is free, but the cost to participate in a video game tournament is $1 per game. Fifty percent of proceeds will benefit Child’s Play Charity, an organization that provides toys, books and games to sick children in hospitals.
For more information, go to http://oege.catblog.occc.edu/wordpress, or call 682-1611.
The president of Christian Business Men’s Committee International will bring a religious message to business professionals at 10 a.m. April 1 at Mid-America Christian University, 3500 SW 119.
Tim Philpot has been a trial lawyer for 30 years specializing in employment and civil rights cases. He also served as a state senator in Kentucky.
The event is free and open to everyone.