Home > Uncategorized > Trump Fallout II – ESSA Funds Become Vouchers

Trump Fallout II – ESSA Funds Become Vouchers

Like many voters, I am still processing the election of Mr. Trump. Over the course of the coming weeks I will be writing several posts on the impact of his election to help me understand the consequences of the election on public education…. and I believe the consequences are dire.

Yesterday I wrote a post asserting that Mr. Trump’s election would mark the end of the ongoing ESSA debate about supplementing vs. supplanting of funds, essentially a debate over whether federal funds must be used for EQUITY purposes or may be used to offset state and local taxes. The debate will be over and the equity argument will lose. Given the results of this election, any regulations the Department attempts to put into place will likely be rejected by Congress or scrapped as soon as the new Secretary of Education is appointed.

This morning I read a post by Liz Dwyer from the Takepart website that suggests that the demise of the Department of Education might be a consequence of Mr. Tump’s election. The article does a good job of explaining why that might be the case, but also offers a compelling argument to NOT close the department:

…an analysis this September from the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund found that if the Deptarment of Education were dissolved, roughly 8 million low-income students would lose the Pell Grants they depend on to afford college, and “5 million children and students with disabilities would lose $12.7 billion used every year to ensure that they receive a quality education.”

In addition, “over 490,000 teacher positions could be eliminated—14 percent of K–12 public school teachers nationwide,” the center wrote in its analysis. “This would have a terrible effect on the U.S. economy. The loss of that many jobs would be like UPS—one of the country’s largest employers, with over 350,000 American workers—going out of business.”

The bottom line is that closing down the department would be a revenue killer (the USDOE benefits from the loan program) and job killer. But Ms. Dwyer DOES hit on a highly likely consequence: the advent of a federal voucher program:

As for what else Trump might do, vouchers and charters seem to be among his priorities for education policy. At the same October event where he made his remarks about downsizing the Department of Education, Paladino, who served as Trump’s cochairman in New York state, said that Trump would seek to “encourage competition in the marketplace and eventually dismantle the corrupted, incompetent urban school districts that we have in America today,” reported The Washington Post.

The first bullet on the education section of Trump’s campaign website says that his administration will “immediately add an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice. This will be done by reprioritizing existing federal dollars.”

“I assume he wants to turn Title I into a block grant to the states for charters, vouchers, or even public schools. That’s the $20 billion he promised to redirect to choice,” Ravitch wrote to TakePart. Title I is the federal program that provides funding to local school districts to improve the achievement of students from low-income families. A report on the issue released in September from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the private school choice programs may indeed prevent equitable services from being provided to all students.

But, as noted in yesterday’s post, equity is not on Mr. Trump’s radar and it was clearly NOT on the radar of the Republicans who drafted ESSA. Like Diane Ravitch, I expect to see $20,000,000 of Title One funds become de facto vouchers that can be used to fund non-public schools including religious schools and de-regulated for profit schools. Such a change could arguably take place without enabling legislation and even if legislation was needed it would probably fly through on the basis of “…giving states flexibility“– an argument even progressive legislators bought into despite the fact that 35 State Houses were controlled by Republicans. Once the federal government allows the diversion of public funds to sectarian schools it would give a green light to states to follow suit.

I am saddened to the diversion of tax funds to private schools of any kind, but especially sectarian schools. If parents can use publicly funded vouchers to send their children to sectarian schools their children will potentially be exposed only to like-minded classmates of the same economic background, the same race, and the same religious convictions… and that will move further away from being the UNITED States of America.

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