Sunday, September 11, 2016

Let's Make Sure The Future Of American Education Is NOT Trump University


Last week you may have caught Señor Trumpanzee's telepromter speech in Cleveland on education. You could tell it was read from a teleprompter because he sounded like he was on Ambien and because he didn't say he would model the American education system on Trump University. Instead he pushed the charter school industry's privatization agenda. Trumpanzee spoke at a dismally failing charter school, Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, owned by crooked for-profit charter school fanatic Ron Packard. The school received a D for Performance Index, a composite of scores across multiple grades and subjects that Ohio uses to summarize results, and an F in value-added, a measure of student growth and academic progress over a school year. Packard and others trying to dismantle the public school system and privatize it, always call their efforts-- as Señor Trumpanzee did-- "educational choice." Trump pandered shamelessly-- and, of course, deceitfully-- to poor parents promising them the world if they would just back charter schools. He promised to immediately subsidize poor families with a $20 billion grant. I didn't hear a peep out of Ryan or McConnell. Did you?

What Trumpanzee said sounded so innocuous: "It’s simply a matter of putting students first, and not the education bureaucracy" while he emphasized the importance of competition in education and how parents should be able to choose the public, private or charter school of their choice for their children.

Dr. Andre Perry, writing yesterday for The Root wasn't having any of Trump's slick charter school industry sloganeering.
The Republican presidential nominee and founder of Trump University accused Democrats of trapping black and Hispanic youth in failing public schools and offered the postern door of school choice through a proposed block grant, voucher-like program in which per pupil expenditures would follow students to the school of their parents’ liking.

“I want every single inner-city child in America who is today trapped in a failing school to have the freedom, the civil right to attend the school of their choice,” Trump said in his Sept. 8 speech.

The philosophical basis for Trump’s policy should sound familiar. It seems to come out of the playbooks of both Republican and Democrat reformers who advocate for vouchers and/or charter schools. Charter and voucher advocates may distance themselves from the nuclear Trump and his policies, but they will have a hard time distancing themselves from his rhetoric, which reveals how gamey the word “choice” is.

After 25 years of having charter schools, it’s clearer that “educational choice” is dangling bait for black and brown parents who are desperate for change. But its becoming even easier through the thin veil of choice rhetoric to see choice policies have found ways to primarily deconstruct the “monopoly” on public schools-- not address structural inequalities that generate disparate educational outcomes.

Like many education reformers, Trump argues an estimated $620 billion spent on public funding has not translated to educational success, but for the Republican nominee it shows “obviously Common Core doesn’t work.” Notwithstanding the bad coupling of a three year-old Common Core program to decades of public education policy and not giving Common Core a reasonable amount of time to prove itself, Trump asserts parents’ power of the purse would drive improvement through competition if only they had the money. Parents who make the best possible choices for their children would naturally put failing schools out of business.

If that was only true of the school in which he gave his speech – CASSA received a “D” on its Performance Index and an “F” in value-added, a growth measure over a school year. Nevertheless to encourage choice, Trump’s first budget, if elected, would include an additional $20 billion that will be raised by “reprioritizing existing federal dollars” to create a block grant that would be dedicated to “the 11 million school-aged kids living in absolute poverty.” States would be given the option of allowing those dollars to follow the child.

Families could then use their tuition dollars to attend any school of their choice including private, traditional, magnet or charter. But Trump forgot the tiny detail that schools often do the choosing-- even among public schools-- which obviously limits families’ choices. Voucher programs provide insight in this regard. The most selective privates in eligible cities across the country don’t participate in voucher programs.

Students are then left with mediocre options that give the illusion of choice like the school in which he gave his speech. Many private and faith-based schools would close without the public subsidy (“welfare,” for the cynical). Again, research on voucher programs is showing that students in certain states are performing worse than if they attended a public school. Giving students options is not the same as giving families economic and social power, which really empowers parents the influence to enter systems of their wishes.

Most if not all black folk, who poll as supporting Trump at less than 1 percent, see Trump as a hustler, racist and bigot. Still, the choice lobby, which includes charter and voucher advocates, spews choice as fluently as Trump.

Black and brown parents are raring for change. Academic outcomes among black and brown students pale in comparison to their potentials. Black and brown suspension and expulsion rates show our appetite for punishing children. Students often learn in substandard buildings and are not afforded curricula that give them a chance to succeed in college.

Black folks’ outstretched desperation for quality schools and equity is longer than the history of public education itself. Polling done by choice advocates support this basic thirst for change, and they point to that research to make the case for reform. Just like Trump said, “What do you have to lose?”

