Category: Gov’t Folly


The U.S. Senate’s bipartisan “task force” committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), released its report on ways Congress and the U.S. Department of Education could streamline and hopefully reduce federal regulations now overwhelming America’s 6,000 colleges and universities–especially the nation’s approximately 4,000 private institutions–while still protecting students and holding schools accountable to taxpayers.

According to the committee’s press release, “The task force’s objective was to provide specific recommendations on reducing, eliminating or streamlining duplicative, costly or confusing regulations and reporting requirements to Congress and the administration in anticipation of the ninth reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”

Senate education committee Chairman Alexander said, “The stack of federal regulations on colleges and universities today, which stretches as tall as I am, is simply the piling up of well-intentioned laws and regulations, done without anyone first weeding the garden. This report will guide our efforts to weed the garden and allow colleges to spend more of their time and money educating students, instead of filling out mountains of paperwork.”

Alexander announced a hearing on February 24 to discuss the findings of the report.

You can read the committee’s report here in pdf.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a surprise ruling last Thursday, barred the government from requiring Wheaton College to fill out a form in order to be exempt from the new federal requirement that employers provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptive coverage.

The Supreme Court order says that Wheaton needs only to inform the government that it has religious objections to parts of the health care law. Wheaton argued that requiring the College to fill out the form clashed with their religious freedom and the heath coverage in question violated its religious beliefs. The Obama administration tried to offer  a compromise on the health care law, but a number of religiously based colleges and organizations rejected the idea that they need not pay for contraception directly, but cover it indirectly under their insurance plans.

Read more at Supreme Court orders government not to require Wheaton College to fill out form on health insurance coverage.

The leaders of a good number of Christian colleges, universities, denominations, and other faith-based organizations have called on U.S. President Barack Obama to protect religious freedom in any executive orders (EO) he issues regarding homosexuality in America. The president has indicated in recent weeks that he is prepared to issue an EO to give protective status to homosexuals in employment and services, akin to the the protections dealing with race and gender.

Thanks to Stanley Carlson-Thies for taking the lead on this important appeal to the President.

The letter and its signers can be seen here.

 

The American Center for School Choice and the Commission on Faith-based Schools has released a disturbing report, Religious Schools in America: A Proud History and Perilous Future that notes faith-based schools are disappearing due to increased internal financial pressures and the external drains “free” (tax-funded) government alternatives, such as charter schools, are causing on school enrollments.

Funding continues to be the thorniest issue. For faith-based schools, however, the solution will not be found in direct financial support from state or federal government sources (other people’s tax dollars). That will only develop further dependency of faith-based institutions on government, which inevitably has unwanted and anti-faith strings attached.

What is needed, instead, is a new model of education funding, wherein the states do not privilege secular education with full funding from a state-based coercive tax system (which drains families of faith and others who prefer alternatives to the statist education system), but allows all families full educational choice to send their children to any schools they wish and can afford. The statist education system is threatened by that approach, but undoing the hegemony of state-based education is the only way to stop the continued decline in K-12 education in the U.S.

Allowing people the full freedom to vote with their feet and their pocketbooks (and not be forced to support the current statist system through coercive taxation) will result in a stronger, healthier and higher quality primary and secondary (and post-secondary) education system for all in the long run.

Dr. William Bennett and David Wilezol’s new book, Is College Worth It? (Thomas Nelson, 2013), has a nice blurb about New Saint Andrews College on page 181. Bennett, former Secretary of Education (1985-1988), conservative commentator, radio program host (“Morning in America“), and author of a dozen books, mostly related to education, has this to say,

“For those who are more adventurous, New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho, is a tiny Reformed evangelical school that has modeled its course offerings on the curriculum that Harvard employed in 1643. This includes incorporating the ancient approach to learning of the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music). While new student enrollment is limited to fifty students each year, the academics are rigorous, and the small size of the college ensures that the faculty and staff of the college bond in uncommonly deep ways with the students, including spiritual ones. Additionally, NSA’s tuition is only $16,000 [correction: it’s actually cheaper!! $11,200 for this year] per year, about one-third the cost of the average private college.”

Here’s the publisher’s video promo:

And here are an interview with Bennett in the New York Times about the book and several reviews:

New York Times book review by Andrew Delbanco, author of College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, and director of American Studies at Columbia University

Washington Times book review David DesRosiers, president of Revere Advisors

“To make learning the servant of the State . . . is a self-demeaning prostitution that forfeits every valid claim of influence. But even if the State is inspired by a nobler aim, as is our own regime; even if, as in our country, learning is too proud to stoop; still, learning in our realm will flourish and attain honor if university life grows up again from its own root and into its own life and so outgrows the guardianship of the State.”

–Abraham Kuyper, “Sphere Sovereignty”
inaugural lecture, Free University of Amsterdam
October 1880

I wrote yesterday that the U.S. Supreme Court had punted on its recent affirmative action ruling, leaving key issues unanswered and passing the buck back to the appellate court with only narrowly construed legal guidelines to reconsider the case. That assessment (and the football metaphor) has been widely shared.

However, advocates and defenders of affirmative action are now voicing concerns that the court’s demands on the appellate court have so significantly narrowed the grounds for considering race in college admissions that it will likely undermine race-based affirmative action more than initially thought. As Scott Greytak, a lawyer, supporter of affirmative action, and author of West’s Education Law Reporter, said in an Inside Higher Ed report, “This is a very quiet death sentence for affirmative action that is race-conscious.”

If that’s the case, then the Supreme Court may have just kicked a very high, long, and unreturnable punt that effectively pins the affirmative action team deep against its own end zone. That would be worth cheering about. Go team!

Read more here:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a long-awaited affirmative action case today, providing only narrow legal guidance to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and offering little direction to colleges and universities as to how race can be considered in college admissions.

The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 1 that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals erred by not applying “strict scrutiny” to the admission policies of the University of Texas at Austin (UT).

Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was rejected for admission to UT, had brought the case against UT, claiming the university had violated her rights because of the role race played in UT’s admissions  decision. Fisher’s lawyers argued that UT didn’t need to consider race in admissions because it had found other ways to encourage student body diversity.

The Supreme Court Justices wrote that UT’s “good faith” alone is not sufficient to justify the consideration of race in its admissions practices, but that it needed to provide compelling evidence to justify race as an admission criterion. The Court did not address the evidence of UT admission policies themselves, but criticized the Fifth Circuit for not addressing that question in its review of the case and for not using the high bar of “strict scrutiny” when evaluating the constitutionality of this race-related question.

The case, which has been closely watched by American colleges and universities, will now return to the Fifth Circuit and may come back to the Supreme Court before the issue is finally settled.

Read more about the case here.

JGMachenpic

J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937)
Professor of NT, Princeton Seminary, 1906-1929 & founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, 1929

“We do not, I think, want a federal Department of Education because such a Department is in the interest of a principle of uniformity or standardization in education which would be the very worst calamity into which this country could fall.”

–J. Gresham Machen

Thx: Perry Coghlan & David New

CHEA President Judith Eaton speaks to the challenges and opportunities ahead for our system of higher education accreditation in this podcast just released by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Worth a listen.