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GOP Doubles Down with Cynical Student Loan Bill


Posted by Nick Marcelli on June 18, 2013

Today, House Republican Leadership held a press conference to discuss the steps the House has taken to avoid the doubling of student loan rates on July 1. The House has already passed a solution to avoid the doubling of student loan rates that echoes the President’s own plan. It is time for the Senate to act.



Take a closer look at what the GOP and Eric Cantor are touting as a positive step to help students pay for college.

Stafford Loan – Current fixed rate for this student loan is 3.4% and it is scheduled to double in July to 6.8%.  The House GOP just passed the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (SSSA) which would end the fixed rate and calculate a variable rate at 2.5% points over the 10 year Treasury Bill rates, with a cap of 8.5% on Stafford Loans.  The average 10 yr T bill rate so far this month is 2.66%, so the current Stafford Loan rate would be 5.16%.

While the 5.16% today is better than the 6.8% rate beginning in a few weeks, the variable rate cap of 8.5% is 1.7% higher than the fixed rate would be. So Congratulations to the House GOP for passing a plan that would both lower and raise student loan rates at the same time.  If this isn’t cynical enough for you, add the SSSA’s current student loan rate of 5.16% today with the cap rate of 8.5% and then divide by two. This gives us the variable rates mid-range of 6.83%, nearly identical to the higher fixed rate as of July.  So for bankers this is a revenue neutral proposal over a range of years while current college students get only a 52% rate increase as of July.  For future college students the rate can more than double the current 3.4% fixed rate.

A look at the other provisions of the bill reveal similar findings. This could be a bill written by the student loan industry to squeeze more out of students without appearing to be quite as greedy.

Below is an analysis that (also cynically) does not assess the financial impact if the current 3.4% rate is allowed to stay the same.

H.R. 1911, Smarter Solutions for Students Act

cost estimate

may 20, 2013

read complete document  (pdf, 28 kb)

As ordered reported by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on May 16, 2013

H.R. 1911 would change the interest rates for all new federal loans to students and parents made on or after July 1, 2013, from a fixed interest rate set in statute to a variable interest rate, adjusted annually. Under the bill, interest rates for all new subsidized and unsubsidized student loans would be based on the interest rate on a 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percentage points, with a cap of 8.5 percent. (Borrowers pay no interest on subsidized loans while enrolled in school or during other deferment periods but are responsible for interest at all times on unsubsidized loans.) The interest rate for all new GradPLUS and parent loans would be based on the interest rate on a 10-year Treasury note plus 4.5 percentage points, with a cap of 10.5 percent. The bill also would eliminate the cap on the interest rate on all new consolidation loans (multiple loans for a single borrower combined into one loan) originated on or after July 1, 2013.

Under current law, all subsidized and unsubsidized loans originated on or after July 1, 2013, will have a fixed interest rate of 6.8 percent, and all GradPLUS and parent loans will have a fixed rate of 7.9 percent. In addition, the interest rate on all consolidation loans is capped at 8.25 percent.

CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 1911 would reduce direct spending by about $1.0 billion over the 2013-2018 period and by $3.7 billion over the 2013-2023 period. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues. Pay-as-you-go procedures apply because enacting the legislation would affect direct spending. Implementing the bill would not have a significant impact on spending subject to appropriation.


Ideological Barriers to High School Graduation For Every Child

Thanks to the efforts  of the US Department of Education, high school graduation rates can be compared across state lines for the first time.  The results of the 2010-11 Four-Year Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates report is revealing and a bit disturbing.  The top high school graduation rate was in Iowa where 88% of all students graduated .  The lowest was in Nevada where just 61% graduated.  (What’s happening there?)  The median of state averages for graduation rates was just 80%.

The nations high school graduation rates are disappointing, but when you break down the numbers they become truly disturbing. In almost every state, White children had the highest graduation rates.  In most states the graduation rates for African American and Native American students fell  10 to 20 points below White students.  A similar gap can be seen between White students and those who are economically disadvantaged.  The largest race based gap was in Minnesota where 84% of White students graduate verses only 49% of Black students.  That’s a 35 percentage point gap.  The other states with large race based graduation gaps include Nevada (28 pts.), Wisconsin (27 pts.) and Ohio (26 pts.).  These are not the states we tend to think of when we talk about the racial divide.

But the biggest and most disturbing graduation gaps are not along racial, ethnic or even economic lines.  They occur in two unexpected categories, children with disabilities and children for whom English is their second language.