But let’s be clear; parents may want choice, but they need the power to make the school in their neighborhood great. Black communities don’t need used-car salespeople; they need great transportation and schools. Neither children nor schools should be comparable to jean shopping. An aside-- descendants of the enslaved know too well that people are not commodities. Still, black folks are sold choice as a form of justice.

When you hear someone use the term “choice” like Trump, don’t buy what they’re selling.

Trump showed us the difference between courting and pimping the black community-- the use of the term choice.

Kevin Chavous is a major charter school whore who is always trotted out by the DeVos people as an African-American Democrat. He makes a point of not being a Trumpist but insisted "his speech on school choice demonstrates that he is giving serious thought to education issues and I strongly challenge Hillary Clinton to do the same. As a lifelong Democrat and education reformer, I urge Hillary Clinton to show more openness and creativity when it comes to embracing school reform, choice and charter schools. So far Mrs. Clinton has largely been a representative of the interests of teachers’ unions and the status quo, which is in opposition to parents and students and will serve to be on the wrong side of history."

Recently, Harold Meyerson did an OpEd for the L.A. Times, How The Charter School Lobby Is Changing The Democratic Party showing how charter school lobbies have become a conduit for a lot of right-wing money being funneled into Democratic primaries in California and New York where they can't get a Republican elected. "At a time when Democrats and their party are, by virtually every index, moving left, a powerful center-right pressure group within the liberal universe has nonetheless sprung up," he wrote. "Funded by billionaires and arrayed against unions, it is increasingly contesting for power in city halls and statehouses where Democrats already govern. That’s not how the charter school lobby is customarily described, I’ll allow, but it’s most certainly what it’s become."
In California, political action committees funded by charter school backers have become among the largest donors to centrist Democratic state legislators who not only favor expanding charters at the expense of school districts, but also have blocked some of Gov. Jerry Brown’s more liberal initiatives.

In New York’s upcoming primary, such longtime charter supporters as Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a PAC seeking to unseat several Democratic legislators who’ve defended the role and budget of traditional public schools.

In future decades, historians will have to grapple with how charter schools became the cause celebre of centrist billionaires-- from Walton to Bloomberg to Broad-- in an age of plutocracy. The historians shouldn’t dismiss the good intentions behind the billionaires’ impulse: the desire to provide students growing up in poverty with the best education possible. But neither should they dismiss their self-exculpation in singling out the deficiencies, both real and exaggerated, of public education as the central reason for the evisceration of the middle class.

  If Wal-Mart, the corporation from which Walton derives her wealth, hadn’t compelled its suppliers to make their products abroad to reduce the price of their goods, more public school students’ parents might have the kind of stable employment and adequate incomes that foster learning-friendly upbringings. Despite the fact that our traditional ladders of mobility-- decent blue-collar and service sector jobs, unions, cross-class marriages-- have largely collapsed, seemingly sentient billionaires insist that teachers and their unions are the main obstacles blocking young people’s escape from poverty.

The poor, or their tribunes, don’t necessarily agree. In the past couple of weeks, both the Movement for Black Lives (50 organizations active in the Black Lives Matter movement) and the NAACP passed resolutions declaring that charter schools increase segregation and leave school districts with both fewer resources and a more challenging student body. While many in minority communities dispute these views, there’s clearly some real skepticism about the merits of charterizing education among the very people it purports to help.

...[C]harter advocates don’t need to win the high-visibility offices to prevail. By spending sufficiently to shift the composition of Democratic caucuses in legislatures, city councils or school boards to the right, they can undermine public education. Whether they mean to or not, by backing more conservative Democrats, they can also impede unrelated progressive initiatives for greater environmental protections and worker rights. And by making Democratic elected officials even more dependent on the mega-donations of the 1%, they make campaign finance reform all the harder to win.

In their mix of good intentions and self-serving blindness, the billionaire education reformers have much in common with some of the upper-class progressives of a century ago, another time of great wealth and pervasive poverty. Some of those progressives, in the tradition of Jane Addams, genuinely sought to diminish the economy’s structural inequities, but others focused more on the presumed moral deficiencies and lack of discipline of the poor. Whatever the merits of charters, the very rich who see them as the great equalizer are no closer to the mark than their Gilded Age predecessors who preached temperance as the answer to squalor.
Goal Thermometer That's why Blue America has been urging progressives to find out where candidates for local offices stand in regard to public education. Earlier today we celebrated the primary victories of Mike Connolly in Massachusetts and Eloise Reyes in California. Mike beat an entrenched incumbent who has voted to expand for-profit charter school in Massachhusetts, something Mike campaigned against. Similarly, Eloise's opponent has been bought off by the charter school lobbyists, while Eloise is a firm supporter of public schools and for expanding free education on the college level. She pointed me to an OpEd by Ken Pennington in yesterday's Guardian, High school is free in the US. College should be too.
Conservatives have pushed for-profit education schemes on America for decades, insisting private industry can better serve students than our government.

