“Student loan payments have been paused since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. However, in the three years since the pause began, the economic and legal justification for the continued moratorium has grown increasingly weak.
Not only has the economy recovered in full force—leading to the lowest unemployment rate in over 50 years—but President Joe Biden himself has declared that “the pandemic is over.” Yet, student loan payments are still paused—with the same, flimsy justification that the pandemic emergency rages on and student loan borrowers simply can’t be expected to shoulder the unsurmountable burden of paying back their loans, especially with a Supreme Court ruling on sweeping student loan forgiveness eminent.
However, a new legal challenge has emerged to try to end the absurdity.”
“The HEROES Act was passed in 2003 and allows the federal government to provide student loan relief to college students who withdraw from school in order to enter active military duty during a time of “war or other military operation or national emergency.”
While the Department of Education has long claimed that the COVID pandemic presents such a national emergency, the lawsuit contends that a yearslong student loan repayment pause is simply out of the HEROES Act’s scope.
The Act was explicitly designed to help a very specific group of Americans—those that leave school to serve in a war. “Recasting the HEROES Act from a statute permitting limited modifications for targeted groups (primarily those serving in the military during wartime) to one that can suspend payments and cancel interest for all 45 million borrowers is a change so significant” that it fundamentally revises the statue, the lawsuit states.”
“The student loan repayment moratorium is one of the strangest holdovers of the COVID-era government spending spree. Whatever economic—and legal—justification to suspend loan repayment has long since expired, making each new extension seem more bizarre than the last.
In the meantime, the cost of the payment pause keeps ticking up. As the lawsuit notes, “The Moratorium has been wiping out $5 billion of assets owned by the United States every month for the past 32 months without any statutory authorization or appropriation, at a cumulative cost to taxpayers of $160 billion and counting.””
“The Florida Board of Education voted..to approve proposed regulations that will prohibit teachers from providing instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in most classes in any grade of its public schools, expanding censorship of LGBT issues far beyond the stated goals of conservative politicians that they wanted only to protect very young children from overly sexualized discussions.
When Republican Florida lawmakers introduced and passed H.B. 1557, opponents quickly started calling it a “Don’t Say Gay” law. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis shot back that the law was only for kindergarten through third grade, even sparring with a reporter at a press conference about the text of the law. He subsequently used a clip of that response in a self-promoting video.
DeSantis’ response now looks like misleading nonsense. The law not only banned discussion of sexual orientation and gender through third grade, but it also contained an additional prohibition on any such instruction in a grade where it “is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” The law did not define these terms, leaving it to the state’s Board of Education. That board has decided that almost all discussion of these issues is inappropriate in public schools.
The Miami Herald reports that the board voted..to approve a proposed rule that states that teachers “shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in grades 4 through 12 on sexual orientation or gender identity unless such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards … or is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.””
“” Professors are not mouthpieces for the government. For decades, the Supreme Court of the United States has defended professors’ academic freedom from governmental intrusion,” Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), tells Reason. “As the Supreme Court wrote in Keyishian v. Board of Regents: ‘Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom.'”
“Unfortunately, Rufo’s ideas aren’t hypothetical. In recent months, several legislative efforts—most notably in Florida—have attempted to quash professors’ academic freedom. “Legislative initiatives like the STOP Woke Act and HB 999 seek to use the power of the state to shut down speech and scholarship on politically disfavored views,” adds Cohn. “These efforts cannot be squared with our longstanding national commitment to academic freedom.”
An argument supporting censorship in the name of “the pursuit of truth as the telos of America’s public universities,” as Rufo claimed, is ultimately shortsighted. Not only does Rufo fail to see how the powers he would give the government could be wielded against his ideological allies, but he also fails to see how censorship ultimately runs counter to the same American values he claims to support.
“Professors must be able to teach, conduct research, and publish scholarship without fear of viewpoint-based retribution from the government,” says Cohn. “And students must be able to learn from faculty who are not muzzled by the state.””
“These proposed rule changes aren’t just about making sure teachers discuss sexual orientation and gender identity only when it is appropriate. Evidence suggests that Florida officials are attempting to censor LGBT discussions in classrooms as much as they possibly can. The “Don’t Say Gay” label is becoming more and more apt as time goes by.”
“”More money can help schools succeed, but not if they fritter those extra resources in unproductive ways,” Jay Greene, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Reason. “There is no one formula for how to spend money correctly in schools. But there are many common ways that schools blow resources. Wasteful schools tend to hire more non-instructional staff while raising the pay and benefit costs for all staff regardless of their contribution to student outcomes. If you fully disconnect compensation from performance, you can raise salaries and benefits endlessly without anyone learning more.”
