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New Global Economy Survival, Super Mom Samantha Bee; Fee-Based Debit Card

Aired March 5, 2011 - 09:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: All we ask for is a quality public school education. How we get there is an angry, emotional public debate, a debate spreading from the Wisconsin capitol to Indiana, Ohio, the White House and your house. You flooded our inbox last week with more mail than we've ever received.

Bill Bennett is a CNN political contributor and former secretary of Education in the Reagan administration.

Bill, some of that mail was directed at your opinion that unions sometimes stand in the way of good teachers. Are unions and teachers part of the issue, here?

BILL BENNETT, FMR SECY OF EDUCATION: Oh, sure, they're a big part of the issue. Teaching is so important. The difference that a teacher makes is so crucial. We know the research, it's very clear an effective teacher can bring a child at the 50th percentile to the 85th or 90th percentile with three years of instruction. Then a very poor teacher can take the child to the 50th percentile and drop them back to the 20th percentile with three years of instruction. So, we know that matters, we know it makes a difference. Often in the union contracts that difference just isn't recognized, people get paid the same, try to replace that poor teacher with a great teacher and you will get resistance. That's a big part of it.

Quality and achievement level of our students is coming to the fore as we see international competition. We're dropping in math and science. We want to stay up with the rest of the world, we want our kids to get good jobs, we want this country to remain strong, teaching's crucial to it.

ROMANS: Harold Meyerson is the editor at large for the "American Prospect."

Harold, have the unions hurt their own image here with their rules on tenure and last-in, first-out? Should they give these things up or is this a discussion that's been clouded by state budget cuts? And these are two separate discussions.

HAROLD MEYERSON, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think they are two separate discussions and I think in Wisconsin, the union was willing to make the concessions that governor walker demanded of them, but that really wasn't where he was headed. He was headed towards eliminating collective bargaining for all public employees, as if denying collective bargaining rights to park rangers and nurses and public hospitals has any connection to the state of American education. It doesn't. So, I think the issue was clouded. And I think that unions have had a largely positive, though mixed record in terms of delivering education, but the problems we have in education in the United States exists in states that are unionized and exists in states that are not unionized. For instance, Texas, which doesn't have hardly any union members at all in it, and in which the budget cuts to schools are going to be something ferocious.

ROMANS: That's a pretty good point there, that in places where it's not unionized, still having some of the same issues.

Michelle Rhee is the former D.C. schools chancellor, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst.

Michelle, I want to read you some of the responses from our viewers on this subject from last week.

Tom from Illinois says, "Too much emphasis is put on teacher qualification and money. From experience as a substitute teacher, these two issues are important, but the most important issue is parental involvement, kids are given everything and are not held responsible for their behavior."

And LuAnn from Michigan, she works in a public school as support staff, "From what I see," she writes, "is maybe they should be looking at cutting where it least affects the kids and the administration. Not that there aren't some bad teachers, but there are also a lot of bad administrators who really make the big bucks."

Michelle, are teachers and their unions the wrong target?

MICHELLE RHEE, STUDENTSFIRST: Well, I actually think the teachers and unions need to understand how they have -- have contributed to some of the problems that exist. We have some great teachers in this country, and they're doing heroic things for kids every day, but the bottom line is that we also have teachers unions who have put policies in place that are incredibly harmful to children, so you mentioned the last-in, first-out policies. These are policies that are not good for children and with the budget cuts that are coming down across every state in the union, we are going to be looking at massive teacher layoffs and the research shows very clearly when we implement last-in, first-out policies, which means the last teacher hired must be the first teacher fired, regardless of how good they are or what their performance is, that you end up firing some of the most effective teachers in the district and you actually have to end up firing more teachers because the junior teachers cost the least amount of money.

So, these practices are not good for kids. And I think that right now the debates that are happening across the country with the -- with the wanting to limit collective bargaining, I mean, for -- to me, it's fine to collectively bargain things like salaries and pensions and benefits, but you should not be collectively bargain policies that impact the quality of education that kids are getting every day, those are things that should not be determined by union bosses.

ROMANS: You know, Jeffrey Canada in the movie, "Waiting for Superman," he made a point, he said the first couple of years he wasn't really the greatest teacher, because he was learning, he needed that protection, earlier on, but then later on, things got -- it took him, he says, maybe five years to become a master teacher. I mentioned that movie, "Waiting for Superman," I want to -- it's a documentary about education. Michelle Rhee is actually in that film. I want to watch a clip, quickly.


ANNOUNCER: Since 1971, educational spending in the U.S. has grown from $4,300 to more than $9,000 per student and that's adjusted for inflation.

RONALD REAGAN (R), FMR U.S. PRESIDENT: Passage of tuition tax credits...

GEORGE H.W. BUSH (R), FMR U.S. PRESIDENT: We must address some very real problems.

