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  • Morning Bell: Top 10 Education Stories of 2011

    There was no lack of education news in 2011. From an explosion in school choice options to the Obama Administration’s executive overreach, the top stories included the high and low lights when it came to issues affecting America’s schools.

    10. Obama Administration orchestrates for-profit university witch hunt. On June 2, the Department of Education issued restrictive new regulations targeting “for-profit” higher education institutions. The new “gainful employment” regulation restricts access to student loans for students attending for-profit institutions (like Capella University or the University of Phoenix, for instance) if the school’s average debt-to-earnings ratio exceeds 12 percent of a graduate’s income. The net result? De-facto government price controls on a sector meeting the needs of students historically underserved by traditional universities.

    9. Obama forgives student loans. In November, President Obama traveled to the University of Colorado-Boulder to announce his plan to forgive federal student loans — a demand made, notably, by the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Students cannot be required to pay more than 10 percent of their discretionary income on loan payments, all of which will be forgiven after 20 years. Sadly, this executive overreach shifts the burden of paying for college from the students who are directly benefiting from having attended college, to the nearly three-quarters of Americans who did not graduate from college.

    8. Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) sees action. Federal education policy watchers were surprised to see the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee pass a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), today known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). As bureaucratic and heavy-handed as NCLB is currently, the Senate HELP Committee’s proposal was 1,000 pages of even more Washington-style education “reform.“ Instead of taking a cue from conservatives in Congress who have put forward proposals to allow states to completely opt-out of the bureaucratic law, the HELP committee put a stamp of approval on a proposal to reinforce the status-quo. Hopefully the Senate committee’s solo action will remain a 2011 relic, and approaches to allow states to opt-out completely will be considered in the new year.

    7. House Education and the Workforce Committee moves to reduce federal role in education. This year, the House Education and the Workforce Committee put forward some major proposals to begin the important work of reducing the federal role in education. Two important proposals were introduced: one, by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), would trim the number of programs under NCLB from around 80 down to 43. Another by Chairman John Kline (R-MN), would allow states more flexibility to spend federal education dollars in a way that best meets the needs of local students. Both are good first steps to returning more power to state and local leaders, and reducing Washington’s bloated role in education.

    6. Online learning growth accelerates. In 2011, a growing number of families decided to take advantage of the online learning options now available for K-12 students across the country. According to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning, there are now 30 states with full-time online learning schools, open to students from districts across the state. Forty states offer state-run virtual schools, online charter schools are proliferating, and many more families are taking advantage of private online learning providers. Across the country, students are taking millions of courses online, customizing their educational experiences.

    5. Administration continues national standards push. One of the more concerning education developments in 2011 was the Obama Administration’s continued push for states to adopt national standards and tests. The Common Core national standards, created by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, have been backed by the Obama administration with $4.35 billion in Race to the Top money (grants were conditioned on states adopting common standards), through the forthcoming No Child Left Behind waivers, and in the Department of Education’s “blueprint” for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. National standards are a significant Washington overreach into what is taught in local schools, and would further remove parents for the educational decision-making process.

    4. Obama Administration issues No Child Left Behind waivers. Despite Congressional deliberations over NCLB’s future and thoughtful alternatives to the law put forward by the House Education and the Workforce Committee and others, the Obama Administration decided in the fall of 2011 that time was up and began an end-run around Congress. The Administration began the process of issuing waivers to states for NCLB, conditioning access to the waivers on whether a state was willing to adopt the Administration’s preferred education policies — basically re-writing policy from the White House. The waivers are another executive overreach from the Obama Administration, and state leaders should reject them in 2012 and demand genuine relief from NCLB.

    3. States limit collective bargaining. Education unions have long been a roadblock to reform. But in a bold move in early 2011, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker limited the power of public sector collective bargaining in his state. Most importantly, Gov. Walker gave teachers a choice: Public school teachers can now choose whether or not to join a union. Other states like Idaho followed suit and successfully curtailed the excessive power of education unions this year. But the fight isn’t over. Gov. Walker faces a potential recall, which will move forward if 540,000 signatures are collected by January 17, 2012.

