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Est. April 5, 2002
May 18, 2017 - Issue 699

Trump’s Downward Spiral
Reversing the Assault
Public Schools

"These unprecedented realities provide an
unforeseen occasion for public school
teachers and supporters to push back
aggressively against the state and federal
governments and corporate agenda to
privatize public education for profit."

President Donald Trump is on a downward spiral in his presidency as a function of his narcissism, arrogance, and his commitment to running the country as a CEO. He has made mistake after mistake, during his campaign and his first 100 days as President, yet he has always landed on his feet. In all instances, Trump’s opponents waited for his candidacy to unravel rather than to make a concerted effort to keep the “pedal to the metal.” They have neglected to keep the focus on his blatant mistakes and on organizing their allies to highlight them as well. Thus, Trump has been able to survive in spite of these miscues and to avoid a disassembling of his presidency. However, his sharing of classified information with our Russian adversaries and his alleged effort to stop former FBI Director James Comey’s investigation of Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, has opened up another opportunity for his removal from office.

This unique occurrence parallels the corrupt actions of the late President Richard Nixon’s Watergate escapades which placed the nation in a Constitutional crisis at the same time his Vice President, Spiro Agnew, abruptly resigned after it was discovered that he had taken bribes while in office. In short order, both Nixon and Agnew were replaced. The current scandal could lead to an executive branch déjà vu. In this instance, our nation could be forced to contend with another takedown of the nation’s primary leaders. But in this situation, the resignations might be linked since Vice President Michael Pence appears to have been joined at the hip with President Trump throughout his campaign and his brief presidency and has purportedly helped to cover up and/or outright lie about unethical and possibly criminal situations in the Trump campaign and administration.

David Gergen, political analyst and advisor to four U.S. Presidents, including Nixon and Clinton who faced impeachment, has concluded Trump is in "impeachment territory" for his recent termination of FBI Director James Comey and his meeting with two of Russia's top Foreign Service officers with whom he shared classified information.

These unprecedented realities provide an unforeseen occasion for public school teachers and supporters to push back aggressively against the state and federal governments and corporate agenda to privatize public education for profit. Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have devised a plan to give “…parents federal dollars to send their children to private schools, including religious and for-profit institutions” in addition to the ongoing funding for charter schools—shifting hundreds of billions of dollars into these schemes. Since the Trump administration is in disarray over the aforementioned issues and desperately hanging on for dear life, public education stakeholders have a chance to undermine the Trump-DeVos school privatization initiatives.

They will fortunately be aided by the current ideological divide that is engulfing the coalition of billionaires who have funded think tanks, foundations, grassroots organizations, political candidates, and elected officials at all levels of government to advance their school choice programs. They are turning against each other, and some are aligning with teachers’ unions, their erstwhile nemeses, to fight the school voucher component of the Trump-DeVos school choice privatization policies that allocates public dollars to private and religious schools. The billionaires believe that vouchers are a danger to public education.

Jonah Edelman, son of the iconic civil rights and public education advocate, Marian Wright Edelman, and co-founder and chief executive of the national pro-charter school organization, Stand for Children, has labeled the voucher proposals “… a dramatic effort to undermine public education.” Although charter schools are technically public schools, they basically operate like private and sectarian schools in that they have to adhere to few of the regulations governing traditional public schools. Due to these exemptions, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Arizona have some of the worst charter performers in the more than 40 states where they operate.

But the dirty little secret is that charter activists’ supposed commitment to public schools is predicated on the fact that charters receive, on average, about $5,000 more dollars per student (and in some states money for school construction) than voucher schools and allow for corporate investments. Wall Street hedge funders and financiers have heavily financed charters and have set up a string of national education management organizations—creating a number of chains—Green Dot, National Heritage Academies, White Hat Management Corporation, K12 Inc., Universal, and numerous others. Thus, charter opposition to vouchers is primarily based on money. Public education is being turned into a profit center, similar to what has occurred with jails, prisons, and college student loans.

The Trump administration’s current meltdown is an opportune time to move against his school privatization schemes and to contest those in states where school choice and other efforts to dismantle public education are rapidly expanding. In North Carolina, the Republican-controlled Senate has recently defunded STEM programs for at-risk students, the majority of whom are low-income African Americans, and stipends for teacher assistants, who are also largely minority, to assist them in completing their college degrees. (The subsidies could possibly be restored when the budget goes to the Assembly due to the ensuing controversy.)

The districts targeted are represented by two black Democrats, Sens. Erica Smith-Ingram and Angela Bryant. Their funding was switched to majority white districts to address the opioid epidemic in Republican-represented counties. This was punishment for Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, who extended the budget debate with a series of amendments during a late night Senate meeting. Some have also claimed that this retribution is likewise related to North Carolina’s draconian Voter ID law that was overturned by the 4th Circuit Appeals Court where three North Carolina judges of color sit.

Despite these challenges, now is the time for teachers and other public education backers to stand strong and advance their goals. They need to press their federal elected representatives to keep the pressure on Trump and to heighten the fight against the privatization of public schools in every state where they are under siege.

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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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
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