While making good spending choices can help close some of the gap between affluent and non-affluent schools, it’s worth noting that student poverty has a large effect on school performance.”
“One California high school has eliminated honors classes for ninth- and 10th-grade students. While school officials claim that the change was necessary to increase “equity,” the move has angered students and parents alike.
“We really feel equity means offering opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds, not taking away opportunities for advanced education and study,” one parent who opposed the change told The Wall Street Journal.
Starting this school year, Culver City High School, a public school in a middle-class suburb of Los Angles, eliminated its honors English classes for ninth- and 10th-graders. Instead, students are only able to enroll in one course called “College Prep” English. The decision, according to school administrators, came after teachers noticed that only a small number of black and Hispanic students were enrolling in Advanced Placement (A.P.) courses.
“It was very jarring when teachers looked at their AP enrollment and realized Black and brown kids were not there. They felt obligated to do something,” said Quoc Tran, the district’s superintendent. According to an article by The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Randazzo, data presented at a school board meeting last year showed that Latino students made up 13 percent of 12th-grade A.P. English students, despite comprising 37 percent of the student body, while black students made up 14 percent of A.P. English students while comprising 15 percent of the student body.
“School officials say the goal is to teach everyone with an equal level of rigor, one that encourages them to enroll in advanced classes in their final years of high school,” Randazzo notes.
However, parents—and students—disagree. “There are some people who slow down the pace because they don’t really do anything and aren’t looking to try harder,” Emma Frigola, a ninth-grader at the school, said. “I don’t think you can force that into people.” She added that the curriculum has been made easier to accommodate less advanced students.”
“When schools eliminate educational opportunities for gifted students, those who are most hurt by the change are disadvantaged, academically talented students. While wealthier families can move to a new school district or enroll their children in private school, low-income parents—and their kids—are stuck. While getting rid of honors courses was supposedly designed to help black and Latino students, it will deprive opportunities of many of the same kids it was intended to help.”
“A Florida law signed by DeSantis last March requires that all books available to children be “reviewed by a district employee holding a valid educational media specialist certificate,” such as the school librarian, since the state says teachers cannot be trusted to select appropriate texts for their students. This means that classroom libraries assembled by teachers violate the law, and parts of the state — up to one-third of the state’s counties, according to reporting from the New Yorker — have restricted access to all books until they could be reviewed.”
“DeSantis announced..that the state is blocking AP African American studies, a new class developed by the College Board, on the grounds that it is “a political agenda” and an example of “woke indoctrination.” The administration objected to certain topics contained in a draft framework for the course: queer theory, intersectionality, Black Lives Matter, reparations, prison abolition, and more.
At a press conference in January, DeSantis said the course is on “the wrong side of the line for Florida standards.” He added, “We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them. When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”
Florida rejected the course under its Stop WOKE Act (Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act), which took effect in July 2022 and bans schools and businesses from teaching anything that could make anyone feel “guilt, anguish or any form of psychological distress” because of their race, gender, sex, or national origin. Though a judge ordered a temporary injunction against parts of the law that limit conversations about race in public colleges and universities, the law remains mostly intact.”
“At the start of the year, DeSantis called for the elimination of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. The programs became required in 2020, ordered by a largely Republican-appointed board, while he was already in his second year as governor. A January 31 order from DeSantis prohibits higher education institutions from using any funding, no matter the source, to support DEI or critical race theory — the besieged academic framework that says racism is systemic — and anything else the administration considers “discriminatory initiatives.””
“DeSantis wants school leaders to review course material. On January 31, he announced that the State University System Board of Governors and the State Board of Education must review general education core courses to make sure that they are historically accurate, “foundational,” and “career relevant.” The administration has not publicly explained what “foundational” or “career relevant” means. The boards must also ensure that core classes don’t “suppress or distort” historical events or include “identity politics” in their curriculum.
The governor also wants to require schools to give priority to “graduating students with degrees that lead to high-wage jobs, not degrees designed to further a political agenda,” but hasn’t specified which degrees they are referring to. His proposed overhaul would also mandate courses in Western civilization.”
“DeSantis urged schools to bypass their tenure systems to conduct post-tenure reviews of faculty members “at any time with cause.” “They can be let go if they’re not performing to expectations,” he observed, adding that “the most significant dead-weight cost to a university is unproductive tenured faculty.” He also empowered school presidents and boards to “take ownership” of their hiring and retention decisions without interference from unions or faculty committees.”
“DeSantis is staging what’s being called a “hostile takeover” of the New College of Florida, a small school in Sarasota. As part of his 2023-2024 budget recommendations, DeSantis wants to spend $100 million to recruit and retain faculty members at Florida’s state universities, and in addition, he wants to allocate another $15 million to “overhaul and restructure” the New College of Florida.”