    2. Congress reauthorizes the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. In 2009 and 2010, families of low-income children receiving vouchers through the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program were reeling with uncertainty. The program was on its way to extinction due to language inserted in a 2009 spending bill by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). But in early 2011, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made it his personal mission to see that the voucher program was restored and expanded, and he successfully fought for the reauthorization of the D.C. OSP. It was a welcome and well-deserved victory for D.C. families, who had fought so hard to ensure educational opportunity for their children.

    1.  Year of School Choice. The most exciting educational development of the last year was captured by a Wall Street Journal editorial headline crowning 2011 “The Year of School Choice.” In 2011, more families than ever before gained access to school choice options, freeing them from assignment-by-zip code policies that often relegate families to the public school closest to their home, regardless of whether it meet their child’s needs. Now, more families have access to school choice options such as vouchers, tax credits, homeschooling, online learning, and even education savings accounts, restoring their control over their child’s education. In all, 12 states and the District of Columbia either enacted or expanded school choice options in 2011.

    - Lindsey Burke researches and writes on federal and state education issues as a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    32 Responses to Morning Bell: Top 10 Education Stories of 2011

    1. Rev. KJ Fimian says:

      Good article but wasn't there a government take-over of student loans buried within some other legislation?

    2. John in Amawalk says:

      The beneficiaries of the college loan forgiveness program will be not so much the students but the faculty, staff, and other employees of the colleges which persist in their curricula of junk science, white liberal guilt, and other mind-numbing pablum.

    3. Mark says:

      I fail to see why any 'Right' thinking person could possibly be for school vouchers. If private and parochial schools start receiving government monies will there not, at some juncture, be strings attached? Will the parents of students from failing schools all of a sudden start taking an interest in their children's behavior just because they are now attending a private school? How much more welfare can we afford/stomach? One parent will be struggling to pay for their child's education while the child in the next desk is getting a free ride. How will putting on a private school uniform magically transform a problem student into a model one? After the failing schools are emptied into the private ones, then where will we be able to send our children for a buffer?

      • Tom says:

        Mark, while voucher are not the 100% best solution, they are an viable option to give students a better education. Yes there is a risk of "strings" that needs to be considered. Yes, parents of students from failing schools will start to take more of an interest because they will have an option. They will have a ray of hope. This would not be additional "welfare" as the money would be deducted from the current school and delivered to the performing school. The students will (of course not all) transform because they will now be in a better situation. It is hard to swim through murky waters. Get them out of the muck and they can do better.
        Also, those who do not improve their performance will not be allowed to stay.
        Those who are unwilling to improve will not be accepted as students.
        To your point about the inequities of payment, I would opt for a 100% tax credit (in lieu of vouchers) for those paying the tuition up to the portion of their property tax that goes to the school. That would ease the "struggle."

        • Mark says:

          Since the greatest number of students in failing schools are most likely from rental households, I don't see how receiving a tax credit would benefit them. So, you are back to a voucher system.

          Once the kids are admitted to private/parochial schools the government will exert the same pressure as they are applying to universities receiving financial aid. The schools will be expected to perform miracles: raise the graduation rate and reduce the achievement gap.

          You can staff with nothing but Ph.D's, spend as much money per pupil as you want, have the fanciest school, the latest technologies, have the latest programs and still you will fail.

          Nurture may bring out all there is in a man, but Nature determines what there is to bring out.

      • Amanda says:

        Your last sentence worries me….choice of education should not an excuse to segregate children. Right now the rich (and primarily white) parents have a choice in where and how their kids are educated. The poor and middle class do not have the same choice. The arguement for low income vouchers is to balance the choice. Bad kids will always be bad kids but vouchers would ensure that they are given a chance to blossom into something else. Since most voucher programs will never cover 100% of the cost of tuition I hightly doubt that you will have "deadbeat parents" utilzing it but rather parents that are vested in their kids enough to WANT more for them. However, I do agree with the unfairness of vouchers for low income as choice of education should NEVER be limited to income or zip code but rather desire and inveolved parents. I persaonlly think refundable tax credits for private school tuition would be a better (verses vouchers) way to ensure that the government stays our of regulating private schools and that the maintain their high standards.