REAGAN: Voluntary school prayer.

BILL CLINTON (D), FMR U.S. PRESIDENT: It is not just a money problem, but it is a money problem.

REAGAN: ...and abolishing the Department of Education.

ANNOUNCER: So we've doubled what we spent on each child. Double the money is worth it if we're producing better results. Unfortunately, we're not. Since 1971, reading scores have flat lined, and math did no better.


ROMANS: OK, Michelle Rhee first, because you're in the film, I want you to respond. Then Bill, that was your old boss who was in there, then I want you to respond. And then Harold, I want you to respond to that clip and how much money. We're spending more money and the results, we're not getting the results -- Michelle.

RHEE: That's right. I think that the age old sort of adage has been, you know, in order to get better results, we need more money. That's constantly the argument that people are making and I think that the movie basically shows the statistics behind this, which is that we have more than doubled the amount of money that we're spending per child for education in this country and it hasn't gotten better and we look at how we've expended those dollars, it's on things that really don't have any impact on student achievement.

So, I actually think that though, as a former school district superintendent, you never like when your budget is cut. I also think that we have to utilize this opportunity that we have in front of us right now to look at some of these policies that we've been implementing for far too long that really aren't good for kids. And if we can use this opportunity of the economic crisis to change some of these policies, then we're going to come out much stronger on the other side. BENNETT: And I think the standard ought to be whether you're young or old, whether you're good, whether you're effective, whether you're getting the job done. It doesn't seem to me someone should have a special claim because they've been doing it 20 years or not have a special claim because they've only been doing it two. How much are the children learning? Let's recenter the focus of our attention, here, on the children and what they're learning. We've spent too much time on too many other issues and not the bottom line and that's the real bottom line.

ROMANS: Harold, you know, I think though, people -- we all come to different conclusions about how to arrive at the focusing on the child. I think that everyone involved thinks they are focusing on the child. You weigh in, Harold, and close out this conversation for us.

MAYERSON: Well sure, everybody thinks they are. And everybody I -- I'll take this at face value, I mean, I think everybody does have a concern for the child, teachers, most of all, otherwise why would they be in that profession. But you need to realize that there are problems with schools and school districts and budgets that are all around the country in states that are fully unionized and states in which unions are effectively banished. So, I'm not sure unions are the key variables and I think we have some larger problems that deal with communities, that deal with parents, and that deal with schools and that the solutions need to be more holistic than on the table.

ROMANS: All right, everyone sit right where you are because we have so much more to discuss.

The quality of education today is imperative for the jobs of tomorrow. The top 10 jobs for the next 10 years, that's next.


ROMANS: Back now with Bill Bennett, Harold Meyerson and Michelle Rhee.

Guys, we have to prepare our kids for the jobs that are going to support them and their families for the future. This is what the future of work looks like. According to analysis from CareerBuilder, this week, the future of work is in technology, medicine, and environmentalism.

In technology, think career like maybe cyber security specialist, mobile apps developer, social media manager. In medicine, it's genetics counselor, medical records administrator, stem cell researcher, and organic food farmers and sustainability officers, those are some of the environmental jobs.

Michelle, does today's education system prepare kids to go into college and get into those jobs?

RHEE: Absolutely not, in fact, in districts like Washington, D.C., where I was the chancellor, we were not preparing kids at all. We would often have children who were graduating from our system who would go off to college and then come back to me and say, you know, I don't understand what happened, I was the valedictorian of my school, got all "as" and I got to college and I had to take remedial classes and they told me I didn't have the skills necessary to write a decent term paper and that sort of thing.

So we are actually doing our children a disservice every day, because we've set up a school system that doesn't give them the skills and knowledge that they need to be successful in college.

ROMANS: There's being prepared for college, which I think we all agree here, we could use some work on, and then there's being able to afford college. I want your guys' take on this. A new group in Texas is offering scholarships for white males with a 3.0 GPA. It's $500 scholarships from the group called the Former Majority Association for Equality, it's founded by an Iraq war veteran at Texas State University who said there simply just weren't specific scholarships for white men and they need the money, too. Listen.


COLBY BOHANNAN, FMR MAJORITY ASSOC FOR EQUALITY: We do not promote any kind of racial bigotry or white supremacy and we don't take money from people who do. If you're part of a white supremacist group or -- keep your money, we don't want your money. That's our stance on that.

We don't have any political agendas or any kind of message that we're trying to send. I've had dozens of questions about affirmative action. We're not saying anything about anything except for helping poor white males who are trying to go to college and need a little help.


ROMANS: All right. I don't know who to give this one to first. Michelle Rhee, I mean, what's your -- at first blush, what's your take on this?

