U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor to the GOP: when education funding opportunity knocks, they won't answer

04/12/12 Janelle Irwin
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The United States House of Representatives passed a budget that slashes spending while giving tax breaks to the wealthy. Education expenditures are on the long list of cuts in Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan’s plan. U.S. Representative Kathy Castor vowed to fight against it today at a press conference at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.

It’s safe to say Kathy Castor isn’t happy with some of her colleagues.

“When opportunity knocks, the GOP is not going to answer.”

But even in the likely event it doesn’t clear the Democratic-controlled Senate, the plan Ryan calls “The Path to Prosperity” is an indication of what Republicans want to do. The budget would reduce the annual maximum award for Pell Grants and lower the eligible income level.

“We have nearly 18,000 students that are receiving some kind of financial assistance. The proposed cuts in relationship to reducing the eligibility requirement from 33,000 to 23,000 will exclude a number of families and a number of kids coming to us.”

That was HCC president Ken Atwater. He said more than half of the financial aid given to HCC students comes from Pell Grants. Angel Anchundia is one of them. He’s an aspiring doctor. But he comes from a family with limited means. He said without aid from the Pell Grant he couldn’t afford school. But even if he keeps his funding, the rising cost of tuition will still create a hurdle.

“It’s going to be a little more difficult because, me coming from the background that I’m coming from, that I’m not making enough money and the economy that we’re in right now – it’s definitely going to effect me a lot. I might not be able to take four classes like I do right now. So, I might take one but I’ll mostly be working to help out my family.”

According to language in the Ryan budget the changes are actually meant to lower tuition by forcing schools to “reform and adapt”. But Atwater said that could force students to forgo furthering their education.

“One of the things we do know, that financial barriers are one of the biggest barriers that prevent people from pursuing higher education. And as the Congresswoman said, higher education has a positive impact to the economic health of all of us.”

And Representative Kathy Castor agrees.

“You eliminate the opportunity for thousands and thousands of students all across the country to achieve the American dream - to attend college and get a good degree and ultimately a good paying job. That really should be the basis of the economic recovery in creating jobs and not moving backwards.”

Castor thinks that changes need to be made to bring the country out of its economic slump. But she doesn’t think this plan is the best way to do that.

“There are choices to be made. The GOP should not choose to spend on special interest tax breaks instead of public education.”

That references a provision in the Ryan budget that would reduce corporate tax rates from 35% to 25% and individual tax rates wouldn’t be any more than 25% regardless of income. The budget also calls for Medicare and Medicaid reform and would increase military spending. Rep. Paul Ryan was not available for an interview by air time.

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Maybe if she would stand up to her own party and push to end these wars, the entire country could get back going in the right direction. Running occupations/wars while trying to manage the economy is like trying to run a business through an awful divorce. Another politician that wont push its own party to do better. Shocking.