Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Student Stumps Bush With Education Policy Question

"Thank you for your question -- the NSA will be in touch."

Boy, is somebody on the White House advance team in trouble today…

President Bush was at Kansas State University yesterday to give a speech and, in the question-answer period, a K-State sophomore somehow slipped through the careful filters typically used to select questions from Bush’s live, “spontaneous” audiences.

Here’s student Tiffany Cooper playing “Stump the President.”
Q: Hi, I just want to get your comments about education. Recently, $12.7 billion was cut from education, and I was just wondering how that's supposed to help our futures? (Applause.)

Bush: Education budget was cut -- say it again. What was cut?

Q: Twelve point seven billion dollars was cut from education, and I was just wondering how is that supposed to help our --

Bush: At the federal level?

Q: Yes.

Bush: I don't think that -- I don't think we've actually -- for higher education? Student loans?

Q: Yes, student loans.

Bush: Actually, I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We're not cutting money out of it. In other words, people aren't going to be cut off the program. We're just making sure it works better. Part of the reconciliation package, I think she's talking about. Yes, it's a reform of the program to make sure it functions better. It is -- in other words, we're not taking people off student loans, we're saving money in the student loan program because it's inefficient. And so I think the thing to look at is whether or not there will be fewer people getting student loans. I don't think so. And, secondly, on Pell grants, we're actually expanding the number of Pell grants through our budget.

But, great question. I think that the key on education is to make sure that we stay focused on how do we stay competitive into the 21st century. And I plan on doing some talking about math and science and engineering programs, so that people who graduate out of college will have the skills necessary to compete in this competitive world.

But I'm -- I think I'm right on this. I'll check when I get back to Washington. But thank you for your question. (Applause.)
I’m sure those “reforms” will be a big comfort to the non-rich rabble who used to attend Kansas State, as they wait their tables and flip burgers in the coming years.

For the record, the president's budget reconciliation at the end of 2005, did indeed cut $12.7 billion from education programs and also fixed the interest rate on student loans at 6.8 percent, whether or not the prevailing market rates go lower.

In addition, Senate Republicans in October killed a measure by Ted Kennedy (D-MA) -- S.AMDT.2213 -- that would have raised Pell grants by a measly $200.

And all the presidential stuttering and stammering in the world won’t change that.