RHEE: Well, I certainly think it's interesting. You know, giving proactive scholarships to white men is probably not what we've seen in the past. What I did hear him say, though, is low income folks and I absolutely think a lot of problems we face in education in this country and today are socioeconomic problems and for families, regardless of their race, at lower income levels, ensuring that there is a path to higher education is incredibly important.

RHEE: Bill, was anybody talking about this on the radio? Did this fly on your radar, at all?

BENNETT: Yeah, it takes about 10 seconds. Low-income, fine, giving scholarships by race is wrong, whether it's white or black. The more attention you bring to race, the more racial division we'll have. We shouldn't give out rewards and penalty by race. I don't like it.

ROMANS: Harold?

MEYERSON: Look, it's a free country, no one's going to stop these folks and I think it's a somewhat cockeyed way of addressing the increasing unaffordability of college and there are a lot of serious folks out there who not only support race-based affirmative action, but class-based affirmative action and this is sort of the co confluence of the two and it's -- I agree with Michelle on this, it's certainly understandable, given economic trends in this country and growing feelings of insecurity among parts of the American population.

ROMANS: I'll tell you, my take is that tuition inflation...

BENNETT: Just don't do it by race.

ROMANS: something that just -- we keep -- I mean, everyone needs more money no matter who you are because we come up with the money and tuition just keeps going up and that's something that's a real problem, too.


BENNETT: But not a racial spoils system.

ROMANS: All right, Bill Bennett, Michelle Rhee, Harold Meyerson, thank you, all so much for joining us. We'll talk about this again soon with all of you, thanks.

All right, there are countless scholarships out there, not all of them so controversial. We've got sure fire ways to get you scholarship money.

But first, women are marrying later, having fewer kids, and getting more advanced degrees than ever. So, why are they still getting 75 cents to the male dollar?


ROMANS: Women are more likely to be in graduate school. A record percent of women now earn more than their husbands. They're marrying later, marrying less, and having fewer children. And women make just 75 cents on the dollar when compared to men. Rod Kurtz is the executive editor of AOL Small Business and Manisha Thakor is a personal finance author and writes a blog entitled "The Sugar Mama Chronicals."

Rod, if women are getting all these advance degrees...

ROD KURTZ, AOL SMALL BUSINESS: That's a great blog name, by the way.

ROMANS: I know, I like it.

If women are getting all these degrees and they're marrying later and they're getting the jobs that they want, how come they're only earning 75 cents on the dollar?

KURTZ: Yeah, I mean, the interesting thing is this stems from a White House report, that was the first, I believe, in 50 years. We haven't looked at this in a comprehensive way in really long time. It's great that we're doing this. The good news is, there's been a lot of progress. The bullet point I took out of this is yes, the pay gap persists, we don't want to see that, but it's narrowing much more quickly among younger women. And I think that's very important. You're talking about more and more women going to school, going to grad school, it's starting to produce dividends.

ROMANS: Yeah, women in their 20s and 30s are really starting -- in fact, in some cases they're starting to do better than their counterparts and maybe it'll take some time for the...

KURTZ: Yeah, it's a little threatening to me, but I'm all for it.

ROMANS: Don't be threatened. Don't be threatened. We're all about equality. Not one upping each other.

But Manisha, I'm wondering here, others take a look at the report and they feel like, it feels like women have plateaued. In 2010, 14 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, just 14 percent. You know, it's not really moving the needle in the executive branch very well. Have they plateaued, do you think?

MANISHA THAKOR, WOMEN'S FINANCIAL LITERACY INITIATIVE: No. I refuse to believe that men are setting in a kumbaya circle saying, let's keep the women out. I think there are two factors going on, and they're subtle and they're nuanced. The first is it takes a village to get to you the "C" suite. You need mentors, you need people to put you for stretch assignments. And I think a lot of these opportunities come not through formal mentoring programs, but informal programs. And that's still not happening as much for women.

A great example is a new book that just came out called "Suits: A Women on Wall Street" by Nina Godiwalla, describes it beautifully. The other thing, Christine, babies and eldercare. So, at two critical points in our lives, women are oftentimes having to slow down a little bit and it's not that we want to eradicate children and parents, but we need to find a way to make sure that at those early stages and when you're right about to reach for the last rung, that women are supported so they can make to it the "C" suite.

ROMANS: It's interesting you bring that up because, I mean, it's not just women going to the "C" suite, which is, of course, the big executive jobs, but it's women in all kinds of different walks of life and different kinds of professions, Manisha. An I think something that's interesting is we look at these numbers, women on average are working maybe an hour less a day than their male counterparts, and that time is being taken at home with caring for their family and with housework, isn't it? So women are still kind of spending a little less time maybe on the job because they're still seen as the caretaker at home?

