Helping our Students Understand,
The U.S. Education Department
THE EDUCATION PLAN
President-elect Trump has a school choice plan…to send $20 billion, the source for which is still unknown, to the states as block grants to encourage school choice.
Continuing his efforts to attract minority voters, Donald J. Trump visited an inner-city charter school on Thursday, where he promised to direct $20 billion in federal grants for poor children to attend a school of their family’s choice.
Mr. Trump offered his most detailed education proposal to date, embracing principles that appeal to school reformers on the right as well as to many poor African-American and Hispanic parents, who have helped drive the charter school movement.
“As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty,” Mr. Trump said. “If we can put a man on the moon, dig out the Panama Canal and win two world wars, then I have no doubt that we as a nation can provide school choice to every disadvantaged child in America.”
“Choice” means private schools.
Over the last few years, child poverty in the US has decreased. It is, however, still shamefully high. More than 50% of American public school children live in poverty. There are about 50.4 million K-12 public school students in the U.S which means that there are about 25.7 million public school student who live in poverty.
The average cost of a private school in the U.S. is $7,770 per school year for elementary schools, and $13,030 for high schools. Block grants to states don’t divide up evenly among children, but just for fun, let’s see how much $20 billion will buy. If we divide $20 billion by the number of students living in poverty in the U.S. we find that each student would get about $778. That means that those families would have to come up with an additional $6,992 for elementary school or an additional $12252 for high school.
President-elect Trump didn’t say anything about why someone would want to send their children to a private school, but we can assume that one reason someone would make that “choice” would be because private schools are better. But, are private schools actually better than public schools? When one removes the advantages that private schools have of refusing admission to students who are, in some way, difficult to teach (either through academic disability, English language learners, or some other reason), we find that private schools do no better than public schools.
A second reason would be to provide a religious education for their child. Should we allow people to use public tax funds, meant for public schools, to teach religion? No, and here’s why not.
“Choice” means charter schools.
Charter schools won’t cost the family because charter schools are privately run schools paid for with public funds. So, perhaps some of that $20 billion would go to encouraging the growth of the charter school sector. Unfortunately, there’s no “choice” there since, when one balances the demographics, charter schools don’t perform any better than public schools. A recent study (2013) said that charter schools comparisons to public schools had improved since a similar, earlier study (2009), however, the majority of charter schools still performed no better than public schools.
There are other serious problems with charter schools. Some charter schools have learned how to “choose” their own students, restricting their enrollment to students with higher potential, more parental support, or fewer disabilities. Too many charter schools have no public oversight opening the door to frequent financial scandals or schools closing in the middle of the year leaving students without a school to attend (Spoiler Alert: Students abandoned by charter schools return to the public schools). The poster-child for corruption in the charter school movement is Ohio. The president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, Melissa Cropper, comments,
“Unregulated, unaccountable for-profit charter schools — like the one Trump is visiting today — have destabilized our public districts, defrauded taxpayers and left our kids and educators worse off, not better.”
The Trump plan, then, is just to increase the amount of “choice” because “the money should follow the child.” This shortchanges the vast majority of students who attend public schools to subsidize a “choice” plan which often mixes church and state, has no public oversight of public funds spent, and doesn’t do a better job of educating children.
It would be nice to invest some of that $20 billion, once we find a way to raise it, in the public schools in high poverty urban and rural areas. After all, we are still a nation which spends more money to educate its wealthy children, than its poor children.
From Mercedes Schneider.
Indeed, it is clear that Trump has given no thought to any downside to school choice. A good place to start would be in reality, with the NAACP’s October 15, 2016, charter school moratorium resolution, followed by the details of the attempted purchase of charter school expansion that was voted down in Massachusetts on November 08, 2016. Add to that Georgia voters’ nixing the idea of a state-run school district that would have become a open door for public-school-defunding charter school expansion, also on November 08, 2016.
It seems that Trump is also calling for the dissolution of the US Department of Education (USDOE). This is not a new idea, but it is a Republican idea. (The USDOE came into being in October 1979 under Democratic president, Jimmy Carter.) In 1980, Ronald Reagan called for the then-year-old department’s dissolution as part of his presidential campaign platform. In 1995, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wanted to abolish it. Others have followed. However, it would take an act of Congress to abolish the USDOE.
In his Contract with the American Voter, Trump vows to end Common Core. Language is already written into ESSA to prevent Common Core as a federal requirement, and Trump cannot halt Common Core on the state level. So, a Trump vow to end Common Core means nothing.
For those of you who are saying, “What should we do instead?” check out Nancy Bailey’s comprehensive list of things to do which would actually help America’s students instead of diverting public funds into private pockets. It’s long, but well worth it. Here’s a sample…
President-elect Trump should not decrease support when it comes to civil rights issues in our schools. He should reach out and work to bring people together…
He could surprise us by appointing Diane Ravitch or Stephen Krashen to be Secretary of Education. Both have the experience and the know-how to lead America and our schools in a new—better direction…
President Trump could turn troubling education reform upside down by returning to the old Republican notion that he alluded to in the beginning of his candidacy—local control!…
Public schools should be run by real teachers and principals. They should be connected closely to parents and those from the community…
The USDOE ought to be a clearinghouse for good practices—a beacon of hope for education in the rest of the world…
Isn’t it time America gets behind its schools? Shouldn’t we look to countries that succeed with their students, like Finland, and treat children, all children, with kindness and dignity?
