Pres. Obama on Education: Long Term Outcomes

For my own and others’ clarity, I am outlining where our Presidential candidates fall on educational issues. I am dividing this into two consecutive posts (that I will update and repost closer to election day).

I am starting with the incumbent. President Obama has not released new plans for education. Instead, his website outlines his educational record while he’s been in office. Ok. I can work with that.

President Obama:

  • Authority is given to local government to enact No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as they see fit
  • Doubled Pell Grant Funding (money given—not loaned—to middle and working class students to pay for college based on their financial need. See Department of Education for more information)
  • Developed and awarded Race to the Top Grants (grants given to 11 struggling states and D.C. for education reform. So far, this program has cost a whopping $4 billion and a request for another $1.35 billion was included in the FY 2011 budget. Check Department of Education  for more specifics)
  • Loan reform:
    • Limit borrowers’ payments to 10% of their income
    • Loans are forgiven after 20 years
    • Loans are forgiven for public servants (e.g. nurses, teachers, and military) after 10 years if loans have been paid on time until that point

1) Local Authority: I am not a fan of all the levels of educational power in this country (federal, state, city, district). All it leads to is inconsistencies and inequities. President Obama is giving local power because as per his style, he doesn’t want to offend anyone or be held responsible for formally rescinding aspects of NCLB. I’m so sick of him trying to make everyone happy. Bush was an idiot, but at least he chose a choice.

2) Doubled Pell Grant Funding: What’s not to like about this? Since 2008, 9 million students have received pell grants compared to 6 million before he increased funding. This is where our money should be going instead of…

3) Race to the Top: This dandy program has been a complete waste of money. To be fair, educational change takes time and the data are still coming in; however, the data we have now suggests that this program was and will be a waste of $6 billion. Of the 11 states and Washington D.C. that received the race to the top grant:

  • three demonstrated no change in 4th and 8th grade reading and math scores (Delaware, Florida, Tennessee)
  • five have ‘significant positive change at p <.05’ in 4th OR 8th grade reading scores (Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Hawaii)
  • six have ‘significant positive change at p < .05’ in 4th OR 8th grade math (D.C., Maryland, Ohio, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Georgia)
  • New York managed to actually decrease in their 4th grade math performance
  • Rhode Island demonstrated the most change with an increase of 6 points in reading and 5 points in math. Which leads me to my next point:
  • ‘significant positive change at p <.05’ is an inflated statistic because of high statistical power. When reviewing scale score changes, the average amount of increase is 3 scale points. This means moving from 235.7-238.8 for Hawaii in 4th grade math
  • The scale is out of 500 points. No state reached 300 points in any area

In summary, President Obama has done what the federal government has always done: throw money at a problem. This strategy continues to be INEFFECTIVE. Please, stop wasting our money and invest in educationally research-based strategies to improve our schools.

4) Loan Reform: As someone who has undergraduate loans, I appreciate anything that may help ease my loan payments. 10% of income maximums is probably a good move because most people who have college and/or graduate school loans are paying easily $500 a month and they certainly aren’t making $5000 a month (I have dozens of friends who are Attorneys and Medical Doctors. When you borrow upwards of $200,000, your monthly payments can be over $1000). Maxing them at 10% sounds good, but that does nothing to the long term principal amount owed. But I guess at least this way, you give people a chance to not default on their payments. I can dig it.

Loan forgiveness after 20 years won’t happen. I’m sure there are 8 million caveats to this because why would a loan company up and say ‘well, it’s been a long time so you don’t owe me anymore’? They wouldn’t. The trade off would have to be an increase in interest rates because to be fair, you owe the money and they deserve to paid one way or another. I have to keep my eye on this one.

Now, forgiving the debt of public servants after 10 years IF they’ve paid on time sounds great but this will only apply to like 3% of that population. It’s impossible not to forget to make a payment at least once in 10 years. Especially if you have more than one lender (as I do). Accounts change, due dates change without notice, you simply forget to renew the automatic withdrawal, anything. This is something that just sounds good that won’t matter in the end. *shrug*


All in all, it seems I am 50% (or 66% if you separate out the loan reform components) on board with the President’s educational ‘reform’ initiatives. Guess that’s better than 0%.

This entry was posted in Policy.

3 comments on “Pres. Obama on Education: Long Term Outcomes

  1. […] of educational reform are often danced around but never dissected (see previous posts on Romney and President Obama for summaries of their plans for education reform). Candidates espouse overused ideas that will […]

  2. […] couple of months ago I posted outlines of Obama’s and Romney’s education plans. I promised then that I would update the posts closer to the […]

  3. […] a year ago in anticipation of the Presidential election, I wrote a blog post summarizing President Obama’s education agenda. In that piece I report data indicating that Race […]

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