Monday, November 21, 2016

Education In a Trump Presidency: Reading Tea Leaves

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Trump didn't talk a whole lot about education during the campaign, but he said enough to give us a sense of the direction he wants to head. More vouchers, more charters and a modification or elimination of Common Core. "Choice," not Common Core. That pretty much sums it up.

If you want a model for the educational direction Trump plans to take us, look at Indiana, Mike Pence's state. As governor, Pence expanded vouchers and pushed aggressively for more charter schools. On the campaign trail, Trump proposed $20 billion in federal dollars for "choice." And though Trump used the "widows and orphans" appeal for charters and vouchers—helping out all those poor children trapped in "failing government schools"—it looks like the Trump/Pence approach will embrace vouchers for billionaires as well as paupers. According to Pence in September:
“Donald Trump and I both believe that every parent in America should be able to choose where their children go to school, regardless of their income and regardless of their area code, and public, private and parochial and faith-based schools on the list."
Close to 60 percent of Indiana children are eligible for vouchers. The number is only that low because that's as far as Pence has been able to expand it.

In Indiana, the average voucher is around $4,000 a year. That's not going to buy any poor kids entry into expensive, top flight private schools, but there should be lots of poorly funded, low-tuition religious schools that will be happy to fill their classrooms with poor voucher students.

Where will the $20 billion "school choice" money come from if Congress takes to the idea? Don't expect there to be new funding. That's not the Republican way. Take it from Title 1, maybe? After all, those poor kids won't need the extra Title 1 help if they're all being prepared to attend Harvard and Yale at the charter and private schools of their choice. From the SNAP (food stamp) program? "Let them eat choice!"

As for Common Core, it's already not so common nationally. It may not be very hard to brush it aside or modify it out of existence. Honestly, I wouldn't be sorry to see it go, unless it's replaced with something worse.

Another education-related issue is immigration. If Trump goes ahead with his plans to deport undocumented immigrants at anything like the number he has suggested — his latest figure is 3 million off the bat—the effect of his actions will reach into schools. Children with undocumented parents can find themselves deported or uprooted from their families to live with relatives or friends. Student "Dreamers" granted the right to stay in the country under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) could become easy targets of immigration sweeps.

Some school districts and institutions of higher education have promised not to cooperate with the Feds by giving them student data, and promise to stand behind their students, even, in some cases declaring their campuses sanctuaries. The whole thing could turn very ugly in schools very quickly, disrupting the educational environment for all students, creating a cloud of tension and fear. Some children could be kept home from school for fear of detection. And racial tensions are likely to be stirred up even further than they've already been stirred up by the election.

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