HELPING OUR STUDENTS UNDERSTAND
Peter Greene and Russ Walsh are not optimistic about the condition of the nation under a Trump presidency. How can we keep our students safe? How can we focus on teaching when the hate and bullying engendered by the Trump campaign permeate the world outside? It’s bound to creep into the classroom…
From Peter Greene
In the meantime, how I do I do my job in this version of America, where might makes right and abuse is a virtue, where folks have really, truly lost sight of what Jesus had to say, who are not even trying to understand then intent of the framers and founders.
In a weird way, I suppose the last fifteen years have been a sort of warmup, a sort of dress rehearsal of that new show, “How To Keep Teaching When A Top-Down Prescriptive Bureaucracy Is Trying To Force You To Commit Malpractice.” We’re teachers, and many of us already know how to defy authority. Maybe we were getting ready for this.
And of course for some folks, literally nothing has changed at all. There is no new ugliness– just the same old ugliness without a pretty mask or snappy suit. Just ugly and vicious like always, but now naked of any pretense. We can probably learn some lessons from those folks.
To my Trump-voting friends and associates, I’m not mad– well, yeah, actually, I am pretty pissed at you right this moment, but it will probably pass. But please– when it turns out he’s lied to you about, well, everything, do not expect me to sympathize. Over the next four years I will have ample opportunity to say I told you so, and it’s unlikely that I’ll hold my tongue. But at the moment, my anger does not run as deep as my heartbreak (which, as I said, has been grinding away for the last two years) and loss and confusion, because I just don’t know what country I live in any more. I don’t know what this country stands for. I don’t know what we value as a nation or a culture.
I don’t know how to teach my students about us. I don’t know how to prepare them to go out into this new, uglier America.
The next days are going to be awful, ugly, just plain bad. Keep your heads down, brothers and sisters. Watch out for each other, and cast an eye toward the future. I don’t know who we are any more, but we have to be better than this.
From Russ Walsh
This morning the New York Times published an editorial asking that the President-elect directly and immediately denounce the hate and let his supporters know that this targeting behavior is not OK. But once you let the hate genie out of the bottle, it is devilishly difficult to put it back in. Racism, xenophobia, and misogyny are never far from the surface in this country and when these baser instincts of humans seem to have the imprimatur of the leader of the country, it may take a lifetime to tame them.
As teachers, we need to be on guard and vigilant. We must re-double our efforts to make sure the classroom, the hallways, the cafeteria, the locker room, the campus are safe for all people, including Trump supporters, who will almost certainly be the targets of backlash as well.
In 1992, Rodney King, the African-American victim of a brutal police beating in Los Angeles asked, “Can we all get along?” Apparently not, Rodney. Not yet, anyway. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Finally, there’s the U.S. Secretary of Education. Whoever President-elect Trump chooses, they will more than likely follow in the footsteps of the Duncan/King Education Department (which followed in the footsteps of the Paige/Spellings Department)…encouraging privatization, favoring charter schools over public, and generally following the “reformist” plan to test and punish public school children in order to prove that public schools are “failing.”
One name mentioned is Ben Carson, former candidate for the Republican nomination and someone who, like Trump, has absolutely no experience in public service.
Stephen Krashen, who volunteered for the job of Education Secretary, gives his opinion about Carson (which would have worked equally well for nearly all our past Education Secretaries as well)…
Sent to the New York Times
Zapatero a su zapatos
Re: Donald Trump is picking his cabinet: Here’s a short list” (Nov. 12).
If Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon,, is qualified to become US Secretary of Education, I am qualified to be appointed surgeon-general.
Stephen Krashen, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Education
University of Southern California
Note: Zapatero a su zapatos = stick to your area of competence.
Hat tip: Viviana Bonafede
I would agree with Krashen. Ben Carson is a science denier and a creationist who thinks that the pyramids were built to store grain. During the campaign he promised to monitor liberal speech on college campuses. How is this man qualified to be the Secretary of Education? At least Arne Duncan watched his mom teach…
Another choice on President-elect Trump’s short list for Education Secretary is Hoover Institution Fellow, Williamson M. Evers. The NY Times identifies him as an “Education expert.” That means that he has absolutely no education experience at all, although he did, as a member of HOLD (Honest Open Logical Debate) on Math Reform, once ceremoniously flush a math curriculum he didn’t like down the toilet.
Mr. Trump has said he wants to drastically shrink the Education Department and shift responsibilities for curriculum research, development and education aid to state and local governments.
- Dr. Ben Carson Former neurosurgeon and 2016 presidential candidate
- Williamson M. Evers Education expert at the Hoover Institution, a think tank