Sunday, November 27, 2016

Trump's Education Pick: Making American Public Schools Worse!

Just remember: Most voters rejected Donald Trump's vision of the United States. They rejected his rhetoric, his vile comments about women and minorities, and they don't want large tax cuts to the wealthy, a trade war with China or a Supreme Court that overturns hard won democratic victories for women, gays, and those that desperately need health insurance. They also rejected the far right's view that religious people should be able to discriminate in the name of God's love and that hate groups should have a seat at the country's table of power.

Donald Trump will, of course, not pay any attention to this. That's why we need to remind him at every turn that we are here and we will be loud. And by the way, Charles Blow is my new hero.

As Trump builds his cabinet, it's becoming clear that he is not a new Populist, but an old-style Republican with the added twist of not respecting the Constitution or his responsibility to be president 100% of the time, not part time so he can also sell his name on buildings. He also hasn't given a lot of thought about how his appointments will actually contradict what he ran on.

For example, his proposed choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos. Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency, her choice would have reflected a commitment to public schools with a mixture of Charter School policies sprinkled in. Ms. DeVos, however, has never taught in a classroom, doesn't have experience with public schools, doesn't have any political experience, and doesn't respect that public school teachers need representation and protection from a very political public school system. She begins with a firm commitment to school vouchers and Charter School, with public schools an afterthought. Oddly, she worked with Jeb Bush in Florida and is a fan of national standards, though not calling them Common Core. Her track record is terrible. Just what we need for education policy.

It's a very good thing that the federal government has no constitutional role in the public schools because both Arne Duncan, President Obama's Secretary of Education, and Ms. DeVos could do far greater damage. As it is, Ms. DeVos can try to guide policy towards more school competition, but she can't force districts to radically change their curricula or administration. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the choice of Ms. DeVos sends a message that the Secretary of Education need not have very much actual education experience. It's insulting to have someone foisted on you who knows less about education or what works in the classroom for students than you do. It's also a travesty that Ms. DeVos has little respect for the associations, such as the NEA, that continue to work hard to defend teachers against unwarranted interference and ensure that every education professional earns a livable salary and works in a safe, productive environment. Living through the Christie years here in New Jersey saw the education establishment fight for every scrap of respect and bargaining right we ever had. We won some and lost some major ones. We will fight, but it would be nice if we didn't have to.

Donald Trump and the new know-nothing Republicans he's appointed so far have a point-of-view that does not reflect the majority of voters in this country. They are anti-Muslim, supportive of far right wing hate groups, or just inexperienced to the point that they will be learning on the job for the first year, including the president-elect himself. Many of his supporters want to make America great again, when it's pretty great as it is.

It's a shame that we'll be taking three steps backward before we take one stride forward.

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