Conservative America has never given up on segregating the country’s schools. Donald Trump has given them a free hand to do it.
Think tanks across the country have been working out a legal method to do so. It is proving effective. American schools are more segregated than they were in 1968.
The privatizing of education has been their long term goal for a number of different reasons. Some of these are financial, of course. Education is a market of tremendous value. The private sector is eager to gain a toehold.
Conservatives believe shrinking public education will further their goal of drastically reducing the public sector.
The school choice movement in America has a lot to do with racism, which does not express itself the same way it did in the Jim Crow era.
The Republicans used to support our public schools. Theodore Roosevelt was a great believer in it. But after the Civil Rights Act, everything changed.
A plan to win the votes of citizens who favored public aid for private schools because they opposed school integration began under Nixon. Lee Atwater’s infamous “Southern Strategy” to get Reagan reelected in 1984 was a natural continuation of that plan.
Privatization also undermines teacher unions, a key base of support for the Democratic Party. We saw this all over the Midwest in 2010, most notably under Scott Walker. He used a scummy, lousy back door bill to cripple the school system there. Libraries stand dark and empty. Music rooms have fallen silent. Art rooms that serve no function save the collecting of dust and wistful memory.
Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education who is widely perceived as being Trump’s worst Cabinet pick, is from a family that has contributed millions of dollars to the cause of school choice and unregulated charter expansion throughout Michigan.
Millions of our nation’s public schoolchildren will be adversely affected by her policies at the Department of Education. Recent studies have shown us that they are likely to have disparate effects on public schools that serve a majority of black and Latino students.
Voucher schools end up sapping money from the public schools. This is because they must legally accept, but not keep, any student who doesn’t suit their often-arbitrary standards. They kick the unwanted kids out, and keep the money budgeted to the school for their accommodation. These funds do not follow the child to the public school they are reassigned to.
Their education is to be paid for at the expense of both parents and the public system. This is one of the ways in which voucher programs divert much-needed public funding and students from public schools to private institutions that do not have the same accountability guidelines and that do not serve as many children with special needs.
By the time the vouchers and the charters get done cashing their checks, there are few funds left for public schools.
DeVos, in particular, has championed vouchers — publicly funded credits parents can use to send their kids to the school of their choosing Many of those schools are charter schools, private schools, or magnet schools.
Schools in less affluent areas are getting increasingly short-changed by the states and localities that fund them. In March of 2015, the richest 25 percent of school districts were receiving 15.6 percent more funds from state and local governments per student than the poorest 25 percent of school districts, according to the federal Department of Education.
In Midwestern red states, particularly Wisconsin under Scott Walker, the entire public school system has been gutted. This has manifested constantly since 2010.
During the spring of 2013 the ACES Xavier Educational System rebranded as the St. Francis Xavier Catholic School System, and was alloted Wisconsin taxpayer money. This marked the first time state funds were allowed to flow to private, predominantly religious schools.
This is a clear case of the Koch network goal to bring about the circumvention of the doctrine of separation of church and state. Every time they are able to gain access to federal funds for religious organizations, they tacitly gain legal recognition.
Likewise, leaders of the religious right recently started demanding federal benefits for churches hit by Hurricane Harvey, even as the cleanup started. As with school choice, it seems innocuous enough. But actually it represents a highly significant milestone in their plan to lay waste the First Amendment. They have preparing groundwork to lay claim to public funds for a long time.
If they can gain a toehold by getting legal recognition collecting federal money, they can slowly worm their way into positions of influence in a government they are legally forbidden to enter. And they can get the people of the state to demand it on their behalf, through the guise of things like protecting their cherished offspring from dreaded “government schools”- and the inner-city kids who attend them.
Matt Kussow, executive director of the Wisconsin Council for Religious and Independent Schools, estimates that between 130 and 150 private schools are “seriously looking” at trying to join the statewide program.
In 2011, close to 80 percent of the nation’s African-American students were enrolled in public, mostly minority schools, according to a report released by The Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The percentage of students majoring in education has dropped to almost nothing. The idea of holding a job as a teacher these days is becoming increasingly unpalatable in the Midwest and elsewhere.
The teacher shortage has gotten progressively worse, particularly in rural areas. Things have descended to the point where anyone with a bachelor’s degree can get a job as a teacher in Wisconsin. Nothing like mandatory classroom time or training for special ed is required anymore. It’s easy to get a license for life without tough requirements. Competence standards have lowered tremendously.
Meanwhile, down South in Kentucky, Republicans have been trying to bring racial segregation back to schools by getting a bill designed to regulate education in places passed in the state’s House of Representatives.“It will rebuild our communities,” he wrote in an article for in the Courier Journal. “It will, after four lost decades, reconnect those two things that never should have been disconnected in the first place — neighborhoods and their schools.”
The effect this so-called “school choice” bill could have on students of color is of such concern that the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives recently called for a moratorium on any participating school.
Historically black colleges and universities(HBCU’s) were formed in the face of just this type of systemic discrimination. African-American students were excluded from many white institutions, particularly in the South. Alternatives did not exist for the future of their education. Choice was not an option.
Betsy DeVos, however, thinks they are a great example of school choice. She recently released a statement praising the schools for their innovation.
“They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution. HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”
The system” that wasn’t working at the time was Jim Crow-era segregation.
DeVos was pressed during her confirmation process on school desegregation policies.Her answer was “I do not support programs that would lead to increased segregation”. The record proves clearly that the opposite is true.
Even for students enrolled in schools of choice, it’s not much better. In Detroit, kids who depend on Detroit’s problematic public transit are too far away from the state’s top-performing school districts to make attendance there feasible. And most of those districts don’t participate in the schools of choice program anyway.
This is no accident. It was created by an ideological lobby that has fanatically promoted free-market education reform for decades. At the center of that lobby is the Koch network, and the DeVos family.
This trend of heading forward to a devoid educational wasteland is deeply dysfunctional. Failure is being rewarded among students, faculty, and system. Opportunities for expansion and “choice” have proven to mean the reverse for thousands of children.
Moving forward, we have to examine and adapt working models to other parts of the country, and draw public attention to a logical plan that makes sense. As it works, there’s a wonderful and scarcely-mentioned alternative gaining momentum and getting results.
The Controlled Choice Policy began in 1980 when the Cambridge School Committee voted to desegregate the schools by moving away from a neighborhood schools model.
San Francisco has a city-wide controlled choice model with no school boundaries and algorithmic school placement. The resulting educational diversity has created one of the highest quality urban school systems in the country.
Controlled Choice is designed to create diverse, academically rigorous schools with equal access to educational resources.
Research has shown that a student body comprised of the whole spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds produces the best educational outcomes. Both overall and for students at every socioeconomic level.
It’s genius. And it’s been proven to work already. The answer to the education problem has already been solved. All we Democrats have to do now is to make sure the people notice it.