In an appalling development, the US Department of Education is reversing its position on a student loan forgiveness program that was instituted in 2007 as the result of bi-artisan legislation passed at that time. In a NYTimes article today, Stacy Cowley reports:
In a legal filing submitted last week, the Education Departmentsuggested that borrowers could not rely on the program’s administrator to say accurately whether they qualify for debt forgiveness. The thousands of approval letters that have been sent by the administrator, FedLoan Servicing, are not binding and can be rescinded at any time, the agency said.
The filing adds to questions and concerns about the program just as the first potential beneficiaries reach the end of their 10-year commitment — and the clocks start ticking on the remainder of their debts.
How many will be affected by this? According to the article 550,000 individuals who work either for the government or for non-profits received approval from the program’s administrator over the past ten years… and up to 25% of the work force may be qualified as well:
The forgiveness program offers major benefits for borrowers, advocates say, to the point of persuading some people to take public service jobs instead of more lucrative work in the private sector. The program generally covers people with federal student loans who work for 10 years at a government or nonprofit organization, a diverse group that includes public school employees, museum workers, doctors at public hospitals and firefighters. The federal government approved the program in 2007 in a sweeping, bipartisan bill.
About 25 percent of the nation’s work force may qualify for the program, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimated. Eligibility is based on a borrower’s employer and whether it meets the program’s rules, not on the specific work an applicant does.
Of that group, those working in non-profits seem to be most at risk since that seems to be the group particularly targeted by USDOE. And why would the Federal government agency administering these loans suddenly decide to renege? Linda Klein, president of the American Bar Association has a theory. She called the department’s response”
…“illogical, untenable and bewildering.” An unreliable certification system “exposes those undertaking public service work — exactly what Congress intended them to do — to crippling financial risk,” she said.
So now idealistic individuals with medical and law degrees who decided to accept low wage assignments in the non-profit and government might be on the hook for loans in excess of $100,000. The drowning of the government in a bathtub is proceeding apace.
Edelblut, Like DeVos, Gets Appointment as Chief School Officer Despite Inexperience, Potential Conflicts of Interest
Unsurprisingly, former NH GOP State House Representative and gubernatorial candidate Frank Edelblut was appointed to a four year term of office by a partisan 3-2 vote by the Executive Council, the body that endorses gubernatorial appointments to key offices in the state. Today’s Valley Newsarticle by Rob Wolfe offers some background on the hearing for Mr. Edelblut’s appointment, which featured a picture of a room crowded with protesters, one of who carried a sign reading: “WHO WANTS A PILOT WHO NEVER HAS FLOWN?”, a reference to the fact that Mr. Edelblut has never served in public education in any capacity. Compounding this lack of service in public education is the fact that he chose to homeschool all seven of his children and he chose to make an undisclosed donation to a fund to support a school district seeking to use public funds to send a child to a private Montessori School. That lack of disclosure, described in an earlier blog post, led to some pointed questioning from Andru Volinski, a Democrat Executive Councilor:
During the panel’s Wednesday morning meeting, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, expressed concern that Edelblut’s hitherto anonymous gift, which likely was made before he was appointed commissioner, represented a conflict of interest.
“I don’t have any quarrel with his contribution,” Volinsky said. “I have some concern that when I asked him about any potential conflicts of interest he did not think to disclose this.”
Edelblut last week told Volinsky that he had donated $1,000 to the Croydon School Board’s legal defense of a lawsuit brought by state officials over the board’s payments of public money to private schools.
The disclosure came after the Valley News reported that Croydon rejected a request to reveal unnamed donors to the $23,000 fund and that Edelblut for two weeks declined to answer questions about his role.
As noted in the earlier post, Mr. Edelblut and Betsy DeVos are like peas in a pod: they both lack experience and both advocate that public funds should be used to whatever purpose parents deem to be in the best interest of their child, be it public school, an on-line for profit school with limited success rates, a parochial school, or— presumably, an Islamic fundamentalist school. Mr. Volinky’s argument, like that of his counterparts in the US Congress, fell on deaf ears.
Councilor Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, said he trusted Edelblut’s integrity and warned the group not to “jump to conclusions.”
“I do not believe that he would go back on his word,” Prescott said, referring to Edelblut’s promises to act as a mere implementer of policy.
With that, the council voted along party lines, 3-2, to confirm Edelblut for a four-year term.
And so the dismantling of public education can proceed apace in New Hampshire unless more voices like Mr. Volinsky’s are raised in protest.
“It should not have required an express request from an executive councilor to disclose that,” Volinsky said.
Volinsky also said he was concerned that, contrary to statements Edelblut had made during confirmation hearings in January, the new commissioner was seeking to further his own “agenda” rather than implement policy created by others.
Today the NYTimes editors took Kansas Governor Sam Brown to task for his wrongheaded approach to taxation in his State as he is reportedly set to leave his state in the lurch as he leaves for a rumored Ambassadorship to Rome. The editors offered a description of the tax scheme and its impact:
Mr. Brownback, a Republican first elected on the Tea Party crest of 2010, used his office as a laboratory for conservative budget experimentation. His insistence that tax cuts create, not diminish, revenues has left the state facing a ballooning deficit plus a ruling by the state Supreme Court that Kansas schoolchildren have been unconstitutionally shortchanged in state aid for years, with the poorest minority children most deprived.
The court ruled this month that they would shut the state’s schools if funding wasn’t made equitable by June 30. It found reading test scores of nearly half of African-American students and more than one-third of Hispanic students were deficient under aid formulas favoring more affluent school districts.
Brownback’s solution to this deficit is not a tax increase to improve the funding deficiency cited by the court. His solution is to offer the students “choice”, a solution the NYTimes editors derided:
Mr. Brownback played no small role in the long-running school crisis by leading the Republican Legislature to limit school aid after enacting the largest tax cuts in state history, for upper-bracket business owners. Characteristically, the governor’s reaction to the court mandate was to further undermine schools by suggesting parents “be given the opportunity and resources to set their child up for success through other educational choices.”
But wait! Isn’t this the same editorial board that champions Eva Moskovitz’ Success Academy because ti gives parents “the opportunity… to set their child up for success through other educational choices”? Isn’t this the same editorial board that views charter schools as the best means to improve the failing schools in New York City?
My question to the NYTimes editors is this: Can’t you see that the underlying motive of the pro-charter school movement and Sam Brownback are identical? They BOTH want to diminish funding for schools while deregulating their operations so that privatizing profiteers can take them over. Maybe the results of Governor Brownback’s failed policies linking tax cuts to deregulated charters will help them connect the dots going forward.