Sunday, November 27, 2016

Who Cares About Saving Public Schools? @BetsyDeVos as #TrumpEducation Secretary

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Trump has named Betsy DeVos ed secretary and now some public school teacher groups say they’re appalled.  

But should they be?

Appalled indicates you feel shock and outrage, but this was always the sort of person our president-elect said he wanted in charge of education. Trump said he supports vouchers and charters and DeVos is a great advocate of that. The time to be shocked and outraged was prior to the election or at least upon finding out election results.

#NotmySOE or not, she is.  This ship has sailed. America voted for a president who was crystal clear that he wanted to end public education as we know it (maybe even abolish the Department of Ed) and make education great again. DeVos Tweeted she is ready to do just that.

The Department of Education is a pretty new construct relatively speaking.  It wasn’t in place when I started school. Ask people who remember "the good ol days" and they’ll tell you that things seemed pretty decent before standards, testing, and “No Child Left Behind.” When I went to school, there were lots of electives, and no testing pressures. People are sick of mindless testing, think the Common Core is a disaster, and Trump picked up on that.  

Opponents such as The Network for Public Education, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers are making their case against DeVos without sharing clearly who they support in her place that is a viable option for Trump. People were outraged when it was Eva Moskowitz who was in, then Michelle Rhee, but if not them, who? Well now we know. DeVos. And, even if these teacher groups call their elected officials to get her out, they are not offering a replacement who Trump may select that would be much different or better.

When public school teacher groups speak out against something, many in the general public see this just as an act to save their jobs. Like it or not, there are a growing number of individuals who don’t feel tenure/job security is fair, feel pensions are sucking budgets dry, and feel public schools still employ factory model teaching. Families want a change but these teacher groups are crying out for more of the same. They are also saying no to privatization, charters, and vouchers without sharing a compelling vision of what should stand in its place.

The issue is further obsecured, because as reported in EdWeek, former “American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker first proposed the creation of “charter schools”—publicly funded institutions that would be given greater flexibility to experiment with new ways of educating students.” Those who know the story, know it didn’t play out the way Shanker intended. Instead, of  small groups of teachers and parents submitting plans to educate kids in innovative ways, it has become corporations who are funding these schools and pushing unions out.  But, why not get behind something like Shanker’s original vision, for example?  

Instead, individuals and groups are using foolish arguments such as those outlined in this ineffective meme:  

It states that that DeVos donated millions to Trump’s campaign, yet the New Yorker stated that “In the 2016 campaign, DeVos continued to spend heavily, but not in favor of Trump, who, she declared, “does not represent the Republican Party.” This has been widely covered in the press so right at the start, the argument fizzles out.

Next she is accused of being a billionaire.  Guilty as charged, just like the man who many Americans voted into office. Apparently a lot of Americans don’t see wealth as a negative.

It goes on to share she didn’t have a teaching degree, teaching experience, didn’t attend public school, and her own kids don’t go to public school.

Translation:  She has the same lack of experience as Obama’s primary Ed Secretary Arne Duncan.  

Those against a #TrumpEducation fail to make a convincing case, and this is outside of the public school teacher bubble, many write them off as just trying to save their jobs.

Here is the kind of information families care about. “When you get past the lower grades, they find that enrolling in a private high school through choice programs increases the likelihood of a student graduating from high school, enrolling in a four-year college, and persisting in college by 4-7 percentage points (Report #30).”

When the anti-Trumpers cry that students from charters and vouchers have lower test scores, they sound foolish to those who’ve been following the education story. That's because these same people have been fighting against ineffective standardized tests for years.  You can’t now turn around and use them to measure success.  

DeVos is guilty as charged to the accusation that she doesn’t believe in or support public education and has invested in religious schools. But is this a surprise? No. That was a part of the platform Trump shared and for which Americans voted.

If public school advocates really want Americans to care, first tell them how this president and this education secretary will directly harm their families. Then provide an exciting and tangible plan for something better. It is only when those against a #TrumpEducation can stop talking about saving public “schools” and start focusing on why and what American families must do to save their own “children” will more of the population start to listen.  

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