Failure Of The Deficit-Cutting "Supercommittee" - Nov. 28, 2011
November 28, 2011
Good morning from Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, where I can confirm that there isn't much of a holiday spirit in the political world. Last week's failure of the deficit-cutting "supercommittee" has everyone pointing fingers and pondering the next steps.
By the end of the year, there will be legislative action on several tax and spending provisions. The "payroll tax holiday" expires December 31, as do extensions to unemployment benefits. Additionally, the "alternative minimum tax" will hit middle-income taxpayers unless it is adjusted, and payments to doctors caring for Medicare patients will be cut. Oh, and only three of the nine appropriations bills have been approved for the fiscal year that started on October 1.
And we thought students were procrastinators!
There will be trade-offs in the package, and that's why I am in Washington, and why I'm writing to ask for your help. Once again, Pell Grants are on the chopping block, and now they are specifically targetting community college students by eliminating part-time eligibility, students who don't have a high school diploma or GED, and students whose studies take longer than 6 years. These $3.6 billion in Pell Grant cuts were included in the House version of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill.
In 2010-11, 491,447 California community college students received Pell Grants totalling $1.6 billion, making it by far the largest source of financial aid for our students. (For perspective, the Board of Governors fee waiver saved students around $410 million last year.)
Indeed, the Pell Grant program has gotten more expensive, which was expected based on demographics, amplified by the high unemployment rate and declines in family income. We should be proud that, in this time of economic distress, citizens across the country are returning to school to retrain to gain the ever-changing skills needed to be competitive in the workforce. The costs of Pell will go down as last year's "peak" of "Tidal Wave 2" recedes, as the unemployment rate slowly returns to normal and family incomes climb.
Colleagues, will you support me today by calling your member of Congress to ask them to oppose Pell Grant cuts targetted at community college students?
On Wednesday, I'll be testifying in Congress about the need for federal assistance for community college facilities. Specifically, the Fix America Schools Today (FAST) Act would provide $30 billion for K-14 facility renovations and modernization, with $5 billion earmarked for community colleges. (S.1597 / H.R.2498) The formula would provide $1.1 billion to renovate facilities in California's community colleges.
While long-term control of the nation's debt is very much controlling the debate, there is still a lot of support for some kind of economic stimulus spending. While additional support to state and local governments is very unlikely, there is a fair chance that school facility construction will be included. Renovating our schools supports private sector jobs, makes schools more energy efficient, and saves money in the long-run.
Colleagues, will you call Senators Boxer and Feinstein to ask them to join as co-sponsors of S.1597--the Fix America Schools Today Act, sponsored by Sherrod Brown (D-OH)?
Thank you for your help!
Community College League of California