by Haley Swartz
In advance of the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, public dialogue and political action must shift to emphasize exercise and physical education courses, in addition to a balanced, nutritionally rich diet.
Congress amends the CNA every five years to reflect new research on public health trends and refocus the goals of the National School Lunch Program. Preceding the most recent CNA reauthorization, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move!initiative to end childhood obesity in February 2010. This program reflected a new emphasis on childhood obesity within the 2010 reauthorization of the CNA, or the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. However, this law will expire on September 30, 2015.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one-third, or 12 million American children and adolescents, were overweight or obese in 2012. According to the Pew Research Center, 69 percent of Americans see obesity as a “very serious public health problem.” While 57 percent of Americans believe government should play a significant role in reducing obesity among children, only 42 percent of the public believes the government should address adult obesity.
by Grady Brown
In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama unveiled his plans for free community college. Surely one of the highlights of the address, the plan would offer two years of community college free to students who maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5. The plan was largely based on the Tennessee Promise and is aimed at giving more students feasible pathways to higher education and, potentially, a four year degree. However, should the proposal make it to the floor, it will face a fight in Congress.
One of many areas of debate will simply be the price tag. In his recent 2016 budget proposal, the President outlines the cost of free community college. In 2016 alone, the plan would come at a price of $1.36 billion. By 2023, the price tag would be closer to $9 billion, bringing total costs to over $60 billion. Obama wants the federal government to pay 75 percent of the tab, leaving the remaining 25 percent to the states. Nevertheless, Republicans will be deeply concerned about program costs.
Another concern that may not be in the spotlight, is the current track record of community colleges. According to arecent study by the National Student Clearinghouse, just 15 percent of students started at a two year institution in 2006 actually completed a degree at a four-year institution within six years.
by Grady Brown
It has been a rough couple months for U.Va., since Rolling Stone released its, now mostly-retracted, story covering an alleged rape on U.Va.’s campus. While the fraternity mentioned in the article appears to have been falsely accused, the University is still at the forefront of a growing national issue. According to the Washington Post, there were more than 3,900 reported incidents of sexual assault on college campuses across the country in 2012. This was a 50 percent increase over the previous three years. Interestingly enough, University had decreasing reports of sexual assault between 2010 and 2012. Nevertheless, the University faces a reinvigorated federal review of its Title IX compliance.
Title IX, a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, is perhaps best known for ensuring female athletes have equal scholarship opportunities. Title IX is, more broadly, a federal civil rights law that prohibits education programs and activities that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex. In fact, federal interpretation of Title IX outlines a process that universities must use when handling cases of sexual assault. The University is currently working with the Office for Civil Rights to review its policies and has been since 2011, but is now open to increased scrutiny about possible Title IX violations.
by Samir Salifou
Income inequality in America has reached levels of national embarrassment. If a government’s actions should reflect society’s desires, then somewhere along the way the American democratic process has gone awry. According to a Harvard Business School study, 90 percent of Americans believe that the income gap is too wide. There is a national consensus around fixing income inequality, and the solution isn’t difficult. First, we must raise the minimum wage and stop subsidizing low-cost jobs. Second, we must make access to a higher education affordable and attractive to youth.
The numbers are staggering. In a study conducted by Harvard Business School Prof. Michael Norton, more than 90 percent of Americans believe that the top quintile of society should hold 33 percent of the national wealth and that the bottom 40 percent should hold 25 percent of the national wealth. The real numbers are far different.
The top quintile holds more than 80 percent of the national wealth and the bottom two quintiles hold sequentially 0.3 percent of the national wealth. If 9 out of 10 Americans agree that the income gap should be narrower than it is, then this is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of national importance that needs to be addressed urgently.
by Samir Salifou
The notion that equality of opportunity undergirds political and economic success lies at the core of American meritocracy. Hard work and determination, as opposed to family background, should allow individuals to ascend the socioeconomic ladder.
In 1965, when discussing race-based affirmative action, then-President Lyndon Johnson recognized this issue, sayingthe United States had an obligation to do more than undo inequitable laws. “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair,” Johnson said.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already bans sex-based discrimination, and the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, but those changes did not address structural concerns. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter FairPay Act. The law restored preexisting law, which helped guarantee that individuals subject to pay discrimination have up to 180 days from their last discriminatory paycheck to file a civil suit against their former employer. But this bill failed to address underlying structural issues.
by Grady Brown
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the Commonwealth received a federal Gear-Up grant to improve low-income student college preparedness earlier this week. But the University’s decision to cut AccessUVA funding and the Commonwealth’s deep budget cuts are sending mixed messages about the Virginia’s commitment to low-income student college going.