        • Mark says:

          Your concern over children being segregated is showing your Left leaning tendencies. Lefties force integration and kill freedom of association to achieve their multi-cultural dream.  Multi-cultural societies have failed everywhere they have ever arisen. Up until the 1965 Immigration Act, which was pushed by Teddy Kennedy and LBJ, Americans knew this and fought a multi-ethnic state through restrictive immigration policies. People will naturally segregate each to their own kind, just look at the lunchrooms and playgrounds in your integrated schools. Will you start forcing the children together? Maybe handcuffing one white to one black/brown/red/yellow?

          Below is a couple of quotes and the link to a SFGate article on Charter schools:

          "Some people call it segregation," Osman said. "This is the parent's choice. They can go anywhere they want. We are offering families something unique."

          "The atomization of charter schools coincides with growing U.S. diversity. Americans of other races will outnumber whites by 2042, the Census Bureau projects." – The Lefties will have won long before this date, it will be hard to run a right leaning candidate way before 2042 and win in a two party play. In fact, most of the 2012 Republican candidates hold Socialist positions to try and attract more minorities. The Socialists have successfully shifted the whole field to the Left.

          I don't know if this will be posted, one can abide strictly to the guidelines and still not get posted. Everyone is uber sensitive these days, another way the Left is winning…….. Freedom of Speech my ___.

    4. Leonard Lash says:

      After many years of teaching in old fashioned Universities and colleges, I have helplessly watched transferees from mailorder colleges struggle. They are not prepared to take a course at or below the level
      they transfered in. Thus, in my opinion, these mailorder schools are frauds. They take the dtudents money and then pretend toteach them…but they really do not!

      • Loretta says:

        Part of the students' lack of preparation likely has more to do with marginal K-12 education.

        • Bobbie says:

          I was just going to say Leonard's comment reflects how the public elementary schools continue to run.
          A government supported society of the intentionally ill educated. Government approved!

    5. Richard says:

      You didn’t publish my letter. Are you working for a foreign power? Again, I have to ask in your list where is Gov. Perry elimination of $4 billion dollars of funding for grades K-12 here in Texas????????????????????? This is a FACT. Look it up. There is a law suit filed against the stae because of this. Can the Republicans during this campaign at least speak the truth once? It would be so refreshing. Christians?????????? Everyday about 140 Americans die from lack of health insurance and care. This is based on a ten year study by the Harvard Medical Center and the Cambridge Institution published in 2009. This is Christian? Gingrich needs to sign a secular pledge to not cheat on his wife?????????? The Ten Commandments not good enough for him? Norquist (spelling?) runs the party by making them sign a pledge not to raise taxes…he is essentially a lobbyist…he threatens them with money to opponents and withdrawal of funds from their campaigns. What about the constituents, voters, Americans… where is the pledge to them? You won't print this because it is true and you, by Republican Party Platform are forbidden to be honest

      • Andy says:

        well… so much for that theory… Did the Mossad blow up the Pentagon, too? So Gov. Rick Perry eliminated the entire educational budget of most states, and Der Propaganda Ministry, er the dinosaur media didn't mention that when he was leading? REALLY?

    6. MN J says:

      College tuitions have risen at 3x the rate of inflation since the 1980's. Why? One reason: ______ studies that only help students with those degrees go get tenured jobs at universities that perpetuate the weak programs that do not teach students to think – only parrot the leftist agenda.

      Too much focus on trying to make students "feel good" versus learn something.

      The bills introduced by Rep. Duncan and Kline will help – but can they be implemented without O's signature?

    7. Oscar Manful says:

      Hello Lindsey,

      I just think your article was fabulous. I really like the No child left behind. Being originally from Ghana in Africa, i am in Favour of greater STATE control over education. I also frenzied about the Obama decision to forgive on Student loans. I am a graduate student !
      Once again great article…..cheers !

    8. Whicket Williams says:

      The U.S.A. I grew up in is gone-replaced by the most oppressive Government in the world. Have YOU been keeping up with the news? did you know soon agent orange will be sprayed on corn grown in the US?
      I hate to say it, but If RON PAUL is not elected, it will be time to vote with your feet.

    9. Dee says:

      Don't be fooled by online learning, the companies that take over the schools are money hungry profiteers who stand once again to benefit from education (ex Chicago) While online learning has its place in education it should not replace a live person in the classroom especially in these time where students don't know how to talk to one another or work in teams due to all the gadgets in their ears, on their hip on in their hands..

