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Update on the GOP Platform III: The Bible, Sex, and the Constitution

November 28, 2017 Comments off

This is the third of three posts providing an update on the implementation of the GOP’s education platform using Politico’s synopsis of the elements of the 2016 Republican Platform that pertain to education with my assessment of progress made in bold red italics:

— On the Bible and abstinence: “A good understanding of the Bible being indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry, we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools,” the platform says. Republicans say that “family planning” programs for teens should be replaced with abstinence education. And they oppose “school-based clinics that provide referral or counseling for abortion and contraception.” As noted in some blog posts, several states and school boards are encouraging direct instruction on the Bible and several states have introduced ESAs that can be used for sectarian schools. Abstinence is also back on the front burner, with Betsy DeVos’ supporting “Just Say No To Sex” programs and the GOP’s efforts to pass legislation that makes it impossible for schools to offer counseling or Planned Parenthood to survive. We ARE witnessing the elimination of separation of church and state, sex education, and Planned Parenthood leaflets in the school nurses office.

— On White House directive on transgender students’ rights: The platform says the guidance, which requires schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom or locker room that matches their gender identity, is “at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues.” Republicans said they “salute the several states which have filed suit against it.” Advances in transgender rights supported by the US government are under fire across all agencies, including the armed forces where an executive order attempted to ban them from serving. Fortunately the tide has turned on this issue in most parts of the country, including in the boardrooms of corporations. It will be interesting to see if this plank of the platform is emphasized as much in 2020.

— On changing the U.S. constitution: The platform calls for a constitutional amendment protecting the right of parents to direct their children’s education, care and upbringing “from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations.” As noted in previous posts, this shift is underway in several states where ESA legislation is in place or being passed providing a means for tax dollars to be used to fund sectarian schools. In the meantime, USDOE is staying on the sidelines in suits brought against states who are enacting these bills. As I cynically noted in my earlier post assessing where the USDOE was headed: hello Christian madrases, good bye to “government schools”

Update on the GOP Platform II: K-12 Education

November 27, 2017 Comments off

This is the second of three posts providing an update on the implementation of the GOP’s education platform using Politico’s synopsis of the elements of the 2016 Republican Platform that pertain to education with my assessment of progress made in bold red italics:

— On school choice: Republicans are, unsurprisingly, very supportive of school choice, “especially … innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tuition tax credits.” The platform specifically cites the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program as “a model for the rest of the country” that should be expanded. “We deplore the efforts of Congressional Democrats and the current President to eliminate this successful program for disadvantaged students in order to placate the leaders of the teachers’ unions,” the platform says. As noted in multiple blog posts, in virtually every state with GOP legislatures legislation enabling the creation of ESAs has passed and in states where the GOP controls the statehouse the Governors have appointed Commissioners who support deregulated for profit schools and, in some cases, the use of tax dollars to pay tuition to sectarian schools. In those same states, legislatures are enacting bills that undercut union membership. As noted in my original post, affluent communities who are more than willing to pay for their kids to get a good education are unaffected by this shift in funding.

— On testing and the Common Core: Republicans “congratulate” states that have “repealed” the academic standards. And on testing, they find some common ground with Democrats: The platform rejects “excessive testing and ‘teaching to the test’ but supports the need for strong assessments to serve as a tool so teachers can tailor teaching to meet student needs.” The platform also encourages “instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers.” As is often the case, platforms try to have things both ways. In this case, the GOP wants to eliminate “excessive testing” while retaining “strong assessments to serve as a tool. The bottom line on this is that standardized tests are being retained as the primary metric for school success. As for “instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers”, State legislatures are likely awaiting model legislation from ALEC on how to mandate instruction on the constitution and American exceptionalism.

— On teachers: The platform says teachers should be “protected against frivolous lawsuits and should be able to take reasonable actions to maintain discipline and order in the classroom … Rigid tenure systems should be replaced with a merit-based approach in order to attract the best talent to the classroom. All personnel who interact with school children should pass background checks and be held to the highest standards of personal conduct.” The USDOE is taking steps to encourage tougher discipline in schools, mostly by ignoring civil rights violations that might have resulted in investigations under the Obama administration. The GOP legislators in Washington and across the country continue to introduce legislation that makes teachers at will employees and requires de facto moral codes for teachers.