In Mississippi and Nevada only 23% of disabled students graduated high school.  These are children who, through no fault of their own, require every advantage they can get if they are to lead happy, productive lives.  In Nevada the graduation gap between students with disabilities and White students was 48 percentage points. Mississippi  did a much better job then Nevada overal  .  White students graduated at a respectable rate of 82%.  The graduation gap for Mississippi’s disabled children, however, was 59 points lower.  Contrast that with Arkansas where there was only a 9 point gap, or with South Dakota where there was just a 2 point difference between White students and disabled students.   What is possible for disabled children in South Dakota should be possible in every state.  Over all, the graduation gap between abled and disabled students is greater than ethnic, racial or economic factors.  The biggest gaps were mostly in the South, but almost every state needs to do a better job.

The second disturbing category is the graduation gaps for immigrant children whose first language is not English.  While states such as West Virginia, Maine, South Dakota and Arkansas were able to graduate English-language learners on par with White students, most other states were less successful.  The graduation gaps in Georgia (44 pts.), Nevada, Alabama (both 42 pts.) and New York (40 pts.) were among the biggest.  But it is Arizona, by far, that had the largest gap in the graduation rates between White students (85%)  and those who needed to learn English (23%).   This was a 60 percentage point drop in graduation rates for English-language learners in Arizona, and the reason for this poor performance has a lot to do with ideological politics.  Voters in Arizona  eliminated bilingual education in a 2000 ballot measure.  Proposition 203 was a popular backlash against bilingual education in favor of a more nationalistic “English for the Children Philosophy”.  Bilingual education was viewed as a politically correct relic of our liberal past.

It is unconscionable to hold children in the cross-fire of America’s ideological wars.  Children are a special class of citizens who rightfully have special protections and certain undeniable rights, including the right to equal educational opportunities.  To set different standards based on race, religion, disabilities or place of origin is unacceptable.  To  eliminate educational opportunities or to choose educational programs based on politics over empirical practice is malfeasance.  It harms children and ultimately harms our society.  There is no excuse for not duplicating the success many other state already have in educating children of color, children with disabilities and children who speak another language.  State sovereignty be damned.  Children everywhere are every citizens concern.  We must do all we can to remove politics from public schooling and press the case for competent practices that gives every child a fair shot at success. High School Graduation for every child should be our national goal.


(Below are excerpts from an article detailing the struggle to improve educational outcome for English-language learning students in Arizona.)

Bilingual Education vs. English Immersion



… Spanish-speaking [families in] Nogales [Arizona]… in 1992 [filed] a federal suit aimed at improving educational opportunities for non-English-speaking students in the overwhelmingly Hispanic town. The class action suit claimed the school district was failing to comply with a federal law – the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 – which requires each state to take “appropriate action” to ensure that English-language learners (ELLs) enjoy “equal participation in its instructional programs.”

… The plaintiffs won a pivotal decision in 2001 requiring Arizona to boost funding for English-language learning in Nogales and the rest of the state. In a narrowly divided decision in June, however, the Supreme Court gave state officials an opportunity to set aside the lower court ruling.

Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the federal district judge had failed to adequately consider changed circumstances since 2001. Among other changes, Alito cited the state’s decision to drop bilingual education in favor of so-called “sheltered English immersion” as the officially prescribed method of instruction for students with limited English proficiency.

Arizona’s voters had decisively rejected bilingual education in a 2000 ballot measure. Along with similar measures passed in California in 1998 and Massachusetts in 2002, Arizona’s Proposition 203 embodied a popular backlash against bilingual education that had grown since the 1980s. Critics of bilingual teaching viewed it as a politically correct relic of the 1960s and ‘70s that had proven academically ineffective and politically divisive. [snip]

… The debate between English-only instruction and bilingual education has been fierce for decades. “People get very hot under the collar,” says Christine Rossell, a professor of political science at Boston University and critic of bilingual education. [snip]

… Those who support a bilingual approach, says Arizona Superintendent of Instruction Thomas Horne, “aren’t interested in teaching the kids English,” but want to maintain “a separatist nationalism that they can take advantage of.” Horne, a Republican, intervened with the state’s GOP legislative leaders to try to undo the federal court injunction. [Snip]

… “It’s a growing challenge,” says Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association (NSBA). “We have many more children coming into our schools for whom their first language is not English…  Voluminous, statistics-heavy studies are cited by opposing advocacy groups as evidence to support their respective positions on the bilingual versus English-only debate. But Barth says language politics, not research, often determines school districts’ choice of instructional method. “A lot of it is political,” she says. “A lot of decisions about language instruction aren’t really informed by the research about what works for children.”

