It’s no secret that colleges have become woke fad factories, where students aren’t learning the things they need to become productive citizens, but instead are being indoctrinated into the radical causes-du-jour. Additionally, colleges are dropping entry requirements, dumbing down curricula, and a majority of students – poorly prepared by their k-12 experience – are finding their classes too difficult.
Adding insult to injury, in August, President Biden announced his loan cancellation plan to help “borrowers meet their economic potential and avoid economic harm from the COVID-19 pandemic.” His action (Congressional involvement was nowhere to be found) would erase $400 billion in student debt – one of the most ambitious and expensive executive actions ever.
The debt forgiveness plan would cancel $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income per year. Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate more financial need, would get an additional $10,000 in debt forgiven.
College students qualify if their loans were disbursed before July 1, 2022. The plan makes 43 million borrowers eligible for some debt forgiveness, with 20 million who could have their debt completely erased.
The Biden administration used the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, (HEROES Act), as a model for its new plan.Originally enacted after the 9/11 terror attack, the law was intended to financially help service members while they fought in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But Biden’s diktat is facing two legal challenges. One lawsuit involves six states and the other was filed by two students. At February’s end, the Supreme Court heard arguments.
The good news for the potential payers of the debt, American taxpayers, is that the Supreme Court has a conservative majority that takes the Constitution at its word. As Chief Justice John Roberts notes, “We take very seriously the idea of separation of powers, and that power should be divided to prevent its abuse. This is a case that presents extraordinarily serious important issues about the role of Congress and about the role that we should exercise.”
On the day of the SCOTUS hearing, all the usual suspects showed up outside the building and were in an absolute snit over the possibility that the judges might nix what amounts to a huge wealth transfer. And not surprisingly Randi Weingarten led the sorry assortment of lefties who spoke out in favor of Biden’s scheme. The American Federation of Teachers leader was indeed in rare form.
“This is what really pisses me off. During the pandemic, we understood that small businesses were hurting, and we helped them, and it didn’t go to the Supreme Court to challenge it. Big businesses were hurting, and we helped them, and it didn’t go to the Supreme Court to challenge it. All of a sudden, when it’s about our students, they challenge it, the corporations challenge it, the student loan lenders challenge it.”
By now she is frenzied, jumping up and down (literally), and screaming. “That is not right, that is not fair, and that is what we are fighting as well when we say cancel student debt. This is about the people, and it is about the people’s future, and it is about all of your futures.”
Well yes, federal aid did help businesses during the pandemic. But, what Weingarten conveniently failed to explain was that happened only after Congress passed COVID rescue packages to keep the economy afloat.
The blowback on social media was fast and furious. Betsy DeVos, former Secretary of Education tweeted, “I bet @rweingarten’s ‘brothers and sisters’ in the trade unions, who didn’t take out student loans and are now being asked to pay for this scam, are also screaming: ‘That is not fair!’”
“Imagine if Randi and teachers unions were this passionate about allowing kids to go to school during the pandemic,” commented Nicki Neily, the founder and president of Parents Defending Education, a conservative parent advocacy group.
Weingarten was far from alone in her outrage over SCOTUS’ probable ruling in the loan case. National Education Association president Becky Pringle weighed in at the rally, declaring, “For decades we have struggled with a student debt crisis that…crushes the dreams of millions of Americans. This debt has made it more difficult for inspired students to become educators themselves, and the decision to delay cancellation is just another blow to those who would become educators. Today, we call on the Supreme Court to allow student debt cancellation to be implemented and for relief to be granted for the more than 40 million eligible borrowers, once and for all. Those are our demands!”
Demands? Perhaps Pringle doesn’t understand that SCOTUS does not collectively bargain with her union, or anyone else for that matter.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) – a lawyer and former Native American – claimed that President Biden “has the legal authority to cancel student loan debt,” and talked about the “millions of working families” being “crushed by student loan debt.” But, she said, “if the Supreme Court follows the law instead of playing politics, then student loan debt will be canceled.”
Vermont’s socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders predicably ranted, “Right now we have 45 million young people drowning in student debt. I have talked to people who have literally delayed having a family. They can’t have any kids. They can’t afford a car. They can’t afford to have a middle-class life. In America, you shouldn’t have to face financial ruin because you want a damn education.”
Far left Massachusetts congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, echoing Weingarten, poured it on, saying, “The AFT’s own members have countless heartbreaking stories about the harm wrought by the pandemic and worsened by the specter of returning student debt payments.”
Actually, a great deal of the harm to students was not wrought by the pandemic, but rather the forced closing of the schools – an action in which Weingarten had a heavy hand.
As I read the blowback from teacher unionistas and others on the left, I can’t help but see a glaring bit of hypocrisy. To a person, they have praised Pell Grants. These federal tax dollars go to needy college students, and can be used to attend private colleges, including religious schools like Notre Dame and Brigham Young. But on the k-12 level, giving families choices – vouchers, ESA’s, etc., especially if used at a religious school – is their worst nightmare.
Why support one so vigorously, yet disdain the other?
Additionally, the reality that the Weingartens, Sanders and Pressleys of the world don’t seem to get – or won’t acknowledge – is that if you excuse student debt, it is the taxpayer who will wind up paying for students to go to (an often private) college. This is equivalent to a k-12 voucher where public tax dollars can be steered toward private schools. Yet, vouchers are their biggest bugaboo.
Also, it’s interesting that the lefties are promoting a plan that mostly benefits the wealthiest families. As researcher Preston Cooper writes, “The most straightforward argument against mass loan forgiveness is that its benefits are skewed towards the rich. The top fifth of households holds $3 in student loans for every $1 held by the bottom fifth, according to an analysis by the People’s Policy Project.”
In any event, we’ll just have to wait for the Court to decide, and the decision will probably not become public till June.
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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.