    10. Dennis Beck says:

      Um…. I'm not sure what's wrong with national standards. They appear to help our nation's children to all be on the same page and strive for excellence, wherever you are raised.

      The college loan forgiveness program is helpful, and is income-based, as noted. So if the college graduates are succeeding, they pay off the loans, no problem. And if they are struggling in this down economy, they get a much needed break. Sounds compassionate to me.

      I love online learning and teach online, but I think that we need some regulation to assure a high quality education. For profit corporations will emphasize high quality only as long as it doesn't conflict with their primary interest – profit. As a result, we need regulations to ensure that they offer high quality options.

    11. Leon Lundquist says:

      Great Article Lindsey. When will the Democrats learn that Liberty is the Magic Ingredient that destroys poverty? Have I told you the tale of how Thought Crime crept into Traffic Law? Well! It was the same kind of deal as Race To The Bottom, States got money to give up their unique laws, road money, and what the States got was the softening of Habias Corpus in Traffic Law, the statistical likelihood of damage. It became your Thought Crime Damages what was statistically possible. Same old dirty trick as 1970s 'creeping socialism.' We never saw it coming!

    12. Wayne Grievo says:

      And the central government grows and grows. Silently in the night. WAKE UP AMERICA.

    13. Pragmatic says:

      I find it funny that the Heritage Foundation thinks restricting government loans to for-profit universities is a bad thing. That is the best example of the housing bubble makings in the education sector. A for-profit firm receives tuition financed by the US government, so it has no incentive to admit students who will be capable of or who are likely to find a job because they've passed all the risk back to the government.

      But, because they're for-profit companies, Heritage has to support them I guess.

    14. M.J.T. in Ohio says:

      As a former university professor and administrator, I almost choked when I read your first "top education story" regarding for-profit colleges and universities. The accreditation process that "traditional" universities undergo every decade is severe. Not profit schools by pass such scrutiny, accept anyone who can pay outrageous tuition for inferior education delivered mostly by part-time instructors, and do not generally tell their students that they will not be able to obtain a Master's or Doctoral degree at an accredited university. As the Director of a Master in Public Administration program, I interviewed a number of students who dropped by my office, transcript from for-profit college in hand, to apply for admission to our MPA program. I told them the only thing I could do for them was to place them in freshmen English, because their degree from the non-accredited college was not worth the paper it was printed on, much less the tuition they had paid to obtain it. As an accredited university, we could not accept any credits earned at a for-profit university. I translate your phraseology "students historically underserved" by traditional universities as "students not sufficiently prepared or intellectually unable" to succeed at traditional universities. Recognizing that such students exist, most states have at least one "open enrollment" university which provides every student an opportunity to prove they have matured and are otherwise capable of university study. Between 40% tot 50% flunk out, but they are at least given the chance to prove their abilities without paying outrageous tuition fees to take "cake" courses and obtain a meaningless degree at a for-profit school.

      • Bobbie says:

        what a lefty. everything the government has already conjured, you find a way to spin off the decency of the private sector. I don't respect nor appreciate your ignorance. Everything government offers is costly and less quality because government doesn't cover the costs. tax payers do, toddler. public education hires people with a degree but leaves out background checks for potential crisis. It's dangerous to have education driven by a government administration with their own agenda who takes control to set the rules. Not to say all private education is run with honesty! some take or are given special favor by the government all for the spin.

        now, how about teaching personal responsibility? Of course if you are paid by tax dollars, you're not qualified or required to know what personal responsibilities are which makes education paid through government thieving tax payers in America, ill educated, corrupt and worthless. there's confidence in a private school as you know accountabilities are held where public education are not held accountable without defending their violations costing tax payers time and money and then they're still paid with one correction. have to sit in a room to make up the time they're paid to teach? that's not a punishment, that's not justice, It's corruption! wasting time, minds and money! unacceptable! the unconstitutional acts of government are not feasible or acceptable regarding the education of the youth.

    15. Mike says:

      Its not a witchhunt. CEC and EDMC are just in it to get the government money. I went to schools ran by both.

      They ripped me off for over $84,000.

