Friday, December 9, 2011

Help Save Our Teens

A commentary article regarding lowering the drinking age to 18 instead of 21 was posted on Nov. 29th by Alex Cheyenne on “Newbies for Government.”  This issue has been debated for a long time.  Many opposed and several agree.  All 50 states have set their minimum drinking age to 21 although exceptions do exist on state-by-state basis for consumption at home, under adult supervision, for medical necessity, and other reasons.  Proponents of lowering the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) from 21 argue that it has not stopped teen drinking, and has instead pushed underage binge drinking into private and less controlled environments, leading to more health and life-endangering behavior by teens.  Opponents of lowering the MLDA argue that teens have not yet reached an age where they can handle alcohol responsibly, and thus are more likely to harm or even kill themselves and others by drinking prior to 21.
I believe that lowering the drinking age will actually cause more harm than good.  Teens are simultaneously undergoing physical changes, peer pressure, and new situations and urges, allowing them to consume alcohol can make them more vulnerable to drug and substance abuse, unplanned and unprotected sex, depression, violence, and other social ills.  The earlier a person begins alcohol use, the greater the chances are of that person becoming an alcoholic later in life, suffering negative physical withdrawal symptoms, and harming his/her brain during its development.  According to research, raising the MLDA back to 21 has decreased the percentage of fatal traffic accidents for those between 18 to 20 by 13% and has saved approximately 21,887 lives from 1975-2002.  I agree with Alex that they should not lower the drinking age to 18.  These teens are the future of our country and we need to make sure that we are guiding them on the right path.  Lowering the drinking age, based on previous experience from other states actually did more harm that good because of the increased of traffic fatalities.  We need to look at the facts and make a wise decision to better help the future of our country.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Payroll Tax Cut Extension

Congress should extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.  The payroll tax cut, which trims the tax that workers pay for Social Security from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, affects 160 million Americans and, on average, gives them an extra $1,000 a year.  The jobless benefits are keeping about 6 million unemployed Americans afloat.  If both are extended, $165 billion will be pumped into the economy next year.  Businesses need customers and customers need money.  The economy’s not expected to go gangbusters in 2012, but we can’t afford to do anything that flattens the warm growth that is projected.    What’s good for the economy is not always good for the deficit.  Another round of familiar political struggles about how to pay for both the payroll tax cut and the jobless benefits, spending cuts only, or a mix of cuts and taxes will add some limited unpleasantness to our holiday spirits, and will sanction a bitter election year to come.  Members of Congress have more than a year to strike a deficit-reduction deal, and Congress tends to wait until the last minute to get things done.  Arguments and accusations about taxes and rights and deficits and debt await us as we approach, week by bitter week, month by grinding month, next November’s elections.  Republicans in Congress, and many Democrats, don’t want to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from defense spending.  There’s concern about how such cuts will affect national security, of course, but also, though Republicans don’t usually talk about it this way, defense spending has a huge stimulative effect on the economy.  Already members of Congress have talked about modifying the cuts to spare military spending.  Any real deficit reduction plan will require cut in defense spending, tax increase and reforms, and changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Congressional Democrats, as well as President Obama, have proposed extending most of the Bush tax cuts, which expire December 2012, and cutting some entitlement spending if Republicans will agree to higher taxes on the rich.  For now, we’re staring at a year of more of the same.  Next year’s election might settle the debate by giving one party the power to pursue its spending the taxation vision.  We’ll see where we are next November.  Hopefully we are in a better economic status that we are now. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

College Loans Repayment Program

On Oct. 28th, Raegan Bryant posted an article regarding President Obama’s revision of “Pay As You Earn Plan” on her blog entitled, "Melting Pot."   The original plan will reduce the amount that graduates have to pay toward their federal debt balance from 15% of their annual discretionary income and all remaining debts will be forgiven at 25 years.  This plan was revised on Oct. 26th.  The new plan now includes a required payment for eligible college students at 10% of their discretionary income and forgives student loans in 20 years. 
This program will help many college graduates to be able to start their new life.  Instead of worrying about college loans, they will be able to focus more on trying to make their life better and at the same time, they will have more money to put back into the economy.  This plan could also have implications for Obama’s chances of re-election.  Also, this plan will help keep students from straying away from higher education because of costs.  Students will have a good credit history and overall the student loan default rate in the nation will decrease.  On the other hand, there is somewhat of a disadvantage to this plan.  Smaller payments could mean longer repayment period and the loan could accumulate more interest.  Also, this plan would only count toward federal loans.  Overall, I still think that this is a good plan to help many graduate students become successful in life. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

More Training Means More Jobs

Americans should continue training people for good jobs to help people achieve the skills they need to compete in this economy.  The biggest concern is about the nation lessening its commitment to job training in the middle of a recession.  Urban League is one of the last free service providers whose mission is to serve people.   They serve many people who are not prepared for college.  They need a GED, they want an occupational skill, and they want something less than college to get in the workforce.  I believe that job training is a worthy public investment.  It is more productive than continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to invest in training people here for the jobs for tomorrow.

We have to embrace on one level globalization, that we are in a global economy and there’s nothing we can do that is going to stop the globalization of the economy.  I do think that there is a growing awareness that we have allowed a lot of good paying jobs to migrate abroad.  Those manufacturing and productive capacities that have migrated abroad would not survive without American consumer.  We have to learn about the power with our dollar and our power in how we spend and whom we spend money with.  I truly believe that we need awareness about how we spend our dollars in ways that are going to multiply for the American economy.