The Federal government recognized the importance that college preparedness plays in increasing college access to low-income students by introducing Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs grants. GEAR UP states receive a six or seven year matching grant to increase the state’s capacity for early intervention and college preparedness programing for low-income students. State officials aim these grants specifically at cohorts of low-income students, no later than 7th grade, and follow them through high school graduation and into their first year of college. Officials set aside portions of the grants for financial aid and scholarships. Several states who successfully implemented GEAR UP grants reported increased AP test completion, gains in graduation rates, and higher college application completion rates among low income students.
by Grady Brown
There’s an age-old saying: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” That sentiment was translated into policy in February of last year when the Virginia legislature created the Opportunity Educational Institution and Board (OEI and OEI Board). The bill gave the OEI authority to regulate low-performing schools that had either been denied accreditation from the state or had received a “warning” status for three consecutive years starting on July 1. The bill would have impacted only six schools, but set a precedent for more state power in education. It was ruled unconstitutional earlier this summer.
From its introduction to the General Assembly, the bill proved contentious. Although it garnered support from a few Democrats early on, an amendment to the bill to make “warning” status schools eligible for state takeover diminished bipartisan support. Democrats countered with their own bill calling for joint state-local turnaround agreements with local control of struggling schools. While the new bill passed in the Senate, it fell short in the Republican-controlled House. The state takeover bill went on to pass on party lines in the Senate (which required a deciding vote from the Lieutenant Governor) and the House.
Local school districts and teachers unions stood together in opposition. More than 100 school boards and municipal governing boards, including the Charlottesville School Board, gave their support for a lawsuit Norfolk Public Schools brought challenging the law’s constitutionality. Virginia is unique in that its constitution explicitly gives local school districts authority and control of their schools. Opponents of the bill also worried that state takeover would inevitably lead to privatizing education.
by Kyle Schoenbelen
Cleaning my apartment the other day, I came across a mug buried under the couch. The mug is emblazoned with the logo—and heady if not pretentious motto—of my employer from the summer of 2012: “Bridging the gap between thought and action.” I ended summer 2012 one mug up because I completed a full-time internship at a prestigious Washington D.C. think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies. This year’s University of Pennsylvania rankings place the organization at as the fourth most influential of its kind in the world, and the intern selection process was correspondingly competitive. I worked hard and learned much from my experience over 3 months at the center. I also made exactly zero dollars.
Not that I have any complaints. The experience was well worth it; the net gain from my time at CSIS far outweighed my temporary lack of beer money. I was an undergraduate and my unpaid colleagues, most of whom were graduate students (and some of whom were married with families) obviously felt the same way.
It is an open secret that large swaths of DC run on the sweat and tears of unpaid interns, and this arrangement is generally taken for granted. Internships for congressional representatives, government agencies, think tanks, and NGOs are almost universally unpaid. This means that if students want to acquire direct experience in policy, they must either live in the Washington area, have parents who are willing to front the cost, or be one of the few who are able to win a scholarship or grant for summer work. For many students at schools like UVA, Princeton, or Georgetown, this isn’t an issue. Taking an unpaid summer is viewed as a necessary sacrifice for long-term career prospects– a sort of price of entry into the field. For the vast majority of people, however, the idea of spending an entire summer working full time for no pay while dealing with DC’s significant cost of living seems downright ridiculous.
Frequently, young adults who raise the issue of unpaid internships are caricatured as whiny, over-educated rich kids upset because they have to order Jim Beam instead of Maker’s Mark during their nights out in Adams Morgan. “The dry-cleaning bill for that bourbon stain on my Barbour jacket isn’t going to pay itself,” thinks the girl whose lobbyist uncle set her up with a Hill gig for the summer. “Good thing I have daddy’s Am-ex card for emergencies like these!” Such dismissive critiques, while humorous, implicitly define a decidedly un-humorous problem— only affluent students are in a position to complain about unpaid DC jobs in the first place. In real life, Charlie Young from West Wing doesn’t even get an interview.
by Anindya Kundu
As defined in the 2010 Western, True Grit implies individual tenacity and passion, a tireless ability to dust yourself off and pull yourself up by the bootstraps. A related idea has emerged in contemporary conversations about public school achievement. Agritty student makes no excuses and meets any and all academic issues: head on.
There is no doubt these are praiseworthy character traits, but there are problems with viewing grit as an essential component of student success. The focus on grit overlooks inter-subjective factors, which shape the public education experience.
University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth has convincingly argued that grit is a desirable trait that directly predicts student achievement. Duckworth also implies that every student has grit and the ability to access it.
But, here’s the problem: grit directs attention away from other factors that affect student success. Saying that student A achieves because she is gritty ignores the hurdles in the path of student B, whose underachievement is then simply attributed to his or her personality deficits. This logic follows that attitude is the sole basis for achievement. The problem is no longer our problem, but just theirs. As such, poor outcomes are due to student behavior and not a failure to address other key issues such as teacher performance.
The same idea underlies our ever-ubiquitous use of the phrase “achievement gap” instead of posing the problem as that of an “opportunity gap.” Hypothetically speaking, if all students had the same initial set of opportunities, then measuring grit would be more valuable and predictive of future success. But, access to opportunity is anything but equal. Social science research has consistently shown that that public school students with higher-income parents should expect to attain higher levels of educational attainment than other students.1 This is one of many reasons that only 6% of Americans born in the lowest income quintile make it to the top quintile. Similarly, only 9% of people from the top quintile ever end up at the bottom. As a result, the United States has the highest income inequality among developed nations.2