Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trump administration signals change in policy for transgender students

The Trump administration signaled Friday that it was changing course on the previous administration’s efforts to expand transgender rights, submitting a legal brief withdrawing the government’s objections to an injunction that had blocked guidance requiring that transgender students be allowed to use restrooms that match their gender identity.

The move by the Justice Department does not immediately change the situation for the nation’s public schools, as a federal judge had already put a temporary hold on the guidance as a lawsuit by a dozen states moved through the courts.

But it suggests that the Trump administration will take a different approach on the issue of transgender rights, which many conservatives thought went too far under President Obama.

And how the administration decides to proceed on the particular issue of transgender students and bathroom use would affect several other cases in which students are challenging their school districts’ policies, including one involving Virginia student Gavin Grimm, which is set to be heard by the Supreme Court later this spring.

The brief, filed in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, came as part of a long-running suit by 12 states opposed to Education Department guidance issued last year directing the nation’s public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. The Obama administration took the position that barring students from bathrooms that matched their gender identity was a violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in public schools.


Schools In Greece to Replace Greek Tragedy Lessons with Gender Studies  

Schools in Greece may be forced to abandon the teaching of classical Greek tragedy so they can make room for lessons on gender studies.

A plan being considered by the left-wing government in the cash-strapped nation could see literary works like Antigone thrown by the wayside.

The notoriously difficult texts could be pushed aside in favor of "gender equality, same-sex marriages and sex education", according to The Times of London.

If passed, the move would be another blow to Classical scholarship, which is in retreat across much of the world.

Other seminal texts, like the historian Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian War, have already been scrapped.

Greek students have an obvious advantage since ancient Athenian texts - dating to around 450BC - are similar enough to the modern language that they could be read as easily as an English speaker might approach Chaucer.

Elsewhere, studying Greek texts in the original is an increasingly elite discipline, mostly confined to Classics departments in elite universities.

Speaking to The Times, Antonis Mastrapas of the National Federation of Classical Studies Professors, said: "This is preposterous. Not even during Greece's gruelling years of dictatorship were the works of ancient masters like Sophocles and Thucydides excluded from high school curriculums."


The Federal Government's Big Bet on Student Loans Goes Bad

 With the flurry of executive actions that President Trump has taken since coming into office on January 20, 2016 that has dominated the nation's news coverage, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the deteriorating condition of the U.S. government's student loan portfolio under President Obama's administration, which became news in the days just before the inauguration. The Wall Street Journal reports on the Education Department's student loan reporting scandal:

Many more students have defaulted on or failed to pay back their college loans than the U.S. government previously believed.

Last Friday, the Education Department released a memo saying that it had overstated student loan repayment rates at most colleges and trade schools and provided updated numbers.

When The Wall Street Journal analyzed the new numbers, the data revealed that the Department previously had inflated the repayment rates for 99.8% of all colleges and trade schools in the country.

The new analysis shows that at more than 1,000 colleges and trade schools, or about a quarter of the total, at least half the students had defaulted or failed to pay down at least $1 on their debt within seven years.

Worse, the WSJ`s editors have suggested that rather than having been the result of a computer coding error, the previous numbers on student loan defaults at thousands of colleges and trade schools may have been cooked to support President Obama's political agenda. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Adminstrators excerpts the following portions of the WSJ`s editorial analysis:

In early January the department disclosed that it had discovered a `coding error' that incorrectly computed College Scorecard repayment rates-that is, the percentage of borrowers who haven't defaulted and have repaid at least one dollar of their loan principal. The department says the error `led to the undercounting of some borrowers who had not reduced their loan balances by at least one dollar.'

The department played down the mistake, but the new average three-year repayment rate has declined by 20 percentage points to 46%. This is huge. It means that fewer than half of undergraduate borrowers at the average college are paying down their debt.

... The other scandal is that the Obama Administration used the inflated Scorecard repayment data as a pretext to single out for-profit colleges for punitive regulation. The punishment was tucked into a rule finalized in October allowing borrowers who claim their college defrauded them to discharge their debt. It requires for-profits in which 50% or fewer borrowers are paying down their principal to post the equivalent of a surgeon general's warning in all promotional materials.

... This combination of cynicism and incompetence is what made the Obama Administration's regulatory machine so destructive. One of the biggest messes it leaves behind is the government takeover of student loans that is likely to saddle taxpayers with hundreds of billions in losses. The Trump Administration now has to begin the cleanup job.

The Education Department's corrected numbers confirm that the problem of student loan defaults and delinquencies is not confined to for-profit institutions, but also exists at similar levels among both non-profit and public institutions.

But the problems don't stop there. Since President Obama greatly increased the role of the federal government in directly issuing student loans, borrowing nearly one trillion dollars to loan out to students at colleges and trade schools over the last 8 years, that 54% of student loan borrowers are now either defaulting or are delinquent in making payments on their loans means that the U.S. government isn't getting anywhere near the revenue that it needs to sustain this portion of the national debt.

The options that the U.S. government has to deal with the increasingly negative outcomes from this situation are limited. With such inadequate revenues from student loan payments coming in to cover the cost of servicing their portion of the national debt, the U.S. government must either cut spending, increase taxes, or borrow even more money than it was planning to roll over the debt and compensate for that unrealized revenue.

Getting the U.S. government into the student loan business in such a big way was supposed to improve its fiscal situation, eliminating the need for politicians to risk their seats in Washington D.C. by having to make such potentially unpopular choices. Sadly, President Obama's student loan fiasco would appear to have only made the need to make those hard choices more unavoidable.


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