How Public Schools Came to Be and the Fight to Dismantle Them

Publicly funded local schools are a universally accepted social norm.  Abandoning them would be almost unthinkable.  When we stop to consider what we value in our  communities, local public schools are almost always a top consideration and a source of civic pride.

This isn’t just true in the United States.  Publicly funded education has become a global norm in all advanced societies for nearly century.  But a hundred years isn’t very long in the sweeping arch of history, is it?  Public schooling has fundamentally altered American society, yet few of us can recount how this radical change came about.  How did public schools come to be?

The fight to establish public schools is almost lost history.  There is very little content or comment about it on the Web or in our public media.  What we do hear lately are a great many lively debates about burdensome public school taxes, failing schools, voucher programs, charter schools, and making public funds more available for private schools and colleges.  Lost to our comprehension in these debates is how these arguments follow the exact fault lines in what was an incredibly contentious battle, waged over the course of a generation, to establish public schooling. The political struggle for public education has been compared as second only to the fight for the abolition of slavery in its intensity and divisiveness, but who remembers any of that today?

The battle to undo public education is already underway.  If we fail to grasp the fact it is because we have no historical context to recognize the attacks for what they are.  If we hope to retain and strengthen our system of public education in America, we need to place the current arguments against it in historical context.  We need to reclaim our history.

To this purpose I recommend a book copyrighted in 1919 by Ellwood P. Chubberly entitled, “Public Education in the United States, A Study and Interpretation of American Educational History.”  It is a text book, long out of print, but the entire book can be downloaded or read on line.  Much of the book is obviously dated, but the early chapters on the history of public education provide the valuable context we need to understand the political arguments today.

Of particular interest to our purpose here is Chapter V., “TheThe Battle for Free State Schools”, beginning on page 118.  Read this chapter first for some quick insights.  Below is the full URL addresses and links to the book and its Table of Contents.


Full URL Addresses:




Table of Content


Mental Health Screening in Schools – In the Wake of Newtown

The horror of the mass killings of six faculty and twenty Sandy Hook Elementary School children is still painfully fresh, but it isn’t too soon to begin thinking about what needs to change to try and prevent this from happening again somewhere else.  Much of the discussion following this tragedy will rightly focus on adopting some sensible gun regulations.  But there are other areas that we need to focus on as well because our propensity for social violence is a broad and multifaceted problem.  Our mental health system is another important area to address.  Particularly with respect to children, our ability to identify and treat behavioral problems and mental illness needs to be strengthened.  One aspect of this involves early mental health screenings.  What follows here is a brief and partial list of articles, studies and references on the topic.    It’s not too soon to start educating ourselves.

American academy of pediatrics



Summary: The purpose of Health, Mental Health and Safety Guidelines for Schools is to help those who influence the health and safety of students and school staff while they are in school, on school grounds, on their way to or from school, and involved in school-sponsored activities. The guidelines recognize that the primary mission of schools is to educate students. Schools also have a responsibility for students’ health and safety while they are at school. By addressing health, mental health, and safety issues (including transportation and motor vehicle safety), schools can improve students’ academic performance today and contribute to their increased longevity and productivity long after they leave school.

Excerpt: Early identification of students with, or at risk for, transient or on-going mental disorders, followed by early intervention can mitigate the severity and duration of these problems and reduce personal, social, educational, and financial costs to the student and family and the educational and health systems. Up to three-quarters of U.S. children receiving professional care for a mental health problem obtained services through a school-based program.

Citations: Suggested citation, prior to written publication:
Taras H, Duncan P, Luckenbill D, Robinson J, Wheeler L, Wooley S: Health, Mental Health and Safety Guidelines for Schools. (2004); Available at http://www.schoolhealth.org 

Mental Health Screening in Schools


Summary: This article discusses the importance of screening students in

schools for emotional/behavioral problems.  Elements relevant to planning and implementing effective mental health screening in schools are considered. Screening in schools is linked to a broader national agenda to improve the mental health of children and adolescents. Strategies for systematic planning for mental health screening in schools are presented. Careful planning and implementation of mental

health screening in schools offers a number of benefits including enhancing outreach

and help to youth in need, and mobilizing school and community efforts to promote

student mental health while reducing barriers to their learning. When implemented with appropriate family, school, and community involvement, mental health screening in schools has the potential to be a cornerstone of a transformed mental health system.

