Public Education Left Behind in Presidential Election… and ESSA is the Reason Why
New Yorker writer Rebeccas Mead’s article poses a question in it’s title that has a clear and unequivocal answer: “Did Trump and Clinton Get a Pass on Education?” After several paragraphs describing other columnists’ speculation about the appropriate grade level to assign to Mr. Trump’s outbursts, she writes:
Fifty million children are enrolled in public schools in the U.S., yet in none of the debates was there any discussion of the areas of concern that have occupied educators and parents in recent years: the Common Core, teacher evaluation, standardized testing, or the effective segregation of schools in many parts of the country, including in New York City.
Mr. Mead then recounts the marked differences between the two candidates, with Mr. Trump reinforcing out the notion that public schools should compete in an open market. He also rolled out a host of conservative taking points on education from the Reagan years:
“Competition always does it,” he said. “The weak fall out and the strong get better. It is an amazing thing.” He advocated merit pay for teachers, stated his opposition to Common Core, and spoke in favor of charter schools and against teachers’ unions.
Ms. Mead summarized Ms. Clinton’s talking points as well, and they were full of high minded promises like “preparing, supporting, and paying every child’s teacher as if the future of our country is in their hands,” and
“…funding to increase the teaching of computer science;…fund(ing) the rebuilding of school infrastructure… address(ing) the so-called school-to-prison pipeline,… and fund(ing) interventions in social and emotional learning, to the tune of two billion dollars.”
One question that both candidates would agree on, though, is the promise of for-profit-deregulated-charter-schools, with Mr. Trump inevitably championing them as a means of “breaking up the public school monopoly” while Ms. Clinton would tiptoe around the issue by rattling off a list of such schools that have achieved success and suggesting that it’s too early to foreclose that option…. to sort of answer she’s given on the DAPL, Keystone XL, and TTP.
Mr. Mead accurately cites the reason for the failure of education to emerge as a Presidential issue: the bi-partisan ESSA bill:
The next President, whoever she is, will in any case have a smaller role to play in determining education policy than did her predecessor: the bipartisan Every Child Succeeds Act, which reduces the role of federal government in decisions related to schools, and grants larger autonomy to the states, was signed into law by President Obama almost a year ago.
And ESSA’s restoration of state control means that retrogressive States in the Deep South and Rust Belt will continue their practice of de-funding public education, relentlessly testing children at all grade levels, and offering deregulated charters as the solution to “failing schools”. Meanwhile, the real losers in this country are those who are not old enough to vote. They’ve witnessed a nasty and insubstantial Presidential campaign that failed to address the deplorable and increasingly segregated schools many children attend, the change in climate that they will face, and the need to fund the infrastructure that enabled their parents to experience a great childhood.