If you were the last kid picked in dodge ball (espeically if you have a slight case of dyslexia), you might like the Republican proposal HR 1891 – Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act as after all, it promotes the philosophy that “supporting physical education [is] an inappropriate federal role”.
John Kline’s (R-MN-02) Education and Workforce Committee will consider the H.R. 1891 legislation and it is not the dollars that are being cut that are the concern … but instead the vision that the Republicans are presenting.
Duncan Hunter (R-CA-52), the point man on the legislation, stated :
Mr. Speaker, today I will introduce the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act, the first in a series of proposals to reform education in America.
There is an urgent need to fix what is broken in our Nation’s education system. Roughly two-thirds of eighth graders lack basic reading and math skills. Only 70 percent of students graduate high school. Meanwhile, Federal education spending is at an all-time high.
The Department of Education currently administers more than 80 programs tied to K-12 classrooms. Many of these programs are duplicative, several have been deemed inefficient, and others are simply a poor use of taxpayer funds. It is time to trim the fat.
Today, I will introduce legislation that will eliminate, not consolidate and not defund, but eliminate 43 wasteful K-12 education programs. At a time when approximately one-third of American fourth graders can’t read, we must concentrate on education initiatives that have a track record of putting the needs of the students first.
OK, the goal sounds good … children must improve their reading capabilities … and there is a need to “eliminate waste” …. It’s too bad that Mr. Hunter doesn’t acknowledge that the majority of those programs he mentions the Obama Administration wants to terminate … and that many of those were not funded in the FY2011 appropriations.
So, if reading scores must be improved, what is being cut ?
From the Republican press release, the programs include :
• Reading is Fundamental (RIF): The Reading is Fundamental program is another childhood literacy program funded by a combination of federal and private dollars. The program received $24.6 million in FY 2008 and $24.8 million in FY 2009 and 2010. Funding for RIF was eliminated in the final FY 2011 budget agreement. This program is an earmark for a private entity, and is duplicative of the ESEA Title I (Aid for the Disadvantaged) program.
Gosh, this seems like the type of program that the taxpayers would like … it’s a government and private groups working together … isn’t that the reason that businesses and individuals are encouraged to donate to worthwhile causes ? Or, is the sin here that funding was awarded via the “earmark” process ?
• Striving Readers: Striving Readers is another childhood literacy program. The program received $35.3 million in both FY 2008 and 2009, and $200 million in FY 2010. Funding for the program was eliminated in the final FY 2011 budget agreement. The program has never been authorized but has been funded under an existing ESEA authority eliminated by the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act.
Time out here … Striving Readers was a program that First Lady Laura Bush cited at the ‘National Summit on America’s Silent Epidemic’ :
“[No Child Left Behind] will expand the Striving Readers program, which uses research-based instruction to help middle and high school students read at grade level or better… By learning to read well, these students were preparing for every other subject — for history, for math, for science, for language, for art. They were building a strong academic foundation for high school and college, and for the rest of their lives.”
When Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) introduced the Striving Readers Act (S. 958), he said :
“The Striving Readers Act marks an important and urgent investment in the older student. In my state, the Alabama Reading Initiative has been improving literacy skills of secondary students since 1999. In Alabama, we’re helping older kids read and write well, and it is time for this effective statewide program to be a model for the nation. Striving Readers can make this a reality for all states. We must not risk squandering the investments Congress has already made through the important Reading First program for younger students. But, with 70 percent of our high school students reading below grade level, we know we must continue our support with ongoing programs that reflect the needs of the older student for more advanced vocabulary and comprehension skills. All students, throughout their K-12 educational experience, deserve adequate support to ensure on-time graduation with appropriate skills and knowledge that meet the demands of the 21st century.”
Gosh, so Mr. Hunter acknowledges that reading is a problem yet he is opposing programs that have had strong Republican support.
But the biggest concern may not be reading funding but the philosophy offered to rationalize cutting funding for physical education.
• Physical Education: The Carol M. White Physical Education Program provides grants to school districts and community-based organizations to initiate or expand physical education programs. The program received $78 million in FY 2009 and $79 million in both FY 2010 and FY 2011. Not only is supporting physical education an inappropriate federal role, this program is duplicative of Center for Disease Control programs and other federal physical fitness initiatives.
NOTE : The Bolding was done in the press release.
Admittedly, Mr. Hunter was only seven years old, so he may not have been reading the newspapers when President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the President’s Council on Youth Fitness with Executive Order 10673, on July 16, 1956. But he certainly would have heard about it when President John F. Kennedy promoted physical fitness for the 1961-62 school year … but even then there were concerns from some Republicans that the idea of the nation’s youth constrained by a state-ordered fitness program seemed a little “red,” even fascist.
A little “red” … but physical fitness is a national security concern which Mr. Hunter should be aware of if he listened to Major General Paul Monroe who testified before the House Education and Labor Committee last summer. In very compelling testimony, the situation was outlined :
— At least 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all young Americans ages 17 to 24, are too overweight to enlist. Since 1995, the proportion of candidates who failed their physical exams due to weight problems increased by a staggering 70 percent.
– Every year, the military discharges over 1,200 first-term enlistees before their contracts are up because of weight problems; the military must then recruit and train their replacements at a cost of $50,000 for each man or woman, thus spending more than $60 million a year.
– The journal Health Affairs reports that 80 percent of children who were overweight at ages 10-15 were obese at age 25.
It’s the philosophy that “supporting physical education [is] an inappropriate federal role” that is misguided but that lays to the basis that the government should not promote proper nutrition as House Republicans used a subcommittee hearing last Friday to challenge the goals of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the bipartisan law enacted last year to increase low-income children’s access to school meals and all children’s access to healthier meals in school, which was a direct result of General Monroe’s testimony.
Mr. Hunter, your philosophy is wrong.
President Barack Obama has set the correct goal for education … “In the 21st Century, it’s not enough to leave no child behind. We need to help every child get ahead.”
Yes, don’t just “trim the fat” but turn fat into muscle by exercising … including exercising the mind by promoting reading.