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Est. April 5, 2002
April 27, 2017 - Issue 696

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Trump’s One Hundred Day
Assault on Public Education

"Trump’s Wall Street education reform allies have been
central to his war on public education.  They were
major contributors to his presidential campaign and are
heavy investors in charter schools, charter management
companies, education testing and publishing corporations,
etc., where they have been realizing regular profits and
hope to hit the jackpot with Trump’s privatization
agenda for public education."

President Donald Trump has orchestrated a 100 day attack on public education. Of the numerous promises that he made during his presidential campaign, he is closest to achieving those he made to privatize public education. His appointment of Betsy DeVos as his education secretary was one of his first steps in that direction. A bona fide member of the billionaire corporate education Cartel, she has been a long-term advocate of vouchers, regular and corporate charter schools, and making public dollars available for corporate experiments in public education. In addition, Trump has made his billionaire cronies integral parts of his presidential cabinet.

Furthermore, as soon as he upset Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, Trump began to pit members of the African American community against each other. After Congressman John Lewis stated that he would not attend Trump’s inauguration, Trump quickly summoned Martin Luther King III to Trump Tower under the pretense that he was open to reassessing his views on voting rights. Martin III was na´ve enough to accept this invitation despite Trump’s nomination of Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, for Attorney General, who has dedicated his life to obstructing African American rights to register and vote. As expected, nothing came of the meeting except Trump’s ability to ‘clap back’ at Congressman Lewis.

Trump then selected the rapper Kanye West (who had been recently released from a hospital psych ward) to represent the views of the national black community. His Cartel colleagues had already contributed more than $100 million to a series of national African American civil rights and social justice organizations -- the National Urban League (NUL), the NAACP, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to solicit their help in promoting school choice. In his desire to embarrass former President Obama, Trump invited HBCU presidents (with whom Obama had never met with as a group) to the White House during the first two weeks of his administration with a promise to charge his cabinet secretaries with making HBCU subsidies a priority in their budgets, increase HBCU funding from the executive branch, and to move the HBCU initiative to the White House from the Department of Education where he would have direct control.

During the two minute ceremony, when the HBCU presidents were gathered around his desk, Trump signed an executive order moving the HBCU initiative to the White House, while Kellyanne Conway, his assistant, sat on the Oval Office couch with her knees tucked under her playing on her phone, disregarding the dog and pony show altogether. But most disconcerting was Secretary DeVos’s instantaneous press release asserting that HBCUs were the original school choice institutions (which she had to retract). When Trump submitted his budget a few weeks later, HBCU funding upgrades were omitted altogether. He had used the HBCU presidents for photo op purposes.

DeVos has been the perfect general of Trump’s school choice army. She is ignorant, in general, and lacks any knowledge or interest in K-12 public education. And she is willing to attack anyone who opposes her rabid school choice views and to leave no stone unturned in advancing voucher and charter schools. In the face of stern opposition from teachers and other public education stakeholders, DeVos charges ahead like a bull in a china shop. Trump is so impressed with her single-mindedness and tenacity that he is continuing to arrange for her to visit voucher, charter, and public schools throughout the nation despite the intense pushback.

Shortly after her confirmation, DeVos ventured out in Washington, D.C. where she was warmly received by the pro-school choice chancellor of schools while community residents and parents protested her presence; she then flew to Miami, Florida, where she visited voucher and charter schools and Florida International University (FIU). At the invitation of Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Secretary DeVos dropped in on a public school in Van Wert, Ohio before she was confirmed. Weingarten guilelessly believed that this drive by stopover would soften DeVos’s more than three decades of opposition to public education.

Trump has also reached out to Gov. Chris Christie and his Democratic sidekick, George Norcross, in New Jersey to schedule a DeVos visit to the Camden and/or Trenton Public Schools—the state’s primary districts being prepared for corporate takeover (Christie is trying to repair his relationship with the President since being passed over for a cabinet appointment). North Carolina which has substantially expanded its voucher and charter system is on the calendar as well.

Trump’s Wall Street education reform allies have been central to his war on public education. They were major contributors to his presidential campaign and are heavy investors in charter schools, charter management companies, education testing and publishing corporations, etc., where they have been realizing regular profits and hope to hit the jackpot with Trump’s privatization agenda for public education. Include in this cabal are Anthony Scaramucci (CEO, Skybridge Capital), who has been a frequent Trump defender on national TV; Steve Einhorn (CEO, Capital Midwest Fund); Lloyd Blankfein (CEO, Goldman Sachs); Leon Cooperman (CEO, Omega Partners); and Dan Loeb (CEO, Third Point) among many others. These billionaires and multi-millionaires are preparing to ‘pig out’ at the Trump education trough.

Finally, newly minted Justice Neil Gorsuch can be counted on to rule for the private sector in forthcoming SCOTUS cases. Trump also has twenty openings on the U.S. Appeals Courts. These appointments will be central to challenging and overturning longstanding decisions that support public- and private-sector unions. He is hoping to rein in the 4th and 9th Circuits where anti-voting rights cases have been overturned, Obamacare has been upheld, and the Muslim ban has been stopped in its tracks, respectively.

Teachers in particular will be targets of right-to-work (RTW) legislation as it is moving through state legislatures at a breakneck pace, with Iowa and Kentucky joining this group since Trump’s election. The aforementioned judicial selections will likely determine the future of public education along with possibly one, and maybe two, more SCOTUS appointments during Trump’s term.

This mauling of public education and the overall public sector could change the trajectory of our nation, leading us into a 21st century-type post-Reconstruction.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 

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David A. Love, JD
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