Representative Tim Derickson, District53@ohr.state.oh.us

Balancing a budget at home or at work can be a difficult task when our wants outweigh our needs. Balancing a budget that impacts people outside our immediate family or business adds to the difficulty in determining what is really needed, due to peoples varied interests.

As a state lawmaker, I am constitutionally responsible to balance a budget that is not at liberty to consider wants, only needs. The very role of government is being reconsidered in our upcoming budget, which is a conversation long overdue. “You’ve come a long way baby” might be an outdated advertising campaign, but it certainly applies today to where our state and federal government has come.

I read in the Hamilton Journal-News (2/20/11) that among the cuts our federal government is proposing to the federal budget is the reduction of Pell Grants — college grants for low-income students — by $5.6 billion.

Ohio has positioned itself as a leader in education. Kindergarten through 12th grade students have an excellent public education system, as well as many charter and home school opportunities available to them. Ohio is also blessed with many institutions of higher education. The opportunity to learn, regardless of race, religion or status not only broadens our students’ realization of the world around them but also prepares them to make life decisions in an educated and informed manner.

Ohio’s budget is now being vetted, and all items are on the table including education. While I fully expect everyone to feel the sting of the upcoming budget debate, Ohio’s General Assembly is also considering legislation to broaden the tax-exempt status of Pell Grant related expenses.

Pell Grants in Ohio are proven to foster educational opportunities to many students. Presently, more than 6,000 students at Miami University and 10,000 students at the University of Cincinnati utilize Pell Grant funds.

Across the state, 27 percent of our full-time students at main campuses and 40 percent at regional campuses utilize federal grants to pay for their educational expenses. Many of these students simply could not attend college if not for these federal grants.

The (proposed) reduction in federal funding of Pell Grants seems to change the course of our national education initiatives and priorities. I have heard President Obama say, on many occasions that we need to encourage our citizens to obtain college degrees. Here in Ohio, we are doing just that. By reducing the funding to the Pell Grant system, fewer people eager to learn and to better themselves will be able to pay — or even borrow — for a college education.

While I applaud many of the cuts being proposed in the federal budget and see the need to make additional cuts in federal funding, discouraging our citizens from furthering their education is not a productive measure. State and federal leaders must encourage our residents to further their education in any way possible. We must equip the citizens of Ohio — and our country — to make good life decisions as we face an ever-changing economy. Our future is dependent upon a diverse and educated population.

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