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Trump’s Wins, the Republican Split, and ESSA

March 2, 2016

As I read the headlines and synopses of the Super Tuesday results, it is increasingly evident that Donald Trump is likely to emerge as the standard bearer for the Republican party and, as a result, the Republican party is facing a major identity problem. Does the leadership of the party, which is decidedly conservative, endorse a prevaricating populist who unashamedly accepts the endorsements of hate groups like the KKK and promotes outlandishly conspiracy theories that are divisive and demonstrably false? The workaround for the so-called “party of Lincoln” might be to emphasize the areas where they can agree with Mr. Trump— and one idea both Mr. Trump and the Republican leadership agree on is the right of state governments and businesses to be unburdened of regulations set forth by the federal government.

While much has been and will be written about how government regulations stifle the growth of small businesses, little has been written about how the deregulation and opportunities for the expansion of privatization inherent in ESSA will have an adverse impact on equal opportunity for minorities and for children raised in poverty. The federal government’s failure to provide compensatory funding to financially challenged school districts, to aggressively enforce the 60 year old mandate to desegregate publicly funded institutions, or to reform the scandalous way post secondary education is funded through high interest loans that burden less advantaged students for decades has set back the advancement of equal opportunity that was set in motion when ESEA was originally enacted. Instead, states can now set standards for public education based on bogus curriculum frameworks and measured with flawed standardized tests. And when schools “fail”, the states can determine the consequences by replacing “government” schools with deregulated for-profit private charter schools who cherry-pick students, employ at-will inexperienced teachers, and operate without public oversight of their operations or funding.

Mr. Trump and the Republican establishment will have no problem agreeing in principle to the notion that government is the problem and states, rather than the federal government, should deal with complicated issues like income inequality, the unequal opportunities for those raised in poverty, and the budget challenges faced by urban areas beset with unemployment and closed factories. They will see eye-to-eye on whois responsible for these problems: it is the greedy union members and the lazy welfare recipients who are responsible for the budget overruns— not the corporations who closed factories in our country to take advantage of low wages and lax environmental standards elsewhere in the world.

In the end I fear that a Trump-Clinton contest will glide over the issue of federal regulations. The benefit of regulating institutions like schools and having them overseen by elected officials should be obvious to anyone who has followed the experience of Michigan where governors of both parties decided to “run government like a business”. Capitalism is predicated on the notion that businesses will fail. Democratic government is predicated on the belief that it cannot fail and must be supported by everyone…. and the Republican leadership, like it’s front-running candidate, sees government as a problem that must be eliminated.

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