by Félix Pérez; image courtesy of Gage Skidmore
Donald Trump today delivered his long-overdue education plan at a for-profit charter school, and his policy proposals — private school vouchers and unaccountable charter schools — provide further evidence that he “has no understanding of what kids need to succeed.”
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To fund his plan, Trump said he would use $20 billion in existing federal funding to give to states in the form of a block grant. He said he would call on states to provide another $120 billion.
“I will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice,” proclaimed Trump, seemingly unaware that the Ohio for-profit charter school at which he spoke, Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, has received an F from Ohio for failing to meet the state’s standards.
“Donald Trump’s campaign has been smoke-and-mirrors with no substance,” said Becky Higgins, a first-grade teacher serving as president of the Ohio Education Association. “Donald Trump has no understanding of what kids need to succeed in school or in life. He’s only concerned with his bottom line.”
Lily Eskelsen García, former Utah Teacher of the Year and president of the National Education Association, said:
Donald Trump isn’t serious about doing what’s best for our students, and he’s clueless about what works. His silver bullet approach does nothing to help the most-vulnerable students and ignores glaring opportunity gaps while taking away money from public schools to fill private-sector coffers. No matter what you call it, vouchers take dollars away from our public schools to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense with little to no regard for our students.
Trump lauded Ohio, saying it is a “leader in school choice.” Problem is, the data don’t bear that out. Alex Medler of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, put it plainly to the Cleveand Plain Dealer. “Ohio has a real quality control problem.” He said, “Ohio’s more broken than the Wild West.”
More than $500 million in state aid was sent to Ohio charter schools that performed the same or worse than the local school district from which students transferred, according to KnowYourCharter.com.
Trump used his remarks to go after teacher due process rights, or tenure, and to promote merit pay, two primary goals of corporate ed reformers and far right politicians.
Teacher “tenure,” however, does not mean what opponents of public education say it does.
Rather than a guaranteed job for life, tenure refers to the process that must be followed before tenured teachers can be dismissed. The reasons: to protect teachers against personal vendettas, personality conflicts or a political disagreement with an administrator — or because a local person of influence wants to give someone a job. It is common for teachers to serve as nontenured, probationary employees for three or four years. While on probationary status, a teacher can be dismissed for any reason whatsoever. And in some states, teachers are hired on a year-to-year contract.
As for merit pay, paying teachers based on on how students perform on a test has serious pitfalls: it only measures a narrow piece of the teacher’s work; such plans can pit employee against employee, especially when there’s a quota for merit increases; and it does not account for teachers who do not teach tested subjects.
Educators are not only concerned with Trump’s “vouchers for all” plan, but continue to be troubled by the effect of his campaign rhetoric on the nation’s students. Said Dan Greenberg, a high school English teacher in Sylvania, Ohio, “We teach our students to view the president as a role model, but when Donald Trump promotes a campaign built on racism, sexism and xenophobia, he’s no role model I would want for my students or my family. It doesn’t matter who you are — Democrat, Republican, or Independent — we have to vote our conscience over political party. Donald Trump is not fit to be Commander-in-Chief.”
Eskelsen García observed, “We’ve seen behavior from Donald Trump that we would never accept in a classroom. We teach children to reject prejudice and stereotypes like the ones Donald Trump embraces every time he hurls racial slurs, insults immigrants and women, and talks about banning Muslims from entering our country. We need a president who stands up to bullies — not one who embraces their tactics.”