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Monday, October 18, 2021

Forgiving student loan debt is a moral imperative.

 Society made a promise to its children. They said if you get a college degree you will be provided with a job that will enable you to both pay back any money you borrowed and live well. Not extravagant but well. Society then reneged on that promise and instead gave many of us an unaffordable education and depressed wages, and millions of people have paid the price both literally and figuratively. It’s time society made good on its promise and step one is to forgive student loan debt. Listen to my story and tell me if you don’t agree.

I graduated from college in 2000 with 55 thousand in student loan debt. I became a public-school teacher and started my 22nd year a few months ago. I am scheduled to make about fifty thousand dollars where a teacher on the same step as I in 2005 could expect to make an inflation-adjusted 72 thousand dollars. In the last five years, I have missed out on approximately 60 thousand dollars that teachers on the same level of experience would have received when I started teaching. I can also expect to miss out on another 150k if things don’t change before I retire.

That would be more than enough to pay off my student loans. And about those student loans, I have paid back about 25 thousand dollars and still owe fifty. At this rate, when I retire, instead of living comfortably and student loan debt-free, which I was promised, I will still owe thousands of dollars.

I am not alone in this boat, there are millions of teachers, police officers, civil servants, and others, people who have spent decades in service to the country, with me.

We have collectively missed out on billions that could have gone to mortgage and car payments, investing in startups and paying back our loans. Billions that would have been spent in communities across the country that would have benefited them as well. Instead, we have been forced to struggle to make ends meet, we rent, our cars are five and ten years old and we have been saddled with a debt that many of us after a lifetime of service will never be able to pay back.   

For decades college has been unaffordable without debt and for decades, wages have been dropping as well, this is a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, there is a solution and that is to forgive student loan debt.

If president Biden, Secretary of Education Cardona, and our other leaders in Washington D.C. are not going to do the right thing and forgive student loan debt, then they could make it easier to get student loan forgiveness. Right now you need 120 consecutive payments to even be considered, ten years’ worth. I submit more than a few people have had to make a choice of what bill to pay at least a few times in a decade.

Like many others, I was made a promise and I held up my side of it. It is past time society does so as well.  

Thursday, October 14, 2021

$%#@ FAPE

 Or at least that is what the state and district did.

The state of Florida and Duval County Public schools have created a new precedent when they recently extended the age range of education for a student, extending FAPE. 

Where it would be inappropriate for me to talk about the particulars of one student, I think it is fair to say the reasons for this extension could apply to dozens, hundreds, or maybe thousands of students here in Duval and statewide.  

FAPE stands for the right of disabled students to receive a free and appropriate education, guaranteed by the Rehabilitation act of 1973 and then reaffirmed by the Persons with Disability Act. 

Where there are lots of different requirements, basically FAPE says a disabled student can stay in school until they are 22. Some school districts end a student's education the day they turn 22. DCPS however has allowed students to finish the school year in which they turn 22 and then they "age out." That was until this year when the state and the district allowed a student who should have aged out to return.

Whether I think that is appropriate or not is moot. What I can't remain silent about is this exception was made for one student whose family had the means to force it to happen. When as I said, so many other students who also aged out under COVID have not been offered the same opportunity. 

During COVID, schools did their best to service special needs students, but it would be disingenuous to say it was the same as an average year. If one family can use this to extend their students' education for a year, then every family should be able to as well.  

If any family whose student aged out during COVID feels their student would benefit from another year of education, I would urge them to contact the state and the district and demand the same special treatment.