THAKOR: Christine, you absolutely nailed it. When I sit and think why do you look at the educational figures, but you're not seeing the corresponding economic figures, it's three thing to me. No. 1, our job selection, our career selection, women tend to gravitate, for better or worse, to caring fields that may allow a little more flexibility, but pay less. We don't ask for raises. That's another key one. Linda Babcock at Carnegie-Mellon has done research. Men are four times more likely than women to ask for raises. And then the final one is this issue of time. And a lot of that time, that extra hour that we're not spending at the workplace, it's not that we're not getting our work done, we are, but we're missing out on a lot of the water cooler talk that could help us make the relationships to move to the next level because we're doing the housework.

ROMANS: You know, Rod, it's called the "he"-cession, because it has hit men more than women.

KURTZ: You're blaming us.

ROMANS: No, no, no, I'm not blaming you. I'm say that you've been hit harder. In some cases, you're looking at men, who have a higher unemployment rate or their unemployment rate is rising faster than women. So, but then if you look at women who are in the workforce, you know, taking care of their family, they're making 75 cents on the dollar. You don't know who to...

KURTZ: Yeah and you saw that in the report that there are households that are headed by single women, sometimes single women and they're struggling more economically, I think, because they're making less and they're the breadwinners and there's less bread that they're bringing back. In terms of this, on the flip-side, I think the issue for men if they are in the higher positions and they are making more money, when times are tough, those are going to be the first people that they want to cut because it's more fat to trim. So, that's a little bit of the down side for guys still having sort of a head start, here, in the process.

ROMANS: Manisha Thakor, thank you so much. Rod Kurtz, loved having you guys on. We'll talk to you again, both, very, very soon.

KURTZ: Good to see you, Christine.

ROMANS: Getting ahead in this country still means getting a college degree at a time when it's harder than ever to pay for it, but there are scholarships out there for just about everyone. How to get free money, next.


ROMANS: Less than one percent of students at four-year colleges receive scholarships worth more than $15,000, but there are billions of dollars available in scholarship funding. So where is the money hiding and how can you find it?

Mark Kantrowitz is the author of "Secrets to Winning a College Scholarship." And mark is really the expert, the expert out there on college scholarships and how to get them.

If you're looking for that money, where is the money hiding? It is not only the most obvious places and it's not just for straight-A students, right Mark?

MARK KANTROWITZ, FINAID.ORG: Right. While, there are many scholarships for students with academic talent and students with artistic or athletic talent or even some unusual scholarships like a scholarship for creating a prom costume out of duct tape.


ROMANS: The academic applications of that, I'm not quite sure what they are. But if some company is going to give you money for making a prom dress out of duct tape, certainly you should try to get it. There's a peanut butter and jelly contest, some $25,000, there. There's national spelling bee scholarship, if you're a spelling bee. There's also religious scholarships. There all different sorts of places. You really need to be shaking the trees everywhere for money everywhere, right?

KANTROWITZ: Absolutely.

ROMANS: As far as the process goes then, mark, what do you need to do? There's essays, interviews, you need to know where to look. How do you even start?

KANTROWITZ: Well, the first place to look is on a free online scholarship search service like our service, It takes a half hour to complete a profile and it shows you all the award that match your background. And important tip from the book is to double the number of matches, answer all the optional questions, not just the required questions.

ROMANS: So, don't be too brief. If there are optional questions, answer those questions, too. Why does that help you?

KANTROWITZ: Well, because many of these optional questions are there to trigger the inclusion of a scholarship and we want to have a very accurate match so we're not going to include the scholarship unless you answer that question.

ROMANS: Now, you also need to start the application process early. If you are a high school senior and you're just now thinking about spring as the only time to start applying for scholarships, you're really narrowing your focus too much, aren't you?

KANTROWITZ: Absolutely. The scholarship deadlines tend to have two peaks, one in the fall and one in the spring. If you wait until the spring to figure out how to pay for school, you've already missed half the deadlines. There are also scholarships that are open to students in grades nine through 11 and even as you have mentioned before, there are scholarships for students in kindergarten through grade eight.

ROMANS: If you can hold on to that money and piling up the money even when you're young until you can get to college, that can be really helpful. One thing, though, about amassing this pile of scholarship money, which we hope that everyone can do, it can complicate things at the aid office. And this is something that drives parents crazy because their kid goes out and gets all this money, and then that actually can work against them on the other financial aid. How do you -- how do you work with that? KANTROWITZ: Well, every college has what's called an outside scholarship policy. If you're receiving need-based aid, you can't also receive merit-based aid that exceeds your financial need, so they're forced to reduce the financial aid package. But they have flexibility in how they reduce it. They could substitute your scholarship for loans which will benefit you financially. So, it's important to ask the college about its outside scholarship policy, especially if you bring in a lot of scholarships.

ROMANS: All right, Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of, the publisher of Thank you so much, Mark. Nice to see you.

That's going to wrap things up for us, this morning. Back now CNN SATURDAY for other stories making news, right now.