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President Trump’s Appointments, Republican Actions Undercut Equity, Opportunity

February 9, 2017

When I entered public education as a career I did so with the conviction that public schools provided the best means to lift people out of poverty and into the middle class. In the late 1960s there was hope among those who shared this view that the provision of equal opportunity through quality schools would end racism, poverty, and injustice. This clearly did not come to pass in my lifetime and, based on Mr. Trump’s appointments and the actions of the newly installed Congress, it appears that we will be moving backward for the next two to four years. Here is a sick summary of the decisions made to date:

  • Betsy DeVos, an inexperienced anti-public school fundamentalist Christian is now Secretary of Education. Her “solution” to inequity is to provide vouchers for parents. This “solution” has been tried in several cities and states and has consistently failed to provide equity. Instead it has subsidized the tuitions to sectarian schools, for profit-charter schools, and schools that exclude students with special needs or whose “behavior” is unacceptable. If her agenda is implemented it will be a huge step backward for public schools.
  • Jeff Sessions, an Alabama politician with a track record of gutting legislation that attempted to provide equitable funding for impoverished African American children and working to deny voting rights to African Americans, is now the nation’s Attorney General. Any efforts to resolve funding inequities through legislation or the courts will cease.
  • Ben Carson, who believes that housing subsidies are unnecessary, is now the Head of the Department of Urban Development. Under his leadership, efforts by HUD to place low income housing in affluent communities will cease.
  • Amit Pai, who does not believe internet access is a utility, is now FCC chair. This makes it likely that the telecomm industry will be able to institute it’s tiered system of services which will make it impossible for low income parents to provide streaming for their children which, in turn, will limit schools serving children raised in poverty with the same kinds of technology-enhanced programs as children in affluent communities. As noted in a previous post, Mr. Pai has already suspended the implementation of a program instituted to subsidize the costs of high speed internet.
  • Mr. Trump’s administration, with the full support of Congress, has abandoned the requirement that federal funds be used to supplement State funds and not supplant them. This means that the original intention of federal funding, which was to compensate for deficiencies in state formulas that relied on property taxes, is eliminated.

These are the broad actions taken to date… and there are rumored changes to the laws for disabled children, social security, and health care that will make life even more challenging for those raised in poverty.

Despite the recent election and the recent actions by the new administration and Congress I still believe public education is the best means of achieving economic and racial justice and for uniting our country. And despite the negativity and divisiveness we are witnessing now I believe that in the long run voters will support politicians who strive to bring out the best in our citizens. My evidence for this belief is the work I have done and observed with grassroots  politics… namely school boards. I’ve seen school boards “taken over” in a stealth fashion by fundamentalist Christians, tax-cutting tea party members, and privatizers only to be brought “back to center” in a subsequent election cycle. In my State, New Hampshire, I’ve seen the Tea Party occupy the State House and legislature and then voted out. At all levels, voters disdain negativity and hate. Given the choice and the opportunity, voters prefer a harmonious and tolerant community and a state that provides a reasonable safety net for those who cannot help themselves.

In the coming months, I believe it is important to make certain voters realize that some actions are taking away their opportunities to vote, shredding the safety net that helps those less fortunate, and working to divide us. If the electorate sees this happening, I am confident they will take corrective action.

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