Some educators worried by would-be VP Ryan’s budget proposal

Stakeholders worry that Ryan’s spending cuts will impact much-needed education assistance programs.

Education stakeholders have been buzzing with questions and speculation after Mitt Romney announced his selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential pick.

Ryan, a seven-term congressman and chairman of the House Budget Committee, wants to slice away at Medicare, food stamps, and virtually all domestic programs–including education–with military a notable exception.

His budget plan, Path to Prosperity, was adopted by the Republican-controlled House and drew much reaction in March.

“Ryan’s budget plan slaps students with harmful cuts to the Pell Grants program while proposing a windfall for corporate tax dodgers, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and the oil industry,” said Rich Williams, higher-education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups, in March.

“The proposal recommends slashing Pell Grants, which help more than 9 million students pay for college at a time of rising college costs, tight family finances, and a job market that increasingly requires post-secondary education.”

Experts have pointed to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, federal assistance for higher education, and early childhood education initiatives as just some of the programs that may see cuts or deep reform.

The maximum Pell grant for low-income college students, currently at $5,550 for the 2012-2013 school year, will increase to $5,635 in the 2013-2014 school year. However, under Ryan’s budget, Pell grants would be held to $5,550.

Ryan’s budget text notes that the current Pell grant system is “unsustainable” and that “federal intervention in higher education should increasingly be focused not solely on financial aid, but on policies that maximize innovation and ensure a robust menu of institutional options from which students and their families are able to choose.”

The federal Head Start program, which aims to help low-income students, could experience cuts in funding and reach. According to National Education Association estimates, Ryan’s proposed budget would eliminate spots for more than 191,000 children.

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