Trump X: Money Follows the Child, School Boards Replaced by Corporate Boards, “Government Schools” Handle Those Left Behind
Yesterday Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss turned over her space to Carol Burris, who wrote a chilling vision of the future of public education under President-elect Trump, a vision that seems plausible given VP-elect Mike Pence’s history as Governor and the thinking of the Republican Party.
In Ms. Burris’ words, Mr. Trump intends to replace a Race to the Top with a Race to the Bank, with deregulated for profit schools, existing sectarian private schools, and a host of virtual education “products” competing for “portable” student vouchers that are provided to families with children. The existing “government schools”, which as Ms. Burris notes are not run by “the government” in most districts but instead overseen by local school boards, would be left to manage those students whose parents have limited funds (because the vouchers wouldn’t pay the full cost for the better schools) and/or the students who failed to succeed in the private charters.
And Ms. Burris does more than conjecture about this scenario. She offers Indiana as a case study for how this worked under then Governor Mike Pence:
Portability, vouchers and charter schools have been hallmarks of Pence’s education policy as governor of Indiana. Unlike the Trump-Pence website, which frames choice as a “civil rights” initiative, Governor Pence did not limit vouchers to low-income families. He expanded it to middle-income families and removed the cap on the number of students who can apply.
It was promised that vouchers would result in savings, which then would be redistributed to public schools. What resulted, however, was an unfunded mandate. The voucher program produced huge school spending deficits for the state — a $53 million funding hole during the 2015-16 school year alone. That deficit continues to grow.
The “money follows the student” policy has not only hurt Indiana’s public urban schools, it has also devastated community public schools in rural areas — 63 districts in the Small and Rural Schools Association of Indiana have seen funding reduced, resulting in the possible shutdown of some, even after services to kids are cut to the bone.
In contrast, charters have thrived in Indiana with Pence’s initiatives of taxpayer-funded, low-interest loan, and per-pupil funding for nonacademic expenses. For-profit, not-for-profit and virtual schools are allowed. Scams, cheating scandals and political payback have thrived, as well. Former Indiana education commissioner Tony Bennett was forced to resign as the commissioner of Florida after it was discovered that he had manipulated school rating standards to save an Indiana charter school operated by a big Republican donor who gave generously to Bennett’s campaign.
So in the brave new world envisioned by Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence, the “socialist” schools overseen by locally elected volunteer board members would be replaced by faceless board members hand-picked by oligarchs who operate de-regulated charter school chains. Good-bye public education as envisioned by the beloved founders….