Stop the Coburn Amendment!

On November 29, the Senate is slated to vote on the Coburn Amendment, which would end/ban “earmarks” for the fiscal years of 2011, 2012 and 2013. Although earmarks are politically unpopular, and are often presented to be synonymous with government waste or with “pork” projects, lots of them are good. Two programs that will lose federal funding if the Coburn Amendment passes are the National Writing Project and Teach for America. Please urge your US Senator to vote No on this bill.

The National Writing Project (NWP) is a program that helps teachers be better writing teachers. It is sort of a confederated system, with a national office but with somewhat independent arms operating all over the country, mostly on college campuses. For instance, Troy University hosts the Wiregrass Writing Project and the University of Alabama hosts the Longleaf Writing Project. NWP is an important program, because the teaching of writing skills is being constantly devalued in an age of standardized testing, which often rely on “objective questioning,” like multiple choice. Teaching young people to write teaches them to think, to organize their thoughts, and to be creative; where multiple choice teaches them to pick one “correct” answer out of four and get the point, kind of like the rat that gets the food pellet for pushing the lever in the middle.

Teach for America is a program that works to end educational inequality, focusing especially on historically low-performing groups like children who grow up in poverty. If we truly believe in the meaning behind the phrase “No Child Left Behind” then funding and maintaining Teach for America ought to be one of our highest priorities.

This new “wave” of Republican, anti-taxation sentiment is already having the wind taken out of its sails — with factors like the very public statement by billionaire Warren Buffet that rich people should be paying higher taxes — and seeing the Coburn Amendment (S.510) fail would be one more step in disallowing these misguided “fiscal conservatives” from destroying some of our nation’s best programs.

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