Written by Margaret Orchowski
SECOND LADIES CAN INFLUENCE EDUCATION POLICY
“Every day, President Obama hears about community college challenges because my wife tells me about them when she comes home from work, and I tell the president the next day,” Vice President Joe Biden often has said. It’s clear that Dr. Jill Biden has set a new standard for second ladies of the United States: to have a career and to drive progress in that field thru pillow talk that goes directly to POTUS. It could be that whoever wins the Presidential election November 8 (still unknown at time of writing), the new second lady will be a similar voice for education. Karen Pence, the wife of the Republican VP candidate Mike Pence, was an elementary school teacher for many years. She is particularly interested in art as therapy. In Indiana she founded the First Lady’s Charitable Foundation that instituted art therapy for cancer patients as well as focused on arts education and child literacy in Indiana schools. Democratic VP candidate’s wife Anne Holton Kaine was Virginia’s Secretary of Education, focusing on gender inequality issues including encouraging women to major in STEM fields and to take on leaderships roles, especially in politics—handy if she is to be the first second lady under the first woman U.S. President. As former governors’ wives, both the second lady candidates know how to work in the political world to get things done; nowadays they are expected to be activists—especially in education policy.
CAN THE CONGRESSIONAL ED COM BE A WELCOME BIPARTISAN MODEL?
On July 11, what some people have claimed was an increasing impossibility, actually happened. The Congressional Education Committee passed five education bills, all with bipartisan cosponsors and support. Three were particularly aimed at Hispanic college students. Students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions pursuing careers as physicians, dentists or other health care professionals would be helped by “The Accessing Higher Education Opportunities Act” (H.R. 5529) sponsored by Nevada Republican Joe Heck and Texas Democrat Ruben Hinojosa. “The Enhanced Financial Counseling Act” (H.R. 3179), sponsored by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), would expand the timing, frequency and content of federal aid advising. And the “Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act” (H.R. 5528), cosponsored by Reps. Heck and Jared Polis (D-CO), would allow the use of income data from two years prior when applying for financial aid. In a Congress as torn by stubborn partisanship as this one has been, the cooperation came as a surprise to some. But then, it did happen in the home stretch of the 2016 elections season where any sign of positive Congressional actions was a relief for the anxious electorate. This time the Senate may just follow.
DREAMERS INSPIRE SEN. DURBIN TO KEEP TRYING
“When I first proposed in 2001 the idea of granting a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, my good friend from the other side of the aisle Utah Senator Orin Hatch came to my office and said “Hey Dick, you just stole my idea,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told a packed audience of law students and immigration specialists at Georgetown Law School in early September. “So we decided to co-sponsor the DREAM Act together. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), Sen. Ted Kennedy and President George W. Bush all supported the idea. The hearing was to be Sept. 12, 2001. And then 9/11 happened. The immigration debate suddenly became one of national security,” the Senator sighed. Now 16 years later he is still trying. “DREAMers are my inspiration,” he said. “They are the reason I keep running for re-election.”
THE LATINO VOTE IS DIVERSIFYING. THAT’S GOOD NEWS AND MAYBE BAD
The good news is that finally even the media has discovered during the last weeks of the election that the Latino electorate is rich with diversity. Some are finally reporting on the glorious mix of national, cultural, religious, racial and socio-economic backgrounds that are American Latinos. The bad news? It’s complicated and increasingly clear that Latinos do not respond as a bloc to issues and appeals, even in Spanish. Forty-five percent of the Latino electorate are millennials. Marriage between Latinos and Asians is the largest intermarriage trend in America. Latinos are going to diverse colleges and becoming middle class in every state of the union. As the number of Americans with Hispanic heritage increases so will their diversity. The future? Will the Latino vote go the way of the once powerful Italian American vote?—too diverse to count as a bloc?” •