In a September 9, 2012 letter to the editor, Conservationists with Common Sense (CWCS) president Nancy McReady writes that the Iron Range is lucky to have Cravaack in Washington.
Now, CWCS's policy recommendations on the mining industry and motorized vehicles in the BWCA are well documented on the group's site, and so it's no surprise that McReady supports the positions that politicians like Cravaack and the Range delegation DFLers take about mining and land swaps.
The close of her letter, however, suggests that Cravaack's tenure in Congress is lucky for students in district post-secondary training programs:
Iron Range community colleges and vocational-technical schools are educating our young people to fill the jobs of retiring taconite workers and are readying them for the skilled labor jobs to come. These jobs enable our sons and daughters to remain on the Iron Range.
We are lucky to have Congressman Cravaack.
Have students gotten lucky with the Congressman? A review of key votes related to making those community colleges and technical schools (often one and the same in MNSCU's system) suggests probably not.
Cutting TRiO funding
Cravaack voted to cut TRiO funds that help first-generation post-secondary students pay for college. Jana Peterson of the Pine Journal reported in Cloquet students question Cravaack (the article is now posted on the College of St. Scholastica's website):
Cloquet High School student Sara Bush took the opportunity Thursday morning to ask U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack why he voted for a bill that would take away $26 million in funding from the TRiO programs, which help students like her go to college.
“There are a lot of other programs associated with that,” he told the senior, referring to the federal program designed to help low-income, minority and first-generation students go to college. “I understand it’s not going to be easy. But right now we’ve got $14.3 trillion in debt. If we don’t do something, here’s what’s going to happen to TRiO programs: We won’t have a TRiO program. We’ll be broke.”
Bush — who has been accepted to study pre-medicine at the College of St. Scholastica — thanks, in part, to TRiO funds — didn’t completely let Cravaack off the hook for his TRiO vote.
“This also gives up the opportunity for 90,000 people to go to college,” she pointed out.
Cravaack suggested that she work three jobs like his wife did to put herself through college. Duluth News Tribune reader Lee Peterson applauded Bush for taking Cravaack to task, since he's been willing to spend on other things:
Kudos to the Cloquet High School student who asked U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack about his vote to take $26 million from TRiO programs, which would result in 90,000 fewer students going to college; and kudos to the student who questioned Cravaack about general cuts to education (“Cloquet students question Cravaack, April 22).
We need to note Cravaack’s voting record because, so far, it doesn’t seem to reflect the values of the people of the 8th Congressional District. Contrasting his anti-TRiO vote with his reported support for building a second engine (by GE) for the F-35 fighter provides a good example of his disconnect from the 8th District and his affinity to connect with the defense industry and lobbyists. The extra engine, as I understand, has been opposed by Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, by the past two secretaries of defense, and by three branches of the service that would use the plane. Imagine that! Cravaack knows better? The extra engine reportedly has cost us $3 billion so far. Cutting it would save $450 million this year alone, according to my research.
It helps Cravaack that GE reportedly spent $39 million lobbying Congress last year. How much does anyone think low-income students spent lobbying to keep TRiO funded?
That's right: Cravaack voted to cut funding for poor students who want to continue their education, but found it in his heart to vote to spend millions more on a jet plane engine the military does not want.
Cutting Pell Grants
In Cravaack under fire for vote to cut financial aid, Minnesota Public Radio's Bob Kelleher reported:
Students and Duluth community leaders are criticizing newly elected GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack for a vote that could lead to severe cuts to a financial aid program.
They took turns at the microphone on the University of Minnesota-Duluth campus to denounce cuts to the federal Pell Grant program. The cuts are part of a spending bill that passed the U.S. House two weeks ago.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the bill reduces Pell Grant spending over the next decade by $64 billion.
. . .about 30 percent of UMD students receive Pell Grants. However, if left alone, the program faces a multi-billion dollar deficit. Cravaack did not reply to a request for a response.
While the protest took places at the UMD campus, Pell Grants are an important source for MNSCU community and technical college students to pay for their educations.
But Cravaack apparently thinks that Pell Grants cause tuition to go up. Think Progress reported in GOP Rep. Cravaack Finally Holds Town Hall, Gets Pointed Questions On Pell Grants, Taxes:
Theresa O’Halleran Johnson, a recent college grad, spoke up after Cravaack suggested that Pell grants are responsible for raising tuition costs on “normal people.” “Pell grants have increased the last four years by 139 percent. Dollar for dollar, as the Pell grants increase, so does normal tuition on normal people,” Cravaack. “That’s not true!” several constituents shouted. Johnson took the mic to say, “That is completely incorrect.” . . .
Cravaack’s claim about Pell grants comes from analysis put out House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) in support of the GOP budget, which cuts funding for the education program. As ThinkProgress has noted, the study Ryan cites to support his claim actually finds the opposite, concluding, “we find little evidence” that the grants increase tuition costs.
Robbing Health Care Funding to Pay for Student Debt
Cravaack did vote to keep student loan rates low, but that vote came at the cost of swiping $5.9 billion dollars in health care funding. The New York Times reported in House Passes Student Loan Bill Despite Veto Threat:
The bill, which would strip $5.9 billion from a program within the health care law to pay to keep rates on subsidized undergraduate loans at 3.4 percent, is all but certain to fail in the Senate, where lawmakers have put together their own measure to keep the rate from reverting to 6.8 percent by closing tax loopholes for some wealthy business owners.
While the House legislation has little chance of becoming law in its current form, the bill — the last piece of legislation considered before a one-week recess — was an instructive metaphor for the current state of Congressional politics.
As with other measures designed to appeal to middle-class voters, the fight between Democrats and Republicans was less over the substance of the bill than how to pay for it, with Republicans, as they have all year, looking to cut government spending and Democrats, as has been their approach, looking to extract more money from high earners.
Republicans, continuing their yearlong assault on the health care law, proposed it as a source for the money while Democrats, persisting with their accusation that the other party has been waging a “war on women,” pushed that meme further, arguing that the money would reduce spending on preventive health programs. . . .
In Minnesota, Democratic Congressmen Peterson and Walz were criticized by members of their own party for voting with Cravaack and the Republicans on this one. Thirty Republicans voted against the bill, as did Ellison, McCollum and 163 other Democrats.
A question for debate
Since Cravaack won't be back in Duluth until October 9 for a debate with DFL-endorsed challenger Rick Nolan, perhap someone on the panel posing questions to the candidates might just ask how lucky community and technical college students would be in getting assistance in funding their educations and programs.
Photo: Chip Cravaack at the Nimrod Parade.