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Our efforts in Washington, D.C., bore a little fruit

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The community college contingent spent three days in Washington, D.C., much of that time spent lobbying the Oregon lawmakers about including education funding in the so-called stimulus bill (also known as the recovery bill).

I have no idea how many miles we trod. We made the case to all seven members of Congress that investing in education makes sense now and it makes sense for the future: It is stimulative, in that it would create jobs now. And it would position Oregon to come out of this recession in two or three years with a strong position for “green” education.

Everyone we talked to agreed. Nobody argued against us.

Then, yesterday afternoon, around 3 p.m. (noon here), I was sitting in the terminal at Dulles International with a board member from Clatsop Community College and a delegation from Lane Community College, when the news broke: House and Senate conferees had stripped much of the education money out of the House version of the stimulus bill. Our hard work had been for naught.

There is good news to be found in the newest version. For instance, $54 billion in state fiscal relief to prevent cuts in state aid to schools. That’s important.

Even better, the bill boosts the maximum Pell grant by $4,850 to $5,350. That’s huge for community college students. Around 40 percent of PCC’s Pell-eligible students are parents. A huge percentage of them hold part- or full-time jobs. Increasing the Pell was one of the things we pushed for the hardest.

The bill also increases funding for Head Start. Yes, that’s not a community college issue, but it’s definitely a good-education issue.

So all told, we were not stunningly successful. It was a pretty bleak group of us sitting around Dulles, waiting for our airliner to arrive.

But it was worth going anyway. It’s good to see our lawmakers, and to remind them of the issues that are important to PCC, and to all of Oregon’s community colleges.

We’ll keep fighting the good fight. These are tough times, but we’ll get through them.

Dana

About Dana Haynes

Dana Haynes, joined PCC in 2007 as the manager of the Office of Public Affairs, directing the college's media and government relations. Haynes spent the previous 20 years as a reporter, columnist and editor for Oregon newspapers, including ... more »

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