Pell Grant Holiday Surprise, NY, FL, And Church – State News

One amazing thing about the Bush Administration’s Education Department is that even when they’re doing something defensible, they end up doing it in such a way that it looks nefarious. It would be easy to play the readjustment of Pell Grant eligibility rules as a backdoor plot to cut student aid with Grinch-like timing. Yet it’s not. As American Council on Education’s Terry Hartle points out, a change was “inevitable”, the data are 14 years old now and it was time to update. Besides, better targeting programs like Pell on the neediest students is an important policy goal. But why do it right before Christmas? And why do it in a way that looks slippery? There are 50 ways to leave your lover, almost as many to deliver policy news in a way that doesn’t invite suspicion, and they do this, right before Christmas?

Eduwonk’s most likely guess as to the timing? The President’s 2006 Budget Request for education is going to be so grim that they wanted to try to divorce these two issues as much as possible by getting this out of the way ahead of time. If they were going to seriously invest in Pell Grants in the next budget, it would make sense to package this change with the new funding to create more favorable “optics” as they say. But, based on what connected folks say about the budget, that probably wasn’t an option.

Elsewhere, in New York, negotiations on the teacher contract are stalled. Consider that a little holiday gift from Eva Moskowitz. In Florida, the voucher cases there are being consolidated and fast-tracked. Assuming this goes the way it looks like it will, with Florida’s voucher program being declared unconstitutional under the state constitution, then even though Rehnquist may want the court to stay away from free exercise cases like the recent Washington State case but it’s going to be hard to do…(link via

NSBA’s Legal Clips has a great round-up of the various church – state dusts-ups related to the season. Unfortunately, it’s not online yet so you’ll have to sign-up to get it.

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