Federal File: Cookies and rhetoric
Sept. 13 was a bittersweet day for many education advocates.
Scores of lobbyists and onlookers enjoyed free sweets during a National Bake Sale for Education on Capitol Hill, but the point was to call attention to $4 billion in school spending cuts now on the table in Congress.
Members of Congress who missed the bake sale--which includes most of them--got "$1,000 cookies" delivered to their offices. Attached to the treats was a letter claiming that 4 million cookies would have to be sold at that price to replace proposed reductions in federal education spending.
Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., even contributed a plate of homemade brownies to the event.
But it did not leave a pleasant taste in everyone's mouth.
Rep. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., joined other GOP lawmakers in a news briefing that day to defend their budget plans and assail opponents for overblowing the impact of their proposals.
"Their project is half-baked," Mr. Hutchinson said of the event organized by the Committee for Education Funding, a lobbying group. "And their main ingredient is fear."
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., did his part to galvanize such fears at a Sept. 12 student-aid rally.
Most of the students gathered at the Capitol for the event were not born until the Vietnam War was over, and it might be a stretch to equate that era's antiwar protests with complaints about proposed cuts in financial aid. But Sen. Kennedy, a veteran of those tumultuous days, called on the roughly 250 students to emulate their activist spirit.
"During the 1960s, students made a difference," Mr. Kennedy thundered. "We want that energy, enthusiasm, and involvement."
"We are being asked to cut $10 billion. I will say no!" Mr. Kennedy declared. "Will you stand with us? Are you going to stand with us?"
Thrusting placards in the air, the students chanted: "No more cuts. No more cuts."
The long-term budget plan endorsed by Congress calls for saving $10 billion over seven years through changes in student-loan programs. But Republicans say this can be done without curbing access to higher education, and they claim that Democrats are fostering panic among students.
The event last week was organized by the Student Alliance for Educational Access, a group founded by Washington-area students to fight student-aid cuts.
--Robert C. Johnston
Vol. 15, Issue 03