    16. Jill Thorne says:

      This is a good article. The overreach of the Obama Administration is breathtaking. I would, however, like to take issue with Heritage's implicit position on online learning. Online learning is poorly understood, often poorly designed, overused, and overrated. Though certainly appropriate for niche populations, online learning is very likely to promote an homogenized, centrally controlled curriculum rather than the customized learning that is tauted. The corporate approach to online learning is just as potentially damaging to local control of education as is the overreach of government and the Department of Education.

    17. crdh says:

      Lindsey, thank you for your informative article and great reminder for prayer points for all prayer warriors.
      Respectfully submitted

    18. Casey Carlton says:

      The small steps to reduce federal presence in education mentioned in this article are somewhat encouraging. It should be obvious to anyone by now that federal involvement in education, at all levels, is one more failure of our do-gooders' central planning. The goal here should be to do away with the federal Department of Education, and the sooner the better. Return responsibility to the local level first of all.

    19. Brittany says:

      Hi, Lindsey … Obama visited the Denver campus, not the Boulder campus.

    20. Jeanne Stotler says:

      We used to have Kindergarten to prepare children for grades 1-12, now it's K-4 or pre K, I do after care for children and help with homework, first graders are now doing third grade work,K is doing 2nd grade work and I see these frustrated children who by Thrusday are burnt out, I've seen kindrgarten, which was 1/2 day, cry out of tiredness when they come home. WHY is there a rush to make children grow up, where is Play time and WHY are parents pushing all this after school activities which rob these youngsters of time to be a CHILD and use their own imaginations?? It's WHY, WHY WHY??? YET another WHY, why is it these kids cannot write a sentence, read? Go back to teaching the three R's and put recesses back and let's encourage imangination,while making friends, this is how we got the light bulb, record players etc

    21. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Education was easier in the period between 1960 and 1980. Teachers taught to the lessons and not the tests,

    22. Bobbie says:

      21st century and all of a sudden the high paid public teachers can't take on 5 year olds unless they go through prep tax paid training for kindergarten?! That's ridiculous and dangerous. The government makes it a convenience to some parents who see free (tax paid) day care but the government agenda is indoctrinating the kids earlier. Private education handles EVERYTHING much better with accountability and efficiently with no hidden agenda! Parents have to look further when government is servicing anything but when it comes to your own children a convenience outside your control is greater and deeper concern. If you love your children you'll keep them far from the tempting arms of government (strangers) conveniences and use the personal resources you know and can trust.

    23. Alan Collinge says:

      If the Heritage Foundation wishes to be respected as a truly conservative organization, it would stop defending shitty for-profit colleges, and start fighting for the return of bankruptcy protections to student loans. The fact that Heritage barely even pays lip service to the bankruptcy issues demonstrates how far they have strayed from the clear and unambiguous foundations of free-market capitalism.

      The fact that they instead defend shitty schools who are contributing to BIG GOVERNMENT OF THE WORST KIND by milking the taxpayer funded lending system (and trashing the lives of ordinary American citizens for no reason) tells me that the Heritage Foundation is essentially finished…unless some people with clear heads, and deep rooted conservative principles can re-assert them over whatever is passing for conservatism inside the beltway these days.

      • Bobbie says:

        your disrespectful English and twirl shows your mentality. public educated? only someone of low self esteem would accuse someone else of what that low self esteem is really promoting. private colleges pay for themselves at a choice. It's not influenced by nor implies the need for government control and their unruly, unnecessary costs of corruption.

        public colleges under government influence, you get what you pay for! NOTHING but a false sense of education where degrees are a dime a dozen as unaccounted for professors at high wages abuse their positions to pass students based on social attributes and opinions that are irrelevant to facts and intelligence but directly in line with big bad government! why is this country in this state of failure with all the educated running it? because a whole society has been ill educated with an agenda beyond America's control and beneath the American dream.

        And the bankruptcy issue is a personal responsibility? why are students ignoring the fight over unfair expensed tuition in private (trustworthy and accountable) or public government controlled facilities (untrustworthy, unaccountable?) The days I grew up in not so long ago, if you agree to the terms and sign the paper, you're responsible to the obligation of the agreement regardless if you play dumb to know what you signed or are insecure with your person to feel discriminated against when equal rules are applied…

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