President Bush is reneging on his pledge to be our education president. His proposed $3.1 trillion budget for 2009 includes the elimination of 47 programs designed to serve disadvantaged students of all ages.
This budget shows he still needs intensive tutoring on what education funding should be.
The president’s spending plan would cut $85 million in funding to historically black colleges, $23 million to tribally controlled colleges, $11.6 million to institutions serving native Alaskans and Hawaiians and $18 million to Hispanic colleges and universities.
These are cruel cuts. The college dropout rate for minorities is too high already. If we reduce funding to these institutions, fewer and fewer minorities will be getting an adequate education. And in the job market nowadays, a bachelor’s degree provides only what a high school diploma once did.
It takes more than books, paper and computers to provide education for minority and low-income students. It also takes faculty and administrators who understand the multiple challenges these students face as well as respect the cultures from which the students come. Cutting these faculty and administrators, which many colleges would be forced to do, would be a terrible blow.
Even as Bush is reducing funds to minority colleges, so, too, is he cutting student financial aid.
Bush’s proposal would cause more than 1.5 million low-income students to lose financial aid they have received from the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Perkins Loan programs, according to the Student Aid Alliance. Bush wants to erase both programs.
The Bush administration is trying the old magic trick of focusing our attention on one hand while the other does something different. Yes, Pell Grant funding has gone up and there will be a slight increase in per-student grants, but Pell Grants are not enough to pay for education in many four-year institutions. Even with the Pell Grant, students from low- or moderate-income families rack up substantial debts by the time they graduate from college.
The Bush proposal also completely eliminates support for Tech-Prep Education State Grants that go to community colleges for job training programs. (The proposal includes money for a loan program for job training for older, displaced and unemployed workers.)
Taken together, the changes in education support in the 2009 education budget proposal are maddening.
Bush is saying to upstanding young black, brown and poor students that they are not wanted.
This is the wrong message to send.
We need to prove more support for struggling students, not less.
Starita Smith is a doctoral student and instructor in sociology at the University of North Texas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.