Summer jobs program is an excellent idea we’ve been literally pounding our fists on the table for the last two years saying we’ve got to put young people to work.  It’s going to help the economy but also it’s a vote of confidence at a time when demoralization and disenchantment and alienation are on the rise.  So I think that it’s a good plan. 

Though the plight of our unemployed is truly dire, it is essential that we overhaul our existing web of overlapping and inefficient job training undertakings before we initiate yet another questionable program.  At the best, our country’s job training programs appear wasteful and extremely questionable value.  At the worst, they provide cover for the failings of our public schools.  Though Republicans and Democrats are at loggerheads over whether to spend less or spend more, surely we can agree on the need to spend smarter.  Job training would be an excellent place to start.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Trouble of Education Funding

The battle towards Education funding has been going on for years.  In Texas, school finance lawsuits date back to 1960s.  Since that time, districts have sued the state over for its school finance system a few times for various reasons.  According to the editorial article posted in American Statesman on Oct. 12th, a coalition of Texas school districts that included Pflugerville, Hutto and Taylor, sued the state, arguing that the school finance system is unfair, inefficient and unconstitutional.  Lawmakers slashed $4 billion from public education, the first decrease in per-student funding in Texas since World War II.  Additionally, the Legislature cut $1.3 billion from schools by eliminating state education grants, including programs that helped struggling students succeed on high-stakes tests and that backed full-day prekindergarten.  They said the cuts were necessary to balance the budget with $23 billion shortfall.  As we all know, there was plenty of money left in the state's rainy day fund, about $7 billion, which should have been sued to pay for public education.

I agree with the editor regarding the issue for low funding in public education.  Education should be a priority especially in today's economy.  Without proper funding for education, it will be very difficult to provide the exemplary education that students need to be able to succeed in this society.  Teachers need adequate resources to be able to teach properly.  From what I understand, we have the rainy day fund that allows states to set aside excess revenue for use in times of unexpected revenue shortfall or budget deficit.  The Texas Constitution says money from the fund can be spent to prevent or eliminate a temporary cash deficiency in general revenue.  With the state facing a budget shortfall estimated somewhere between $15 billion and $27 billion, some say if it isn't going to rain now, it isn't ever going to.

The only downfall I can see from using this fund is that nobody knows for sure how long this economic downturn will last.  If the fund is sucked dry, there will be nothing left if things get worse or if the economy doesn't recover quickly enough.  Bottom line, we seem to have sufficient funds to help the Education funding deficit, however, the money we have doesn't seem to be spent wisely and evenly.  Some school districts are funded more compare to others, which is really unfair.  Someone needs to re-evaluate the amount of expenses we have towards education and divide it evenly depending on each school district's necessity.   

Friday, September 30, 2011

School Funding, A Major Priority!

Today, we face so many economic challenges but our commitment to education remains steadfast.  This year, in the face of a state revenue shortfall of more than $1 billion, our recently enacted General Fund budget increased our basic education subsidy by $250 million.  Our economic woes are forcing school districts to furlough teachers.  Academic programs are being canceled.  Many districts have already raised property taxes, their only alternative to fund education when the state does not.  In an editorial article written at Austin American Statesman on Sept. 18th, it was discussed that school funding should be one of the major priority.  In a lawsuit contained Texas school districts that filed alleging that the way public education is funded in Texas is inequitable to the point of being unconstitutional.  School funding system that continues to rely more heavily on local real estate taxes inherently creates disparities in expenditures and the quality of instruction.  While long term commitment to a more equitable school funding system has now been funded for three years, the state is little more than a third of the way toward our full adequacy funding targets.  The federal state mandate requiring all students to meet performance goals by 2014 is now just three years away.  If that standard were in place today, more than 1,500 schools and nearly half of our school districts would receive a failing grade.  During the last eight years, we have made substantial progress to close those gaps.  Finally, we must continue and maintain our commitment to our children to ensure their success.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What do you think of four-year degree guarantees?

While the bachelor's is supposed to be a four-year degree, things don’t always work out that way. It might take five years, six years, or even longer.  Delayed graduation can be the student's fault. He might switch majors after his sophomore year, take only a partial course load in certain semesters, or even fail certain courses.  In other situations, blame lies with the school. It might offer too few sections of a needed course, or an academic advisor might provide faulty information about graduation requirements.  As a kind of insurance against school-caused delays, some private school colleges are offering a four-year degree guarantee to assure whoever is paying for the education that the cost won't milk them dry for six or more years. Alan Schwarz wrote about the deal for New York Times on Sept.14th. 
This trend in colleges and universities requires that incoming freshmen follow certain rules. In signed contracts, these students agree to follow specific behaviors, such as remaining in good academic standing, regularly consulting with advisors and allowing their school to share grades with their parents or guardians. In exchange, the school promises students that they will finish their degrees within four years. If the school is unable to meet that promise, it will cover the tuition for the extra semesters needed, usually up to one additional year.

According to federal Department of Education figures, about 80 percent of undergraduates earning degrees at private colleges and universities do so within four years; at public institutions, where tuition is typically lower, it is 50 percent. These guarantees save students and parents from having to pay additional costs and alleviate fears of having to do so for an unknown period of time. They also give students more incentive to complete their degrees within four years. Colleges with guarantees typically find ways to hedge the risk that they will have to cover a student's tuition.

Unfortunately, the guarantee covers only what the school has control over. It does not cover student failure due to bad grades, changed majors, or trips abroad. Nevertheless, it can't hurt, especially if you're the one paying, which is the case with most adult students.

I think this article is important especially for us college students because it provides an opportunity for us to graduate sooner.  This type of guarantees helps motivate students to work harder in obtaining their degree.