But this week we saw exactly what happens when you let capitalists run college education: ITT Tech.

The school is closing its doors on the heels of a federal crackdown on for-profit institutions that make a buck off of young (and some older) people who want an education and pathway to success.

Research shows that the for-profit sector generally targets lower-income people, communities of color and the elderly with campaigns promising job prospects that may never materialize. All the while, taxpayers and students footed the bill to pad the pockets of shareholders. Millions of dollars in federal financial aid flowed into these schools, and when students graduated they were left deeply in debt. For-profit colleges enroll a tenth of our students but are responsible for generating nearly half of college loan defaults.

At Donald Trump’s for-profit Trump University, a former sales manager admitted they regularly preyed upon vulnerable populations to “separate them from their money.” Students were encouraged to max out credit cards to attend, but were offered only a joke of an education in return.

We let capitalists run our colleges and they screwed it up big time. They left our students with broken promises, inadequate job training and insurmountable debt.

It’s clear that these profit-centric schemes are a failure, and the only prescription moving forward is more government.

Over many decades, Republican lawmakers have spearheaded efforts to cut funding and investments in public higher education, and massive cuts have been accompanied by simultaneous rises in tuition. Forty-six states are spending less in public funds per student than they were before the start of the great recession.

But hope remains if we change course and embrace the socialization of higher education.

In the mid-1800s, Americans began to transition to publicly funded high school education for the vast majority students. It must have been a daunting prospect at the time-- paying for the education of so many children for such an extended period of time, transferring a potential workforce away from productivity for an investment like schooling.

But the experiment paid off. America set itself up for 20th-century success, creating the most educated workforce in the world. It turns out socialized programs like free K-12 education and the GI bill work well.

We as a society consider it immoral not to put somebody through primary and secondary education. Why should higher education be any different?

Numerous studies have mapped out the incredible public benefits of investments in higher education including measurable boosts to economic activity. In the age-old battle between capitalism and socialism, the results are clear for the education sector. For-profit schools are a bust, and America’s public education initiatives on the other hand proved effective as major drivers of economic competitiveness, scientific discovery and cultural development.

We know socialized education is a successful model. It is now incumbent on us to double down on our investment.

Bernie Sanders put free college tuition at public schools on the map in the 2016 presidential debate and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for that service. But we should go further than his plan to provide tuition breaks. Germany in 2014 realized that even a bill as small as $1,300 discouraged students from attending school. In America, there are too many barriers beyond tuition costs holding students back from higher education.

More than one in every two public school students from pre-K through high school qualifies for free or subsidized meals. But what happens when those students go to college? In University of California schools, more than four in 10 students suffer from hunger. And a recent study says more than half of community college students struggle with food security. We should be cognisant of financial barriers outside of the traditional tuition cost in seeking to expand the availability of higher education.

We should take steps in America to erase the cost of tuition, but also to eliminate burdensome fees and cover expenses for food and schooling supplies. We must embrace a comprehensive public model that removes as many barriers to entry as possible.

In the 21st century, America should lead the world in extending public education beyond current bounds. Every child who wants to attend college must be encouraged and empowered to do so at absolutely no cost. It’s good policy for our students, our country and our world.

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At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's too easy to pile on trump. where's your institutional memory?? it should not be forgotten that the dem weasels ari emmanuel & arne duncan are charter members of the destroy public schools movement. and the big billygoat and shine-on artist clyde (as in bonnie & clyde) clinton took $17 million in walking around money as the(dis)honorary chancellor of the 1000% crooked for-profit laureate "university".

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Mark NoTrade said...

I agree w/ your poster-- both major political parties are on the Billionaires' dole to destroy public schools in the US forever-- the Repukes are just far more open about it. I'm a teacher and I was horrified when our national union, NEA, preemptively supported $Hillary over Bernie before the primaries even began. . . Love your site, but here is my 2nd criticism-- in the Trump photoshop his hand is too big, NOT realistic!

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my bad. i meant to say the weasel rahm emanuel, currently mayor of chicago. brother ari emanual is the bigtime hollywood agent, model for the jeremy piven character in "entourage". other brother dr zeke emanuel was the front man on obamacare. perhaps a distinction without a difference.


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