A story of student loan forgiveness, 20 years in the making

Kurt Panton’s laugh, surprising and unguarded, erupts when you expect it — after his baby daughter, Pauline, babbles adorably. But also when you don’t — after he confesses frustration with the federal student loan system.
Kurt laughed a lot during our first Zoom conversation, in December of 2022, when he was worried about his $18,000 in outstanding loan debt, but also during our last conversation, just a few days ago, when he told me those debts had suddenly disappeared.
This is the story of what happened in between.
Kurt Panton is 43. He grew up in Miami with his brother and their mother, Barbara. After graduating from college in 2003, Kurt taught high school until 2016, when he moved to Germany, married Lizzy, who is German, and tried his hand at copywriting.
Through every step of his adult life, there have been a few constants: that laugh, his doting mom and Kurt’s monthly federal student loan payment.
A portrait of Kurt in his living room. Kurt Panton was a teacher in Miami an..

How schools (but not necessarily education) became central to the Republican primary

Talking about schools is a reliable applause line for Republican candidates. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, former President Donald Trump got a roar of approval when he talked about race and sexuality in schools.
“On day one, I will sign a new executive order to cut federal funding for any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity and other inappropriate racial, sexual or political content on our children,” he pledged.
Schools are even more central to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign, and he used the topic to fire up the crowd in November at the Machine Shed restaurant in Davenport, Iowa.
“As the father of a six, five and a three-year-old, I believe that kids should be able to go to school, watch cartoons, just be kids without having an agenda shoved down their throat,” he said, to cheers.
The issue of how gender and race are taught in schools has been a major focus for Republican candidates this entire campaign cycle, even while the issue may not really drive votes.