by Hannah Goldstein
President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently visited a private school in Orlando, Fla., on the first stop of their campaign to promote the privatization of public schools.
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During their visit to the religious school two weeks ago, Trump and DeVos promised to implement quickly what would be the first national “school choice” program, which would include private school vouchers, for-profit charters, charters, online schools, home schooling and tax credit scholarships. Trump or DeVos have yet to lay out a legislative framework, but when Trump first announced his plan last September at a failing Ohio charter school, he said the program would be funded by taking $20 billion from existing education programs. He said he would urge states to provide another $120 billion.
Educators, parents and an extensive body of research (examples include this, plus this, as well as this and this) maintain vouchers destabilize already underfunded public schools, offer unreliable gains in academic performance, fail to give parents any real educational choice and increase segregation. Voucher critics believe the ultimate aim of privatizers is to transform public education into a profit-making industry.
Utah elementary school teacher and National Education President Lily Eskelsen García said:
What’s also troubling is that vouchers undermine accountability to parents and taxpayers. Private and for-profit schools that receive taxpayer-funded vouchers have almost complete autonomy on how they operate. They can pick and choose which students they want and which students they’ll turn away. These schools don’t have to follow academic standards, don’t have to hire qualified teachers and don’t have to disclose financial decisions to the public.
While Trump and DeVos Parents posed for photos inside the Florida school, educators, parents and lawmakers protested outside the private school. And like his Ohio charter school visit, there was an inconvenient fact that Trump overlooked: the state’s voucher program for special needs students, the McKay Scholarship, asks students with disabilities to waive their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA.
As Trump and DeVos promote their “vouchers for all” proposal over the coming weeks and months, it’s important that public school supporters stay informed so as not to fall prey to alternative facts. Below are a handful of books and articles that look at public school privatization. You can access a more expansive reading list here.
David W. Hursh: “The End of Public Schools”
Hursh analyzes the advancements of private foundations and principles on public education. He explains in depth the discussion about standardized testing, tenure, and charter schools. Hursh also elaborates on resistance efforts made by students and teachers.
Megan E. Tompkins-Strange: “Policy Patrons”
Tompkins Strange introduces the policy making process of four significant education philanthropies. She offers insight on the politics that act as the foundation for educational philanthropies and their effect on education reform. The author discusses the significant resistance made by student’s teachers, and parents across the country,
Jesse Hagopian: “More Than a Score”
Using essays, poems, speeches and interviews, Hagopian, a Seattle teacher, criticizes the motives of education reforms by stating that the people who are making decisions about education have little to no influence in the education realm.
Christopher Tienken and Donald Orlich: “The School Reform Landscape”
The authors take an in-depth look at free-market school reform over the last 60 years. They conclude that the efforts are built not upon empirical evidence, but instead on foundations of myth, fear, and lies.
Pierce criticizes the lack of accountability in funding charter schools with public money.
In a step-by-step analysis of why privatization is harmful, Greene accounts for the detrimental effects of over testing, who has all the power, and how those people turn education into profit.