GEARing Down

When President Bush used his State of the Union address as a bully pulpit to declare the fiscal and social responsibility of his fiscal year 2006 budget, he announced substantial reductions or eliminations of “more than 150 government programs” that were “not getting results” or “not fulfilling essential priorities.” With his decision to cut the GEAR UP education program, one must wonder how this president defines results and what he sees as our nation’s priorities.

Since its introduction in 1998 by Congressman Chaka Fatah (D-PA), Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) “has provided 1.3 million [low-income] children the opportunity to go to college.” The program works by targeting children in middle school and sticking by their side until college, developing them academically, professionally and socially. By bringing a multitude of resources together — “parents, educators, business, labor, and community organizations” — the GEAR UP program weaves a tightly knit safety net for disadvantaged students across the nation who often slip through the cracks of our slipshod educational system. The success stories from the GEAR UP program’s website epitomize the goal of bringing hope to those whom many considered to be hopeless. It makes college a reality for those who had not previously even dared to dream of it.

By gutting the GEAR UP program in his 2006 budget, President Bush has unsurprisingly fallen short in delivering on the promise that taxpayers’ dollars would “be spent wisely or not at all.” Worse still, he has once again failed our nation’s future generations.

UPDATE: This article on a recent survey that found “public high schools are failing to prepare at least 40 percent of graduates for higher education or an entry-level job” provides even more evidence that GEAR UP is as important now as ever.