The Battle Over ESSA Rules Isn’t Over By a Long Shot!
As readers of this blog realize, I have long been dismayed over the passage of the misnomered “Every Student Succeeds Act” or ESSA. My primary concern over the passage of the bi-partisan bill was that it took public education off the table in the 2016 election and, for all intents and purposes, ensured the continuation of the test-and-punish reform movement that has dramatically increased the number of for-profit charter schools. But having read blurbs about the forthcoming change in Committee Chairs in the House like the one I read earlier this week in my daily Politico feed and countless articles about Senate Education Chair Lamar Alexander’s take on the rules proposed by the Obama administration I am getting the sickening feeling that the Republicans have once again hoodwinked the Democrats in crafting this bill… and if Mr. Trump gets elected it is conceivable that the gutting of public education will proceed at a breakneck pace.
Here are examples of the issues that are subject to different interpretations depending on who’s in the White House:
- Portability of Federal Funds: Some of the Republican legislators seem to think there is a way the Education Department could give a green light to the use of federal funds for private schools— including those with Religious affiliations. After reading about Mr. Trump’s ideas about the Federal role in public education, it is evidence that should he be elected and the House and Senate remain in the hands of his party we can expect an interpretation of the ESSA bill that allows for vouchers… and if there is any pushback, he’ll make sure that such a clarifying bill is passed with or without the support of the Democrats.
- Supplement versus Supplant: It is abundantly clear that the Republicans believe the ESSA law does NOT mandate that federal funds be used to supplement local funds. They do not see the federal role to be one of providing equalized opportunity. Rather, they are comfortable with federal funds being used to replace local funds and if that results in lower per pupil spending in districts serving poor children so be it.
- Regulation of For Profit education enterprises: Appallingly, Virginia Foxx, the House Education Chair in Waiting, saw nothing wrong with ITT’s behavior and thought the Obama administration was wrong to close them down to be “totally arbitrary”.
- More Tests, More Privatization, Less Regulation: This quote from Virginia Foxx gives me the idea that we will have more tests, more privatization, less regulation: “Having a Trump administration would be akin to having heaven on Earth” compared with “what we’ve gone through the last eight years” under the Obama administration.
I am not completely pleased with Ms. Clinton’s neoliberal “reform” record on public education but I absolutely dread what will happen to my colleagues who work in public education should Mr. Trump’s “heaven on earth” agenda ever see daylight. His interpretations of ESSA are different from those perceived by the Democrats who supported ESSA and the actions he takes to impose his will on public education once he is in office will be irreversible for years to come. The election in November won’t be about ESSA: it will be about how ESSA is implemented… and as bad as it will be for those states where the legislatures are beholden to privatizers, it will be even worse if Mr. Trump is elected.