Paige Pledges Support for College Access Programs
By Charles Dervarics
Dr. Roderick Paige, Bush’s choice for Education Secretary, has pledged support for GEAR UP, TRIO and other college access programs for the disadvantaged, saying, these programs “are imperative in closing the national achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers.”
Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., a leading Black lawmaker, is cautiously optimistic about Paige’s commitment to college-level programs. Paige’s remarks on college access programs were “encouraging and commendable,” says Fattah, a key architect behind the creation of Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The nominee “sent a strong signal that GEAR UP will continue to play an important role in the new administration,” Fattah says.
On K-12 education, Paige says his priority is to promote local control of schools with a goal to “push decisions down where the action is.” He also supports full funding of initiatives such as special education and Head Start for needy children.
Paige, a former dean of historically Black Texas Southern University, won widespread support from education advocates and lawmakers at a confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate last month.
Education leaders — including those from the HBCU community — also voiced support for Paige.
“I think everyone is pleased with this appointment,” says Dr. Henry Ponder, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO). “It is past time that we have a leader at the Education Department who is a graduate of one of our institutions. This will be good for all of higher education.”
Before earning national praise for his work as superintendent of the Houston public schools system, Paige served as dean at Texas Southern from 1984 to 1994. He also was athletic director and football coach during his time at the Texas institution. “He brings a lot of leadership, skills and ability to the table,” says Bobby Wilson, provost at Texas Southern and a former colleague. “He’s also able to hold people accountable.”
During his tenure in Houston, test scores increased while dropout rates declined. Because of that record, as well as his understanding of urban education, the GOP choice got an endorsement from the nation’s largest teachers union. “We believe that Dr. Paige’s considerable experience as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District will well serve our nation’s public schools,” says Bob Chase, National Education Association president.
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