Education faces federal cuts

Republican leadership in the U.S. House tabled a budget reconciliation plan Thursday that would have cut $15 billion of federal financial aid to reduce the budget deficit and help pay for escalating Hurricane Katrina costs.

Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., said in a conference call with reporters Thursday he had many concerns about the proposals, which, in addition to financial aid, called for cuts in other social programs such as Medicaid and the Food Stamp Program.

He said the $51 billion in cuts were coming at a time when students already were having trouble with escalating tuition hikes and when the country is falling behind in education.

“The average student faces 17 to 18,000 dollars in student loans,” he said. “This is going to be making it much worse and more difficult for them to establish the tools and the skills they need to be competitive in a very tough global marketplace.”

The proposal could have come up again this week, but was postponed because it did not have the votes to pass.

Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said it will likely bring the bill up again this week.

Kind was joined on the call by Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., who said the cuts were “so backward, I don’t even know where to start.”

Kind also disagreed with Republicans’ deficit reduction assessment, saying after their tax cuts to the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, the deficit would actually increase.

“What’s ironic in this whole budget process is the budget deficit will increase after Republicans come forward with their tax cuts which will primarily benefit the most wealthy,” Kind said.

The United States Student Association praised the postponement, reporting that students had placed more than 15,000 phone calls to their representatives voicing concern about the cuts.

Sophomore Chris Nielson said UW-Eau Claire students had placed more than 30 calls to Rep. Mark Green’s office last week and students should continue until the vote comes up.

Nielson said he called Green’s office so many times that receptionists simply would take down each caller’s name when hearing what the call was about and hang up.

“I think that it shows that when students get involved, they can make a difference,” said Nielson, who co-authored a Student Senate resolution in support of federal financial aid programs.

Senior Jon Wachter said a better way to pay for Katrina costs would be to cut spending on foreign affairs, such as the Iraq War.

“The cuts seem to be pretty terrible,” Wachter said. “I think we should stop spending so much money overseas and take care of the people at home first.”

– Knight Ridder Tribune contributed to this article.