— On K-12 spending: Republicans say the Education Department has spent more than $2 trillion dollars “with little substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates.” The platform supports the notion of Title I portability, which Republicans failed to include in a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. “We propose that the bulk of federal money through Title I for low-income children and through IDEA for children with special needs should follow the child to whatever school the family thinks will work best for them,” the platform says. The GOP budget appears to encourage the creation of “block grants” in lieu of the current format that allocates categorical funds. This approach is being used across the nation as states abandon efforts to ensure “adequate education funding” (see recent post on South Carolina, for example). With no push from USDOE for equity and GOP legislators intent on using the budget to accomplish changes that were not achieved through legislation (i.e. the repeal of “Obamacare”), expect to see funding “following the child” in the future.

Update on the GOP Platform I: Colleges and Universities

November 26, 2017 Comments off

In November of last year I wrote a post lamenting the fact that President Trump selected Rance Priebus to be his chief of staff. I was concernd because as the former head of the GOP, I believed Mr. Priebus would be pushing for the adoption of the GOP’s education platform. In the intervening months Mr. Preibus has fallen by the wayside, but the GOP’s education platform is alive and well and is advancing without Mr. Priebus’ interventoin at the White House. This is the first of three posts providing an update on the implementation of the GOP’s education platform using Politico’s synopsis of the elements of the 2016 Republican Platform that pertain to education with my assessment of progress made in bold red italics:

— On campus sexual assault: The Obama administration’s crackdown on campus sexual assaults has distorted Title IX “to micromanage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse,” the platform says. Republicans said that sexual assault reports should be resolved only by law enforcement, rather than by university officials. This has been accomplished with a stroke of Betsy DeVos’ pen. Some campuses welcomed the change, but many stated their intention to retain the standards they adopted in response to the Obama “crackdown”.

— On student loans: Republicans called for ending the federal direct student loan program and restoring greater “private sector participation in student financing.” Even though this will undermine a revenue stream for USDOE, the current GOP budget calls for a marked reduction in loans and includes a plan to increase revenues by ending tax deductions for student loans. Making matters even worse, graduate students will be required to pay taxes on the “compensation” they receive for fellowships and parents who teach in college will have to pay taxes on any in-kind scholarships their children receive. Make no mistake, the GOP does not like or value academics.

— On college accreditation: The platform says that “accreditation should be decoupled from federal financing.” And it also echoes some of the accreditation overhaul ideas that lawmakers like Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have proposed. The document says, for example, that “states should be empowered to allow a wide array of accrediting and credentialing bodies to operate.” Such a model, the platform says, would “foster innovation, bring private industry into the credentialing market, and give students the ability to customize their college experience.” This has come to pass at the state level thanks to the USDOE’s interpretation of ESSA and thanks, too, to Betsy DeVos’ decision to back off on USDOE suits brought against deregulated for profit schools.

— On for-profit education: “We need new systems of learning to compete with traditional four-year schools,” the platform says. “Technical institutions, online universities, life-long learning, and work-based learning in the private sector.” See above…  

— On recent campus protests and student activism: As it has in previous years, the platform laments “political indoctrination” on college campuses. This year, the document specifically criticizes “zones of intellectual intolerance or ‘safe zones” — adopting the term that some student activists have used to describe spaces on campus where marginalized students feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues. Some conservatives have said such efforts keep out contrary viewpoints and infringe on students’ free speech rights. “Colleges, universities, and trade schools must not infringe on their freedom of speech and association in the name of political correctness,” the platform says. The war on “political correctness” continues while unbridled racist, sexist, and xenophobic insults persist. President Trump’s reaction to the confrontations in Charlottesville VA underscored this change in direction from the top. Unfortunately some campuses have reacted badly, blocking the free speech of academics whose views are distasteful which reinforces the Alt Right’s contention that “political correctness” is a form of totalitarian thinking.