Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Hello fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here is what we recently discussed here at MotherTalkers:

Parents magazine ran a comprehensive list of homemade Halloween costumes. Only a few were mentioned online, but there were many in the mag that I dug like the “crayons.” Three kids were wearing pointy party hats with matching colored outfits that simply said the word “CRAYON.” Cute.

Unfortunately, I already purchased my kids’ costumes even though I entertained the idea of making them. Because I am lazy, Eli will go as Dorothy from Wizard of Oz courtesy of Target. Ari will be Bumblebee of the Transformers thanks to a sale at Toys R’ Us some months ago. What will your children be for Halloween?

The New York Times ran a column about how the decline of UC-Berkeley, easily one of the nation’s top three universities, is bad for public colleges — and the country.

More than 32,000 members of MomsRising.org signed a petition urging the CEO of Kraft Foods to eliminate Yellow No. 5 from its mac and cheese products. The European Union does not allow it to distribute products with Yellow No. 5 there. The company responded to U.S. moms by sending a form letter, which I published here. Some of us felt that Kraft’s response was not good enough while some of you said no one could pry non-organic Kraft mac and cheese from your dead, cold hands. Either way, thanks for the mac and cheese recipes!

Here is a funny story by Anne Fitten Glenn over at the Mountain Xpress newspaper of North Carolina about how beer actually makes your bones stronger. Yes, folks, there is an actual study on this. Cheers!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


A Travesty in Higher Education, the Nation

No doubt California’s dysfunctional budget process is wrecking many lives here in California. I was just reminded of it reading this New York Times opinion column about nearby UC-Berkeley :

Now there are ominous cracks appearing in that cornerstone of American civilization. Exhibit A is the University of California, Berkeley, the finest public university in the world and undoubtedly one of the two or three best universities in the United States, public or private.

More of Berkeley’s undergraduates go on to get Ph.D.’s than those at any other university in the country. The school is among the nation’s leaders in producing winners of the Nobel Prize. An extraordinary amount of cutting-edge research in a wide variety of critically important fields, including energy and the biological sciences, is taking place here….

So it’s dismaying to realize that the grandeur of Berkeley (and the remarkable success of the University of California system, of which Berkeley is the flagship) is being jeopardized by shortsighted politicians and California’s colossally dysfunctional budget processes.

Berkeley is caught in a full-blown budget crisis with nothing much in the way of upside in sight. The school is trying to cope with what the chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, described as a “severe and rapid loss in funding“ from the state, which has shortchanged Berkeley’s budget nearly $150 million this year, and cut more than $800 million from the higher education system as a whole.

….Berkeley is laying off staffers, reducing faculty through attrition and cutting pay. Student fees will no doubt have to be raised, and the fear is that if the financial crisis continues unabated it will be difficult to retain and recruit the world-class scholars who do so much to make the school so special.

Even though it is a public university, the more it depends on private funding the likelier it is to become inaccessible to middle class families, said columnist Bob Herbert.

We should all care about this because Berkeley is an enormous and enormously unique national asset. As a public university it offers large numbers of outstanding students from economically difficult backgrounds the same exceptionally high-quality education that is available at the finest private universities.

Something wonderful is going on when a school that is ranked among those at the very top in the nation and the world is also a school in which more than a third of the 25,000 undergraduates qualify for federal Pell grants, which means their family incomes are less than $45,000 a year. More than 4,000 students at Berkeley are from families where the annual income is $20,000 or less.

More than a third are the first in their families to attend a four-year college.

Berkeley is aggressively pursuing alternative funding sources. The danger is that as public support for the school declines, it will lose more and more of its public character. Substantially higher fees for incoming students would be the norm, and more and more students from out of state and out of the country (who can afford to pay the full freight of their education) would be recruited.

This would most likely hurt students from middle-class families more than poorer ones. Those kids are caught between the less well-off, who are helped by a variety of financial aid programs, and the wealthy students, whose families have no problem paying for a first-class college education.