Nobody knows, of course, exactly what Donald Trump’s administration will mean for public schools, but for a balanced and insightful analysis, I urge you to read Valerie Strauss’s fine column from the Washington Post, Will Donald Trump Destroy U.S. Public Education? She begins:
“There’s a reason that people who care about public education in the United States are mightily worried about President-elect Donald Trump. There are, actually, a number of reasons—all of which lead to this question: Will Trump’s administration destroy U.S. public education? The short answer is that he can’t all by himself destroy America’s most important civic institution, at least not without help from Congress as well as state and local legislators and governors.”
Strauss believes that Congressional action last December demonstrated a firm rejection of federal overreach by Arne Duncan’s U.S. Department of Education: “(T)here is no appetite in the country for intense federal involvement in local education, which occurred during the Obama administration at such an unprecedented level that Congress rewrote the No Child Left Behind law—eight years late—so that a great deal of education policymaking power could be sent back to the states.”
What about Trump’s idea of a $20 billion block grant to help states privatize education? That is a real worry, says Strauss.
Strauss explains that today’s alarm among supporters of public education has been fed by what people have been watching now for fifteen years as policies of the federal government have in many ways begun to undermine the very concept of public schools: “That many people are worried that Trump could deliver a fatal blow to public schools speaks not only to his views and those of the people around him, but also to the past 15 years of school reform and the consequences of the policies promoted by… Bush’s No Child Left Behind law and Obama’s Race to the Top initiative and waivers to NCLB. Corporate school reform has led to standardized test-based ‘accountability’ as well as school ‘choice’ programs—pushed in part by billionaires who have made school reform a pet project….”
According to Strauss, “Not all choice supporters agree on every topic—Obama and many Democrats oppose vouchers but support charters, while Republicans are big supporters of voucher and voucherlike programs—but the trajectory of increased privatization in recent years is undeniable under both Republican and Democratic administrations. The growth of charter schools has drained many traditional public school systems where charters are located, and the charter sectors in a number of states—especially the for-profit charters—are severely troubled because of lack of sufficient oversight.”
What about opinion across the country? Strauss provides examples from last week’s election showing that voters’ views about market-based school choice are not in line with the educational philosophy of the person these same voters chose as our new president: “The irony of all this is that just as Trump is selecting an education secretary from a pool of pro-privatization candidates, voters in a number of states just expressed deep misgivings about unrestricted growth of school choice.”
Strauss cannot provide a firm answer to her question: Will Donald Trump destroy U.S. public education? But her solid analysis of where we stand right now is lucid and very helpful.