Hillary Clinton touted familiar themes during campaign stops last week in South Carolina. The prime sponsor for the proposed Ready to Learn Act (Senate Bill 1823, introduced July 19) that proposes offering federal grants for voluntary all-day preschool programs, she folded the message into her speeches. Her legislation calls for grants to provide a 50 percent match to states in support of free voluntary preKindergarten programs for 4-year-olds. She's jumping on a familiar bandwagon. Other presidential candidates also support the idea, as do state leaders like Virginia's Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. But opponents voice concerns that this is a push in the direction of making Pre-K mandatory and would divert ed funds from other programs. Investor's Business Daily carried a critique on July 20 titled "Clinton's Hostile Preschool Takeover," by Darcy Olsen and Bruce Fuller. Keep an ear open for more criticism, and more support, as this snowball builds in size and velocity.
Clinton also spoke of her proposed U.S. Public Service Academy, a riff on the military acads, but focused on government civil service. She introduced legislation in March to launch the academy, which would rely on the federal government for 80 percent of its funding. Students would compete for admission and would have their tuition fully paid. In return, they would agree to at least five years of service in the public sector. The proposal has drawn criticism from college administrators and instructors, who note that several colleges and universities already have programs focused on public service. They worry that the academy will draw away resources from those programs and suggest the federal money proposed for the academy could be better spent buttressing existing programs. Those of us covering colleges and universities with such programs can check in on them and find out what this may mean. So far, the legislation is in committee.
Clinton, who like Obama is a member of the Senate Ed committee, has been saying NCLB needs fixing, but has not yet offered many concrete suggestions for improvement. She did introduce amending legislation July 18 to strengthen NCLB's mentoring component, calling for better funding and stronger language supporting mentorship, particularly for academically at-risk students.
To bring us all up to speed on what she's been proposing in Congress, here's a short list of bills:
S837, a bill to develop school leaders who can both effectively close the achievement gap and raise achievement for all students.
S1185, a bill to provide grants to states to raise grad rates
S1332, a bill amending the Public Service Health Act to provide access to school-based comprehensive mental health programs.
S301, a bill to provide assistance to nontraditional students in higher ed.
S511, a bill to give student borrowers basic rights.
S757, a bill promoting voluntary K-12 national standards for math and science.
Thus far, everything is sitting in committees.