Excerpt: “Youth with internalizing disorders such as depression, anxiety, or suicide ideation are not as easily identified as those with acting-out or externalizing disorders. Individuals with internalizing conditions comprise a significant population; the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a nationally representative sample of more than 15,000 high school students throughout the United States, found that in the 12-month period preceding the survey, 16.9% had seriously considered attempting suicide, 16.5% had

made a plan for attempting suicide, 8.5% had attempted suicide 1 or more times, and 2.9% had made an attempt requiring medical attention.

Citation: Weist MD, Rubin M, Moore E, Adelsheim S, Wrobel G. Mental health

screening in schools. J Sch Health. 2007; 77: 53-58.

Screening Mental Health Problems in Schools


Summary:  This brief highlights the following issues:

• How appropriate is large-scale screening for mental health problems?

• Will the costs of large-scale mental health screening programs

outweigh the benefits?

• Are schools an appropriate venue for large-scale screening of mental

health problems?


• Advocates for large-scale MH screening in schools see major benefits to individuals and

society of finding many more students with problems in order to treat them before the

problems become severe. In citing benefits for screening children and adolescents, the

assumption is that those identified will receive effective treatments. Based on this

assumption, key benefits claimed are preventing problems from becoming worse and

enhancing student success at school, which generates other benefits for students, their

families, and their teachers and for the society in terms of future productivity and which

reduces costs because there is less need for intensive treatments and special education.

In citing benefits for using schools as a venue for public health programs, as compared to

other community venues, matters of ready access and reduced costs are stressed, as well

as the benefits to schools of having students with problems treated.

• Those who oppose large-scale screening raise a host of concerns (i.e., potential costs). For some, there is a fundamental fear that society will mandate such screening and thereby interfere with what should remain a personal family matter and will violate rights to privacy,  consent, and parental control. Others are concerned that screening will increase referrals for nonexistent treatment resources and that the dollars budgeted for screening will reduce the dollars allocated for treatment. Still others point to the evidence that available screening methods used in schools produce too many errors (e.g., false positive identifications, inappropriate over-identification of subgroups such as some ethnic groups and boys with externalizing problems and girls with internalizing problems). Relatedly, they argue there will be insufficient follow-up assessment resources to correct for false positive identifications.  And, some argue there are significant costs resulting from selffulfilling prophecies and stigmatization.

In arguing against using schools, there is the social philosophical argument that mental

health is one of those matters that should remain a domain for family, not school,

intervention. More pragmatically, it is argued that scarce school time and resources should not be used for matters not directly related to teaching. Others point to the lack of enough competent school personnel to plan, implement, and evaluate large-scale screening.

Examples of documents covering the issues:

Screening Aimed at Preventing Youth Suicide (2005)

by Ellie Ashford for the National School Board Association’s School Board News

http://www.nsba.org/site/print.asp?TRACKID=&VID=55&ACTION=PRINT&CID=682&DID=36189  Provides a quick overview for school boards of some of the controversies and places them in the context of current events.

Screening for Depression: Recommendations and Rationale (2002)

by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/3rduspstf/depressrr.htm  and

Screening for Suicide Risk: Recommendation and Rationale (2004)

by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality



Citation: The Center is co-directed by Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor and operates

under the auspices of the School Mental Health Project, Dept. of Psychology, UCLA,

Write: Center for Mental Health in Schools, Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA90095-1563

Phone: (310) 825-3634     Fax: (310) 206-5895    Toll Free: (866) 846-4843

email: smhp@ucla.edu website: http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu

Mental health screening in schools


Summary: This article discusses the importance of screening students in schools for emotional/behavioral problems. Elements relevant to planning and implementing effective mental health screening in schools are considered. Screening in schools is linked to a broader national agenda to improve the mental health of children and adolescents. Strategies for systematic planning for mental health screening in schools are presented.

Excerpt: When implemented with appropriate family, school, and community involvement, mental health screening in schools has the potential to be a cornerstone of a transformed mental health system. Screening, as part of a coordinated and comprehensive school mental health program, complements the mission of schools, identifies youth in need, links them to effective services, and contributes to positive educational outcomes valued by families, schools, and communities.

Citations:  Weist MDRubin MMoore EAdelsheim SWrobel G.

Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for School Mental Health Analysis and Action, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA. mweist@psych.umaryland.edu


Study pushes early identification of kids’ mental health problems


Lisa Chedekel, Conn. Health I-Team Writer

Publication: theday.com

Published 09/14/2012 12:00 AM

Updated 09/15/2012 12:13 AM

Josue, 15, was born to a 12‐year‐old mother. Exposed to domestic violence and abuse, he struggled in school early on and received a special education evaluation in Grade 4 that found weaknesses in reading, math and writing.

By 13, he had been diagnosed with symptoms of bipolar disorder, depression, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. Yet, he started high school with limited support services and ended up suspended from school and referred to the juvenile justice system.


“Red flags for mental and behavioral health problems are often clear before the end of second grade,” said Andrea Spencer, educational consultant to the Center and dean of the School of Education at PaceUniversity, whose work was funded with a grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation. “It is imperative that we improve screening and identification, so support for these children can be provided before their academic careers are at risk.”

Please go to the above URL address to continue reading.

High School Graduation Rates A National Disgrace

Educational achievement can be viewed as a long range predictor of a nations economic health and well being.  In advanced economies, a great deal depends on scientific and technical advantages.

A recent report from the World Economic Forum published a study on global business competitiveness that ranks 144 nations according to indicators in 12 categories.  While the United State ranked 7th in the world over all, our ranking in primary and secondary education measures were alarming.  The united states ranked 58th on primary school enrollments and 38th on the quality of our primary education. We ranked 47th in secondary school enrollment and 47th on the quality of math and science education.  (See report summary here )

Now the U.S. Department of Education has released data detailing state four-year high school graduation rates in 2010-11 – the first year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure. The report states:

“The varying methods formerly used by states to report graduation rates made comparisons between states unreliable, while the new, common metric can be used by states, districts and schools to promote greater accountability and to develop strategies that will reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide.

The new, uniform rate calculation is not comparable in absolute terms to previously reported rates. Therefore, while 26 states reported lower graduation rates and 24 states reported unchanged or increased rates under the new metric, these changes should not be viewed as measures of progress but rather as a more accurate snapshot. “

See States Four Year Graduation Rates here: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/state-2010-11-graduation-rate-data.pdf  In reading the summary below please keep in mind that no data was available from Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma or Puerto Rico and some other states had data missing.

Summary of Finding

The highest graduation rate achieved by any state is in Iowa, which as an 88% high school graduation rate.  Wisconsin and Vermont were right behind Iowa with an 87% graduation rate.  The lowest high school graduation rate is just 59% in the District of Colombia.  Among the sovereign states the lowest graduation rates  were in Nevada (62%), New Mexico (63%), Georgia (67%), Alaska and Oregon  (both at 68%).  All together, 13 states have high school graduation rates at or below 75%.

When it comes to race and ethnicity, the graduation rates for Latino children in Maine and Hawaii are slightly better then for White students.  Beyond these two examples, in every other state the rates are lower for both Black and Latino students, and significantly so in some states.  In Minnesota and Nevada Black student have a graduation rate below 50%.  The disparity in Minnesota is stark.  White students in Minnesota graduate at a rate of 84% while the Latino graduation rate is 51% and only 49% of Black students graduate.  These numbers and other dramatic disparities among the states are a national disgrace.

Even more startling is the low graduation rates and huge rate disparity for children with disabilities.  Graduation rates for these children range from a high of  77% in Texas, 75% in Arkansas and 73% in both Kansas and New Jersey to a low of 23% in Mississippi and Nevada.  Only 33 states have graduation rates above 50% among children with disabilities.  Children with disabilities are not more severely handicapped in places like Louisiana (29%) than Pennsylvania (71%).

Children with limited English proficiency also graduate at lower rates in most states, but especially in Nevada (29%) and Arizona (25%).  Students with limited English proficiency actually have a better graduation rate in West Virginia (79%) than do White children for whom English is their primary language (77%).  In states as diverse as Arkansas and Maine limited English proficiency is hardly a barrier at all.  Nineteen states have high school graduation rates of less than 50% for children for whom English is not their primary language.

I would appear that childhood disabilities and limited English proficiency are not  that closely correlated with economic disadvantage.  There are no states in which the graduation rate for economically disadvantaged children falls below 50%.  In Arizona, for example, economically disadvantaged students have a 73% graduation rate and students with disabilities have a 67% rate of graduation while, as mentioned, students for whom need help learning English have a very low graduation rate (25%).  In the case of Mississippi economically disadvantaged students graduate at a rate of 69% while only 23% of disabled children graduate high school.

So what’s going on here?  From the broad strokes of this report it would seem that poor educational outcomes are less a result of funding or the demographics of being economically poor and more a matter of selective neglect for some student populations.  I this judgment is too harsh.  However, no matter how you look at this data, United States appears heading for national decline if we remain unable to turn around these educational outcomes.