The Privatization of Public Services Is Always a Money Scam.
By Mark E. Andersen / Daily Kos
On May 9, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos attended a technology conference in Utah. In and of itself, her attendance was not a very remarkable thing. As education secretary, it makes sense that she would be at this event. But then there’s what she said while she was there: yes, she compared school choice to switching cell phone providers.
She said there are many great cell phone companies, but people have the option to pick which one they want to use.
“If you can’t get cell phone service in your living room, then your particular provider is failing you, you should have the option to find a network that does work.”
Under normal circumstances, this would be considered the most out-of-touch thing a member of a presidential administration could say. But these are not normal times.
Regardless, this is a statement that shows how unqualified DeVos is to be education secretary. If your cell phone service does not work, you call the cell provider and fix the issue. Maybe there is an issue with the antenna in your phone. It’s possible something in your house or a neighbor’s house may be interfering with your signal. It could be a multitude of other culprits—but a logical reaction would be to try and resolve the issue first, before changing your cell provider.
If your neighborhood school is not performing well or isn’t meeting the needs of your child, your first course of action is not going to be to pull your child out of school. For one thing: there isn’t another neighborhood school to choose from. So DeVos’ analogy does not work, unless you add that when you change cell phone providers you have to drive across town and send and receive calls from someone else’s living room.
This is segregation all over again—under a different name, and with different tactics. Those who can afford transportation to other schools will be the ones that use vouchers to attend these private schools. Those who cannot afford transportation will stay at the schools in their neighborhoods.
The Washington Post obtained documents that detail just how DeVos and Trump are plotting to implement their 21st-century segregation plan.
Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.
The administration would channel part of the savings into its top priority: school choice. It seeks to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies.
This budget will make going to college more expensive than it already is—not only be cutting work-study programs and public service loan forgiveness, but also by gutting advanced coursework like AP (Advanced Placement) and honors classes. AP classes in high school can equal college credit if you pass an AP exam.
Where would that money go? It will be funneled into religious schools and private for-profit schools. This will bleed our public schools of money, leading to those schools failing and then causing more cries for the private sector to take over education. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A more detailed list of the education cuts is even more horrifying.
- $1.2 billion for after-school programs
- $2.1 billion for teacher training and class-size reduction
- $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college
- $27 million arts education program
- Two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million
- $72 million for two international education and foreign language programs
- A $12 million program for gifted students
- $12 million for Special Olympics education programs
- $168 million from career and technical education grants
- $96 million from adult basic literacy instruction
- $13 million from President Obama’s community-building Promise Neighborhoods programs
- The entire $1.65 billion fund for “student support and academic enrichment that is meant to help schools pay for, among other things, mental-health services, anti-bullying initiatives, physical education, Advanced Placement courses and science and engineering instruction.”
- $700 million in Perkins loans for disadvantaged students
- $490 million from a federal work-study program
- Ends loan forgiveness for 552,931 people for public servants in rural areas.
They are even going after the Special Olympics. There should be a special place in hell for DeVos and Trump for that alone. These cuts will damage our public schools, will do nothing more than widen the divide between the haves and the have-nots, and move us closer to the dystopian world that is portrayed in Elysium, Judge Dredd, or worse, The Handmaid’s Tale.
Trump and his sycophants are determined to destroy everything that is good in this country. The concept of public schools was so important to our founding fathers that it was enshrined in the Land Ordinance of 1785, where lot 16 in every township would be set aside for a public school.
Lot 16 was chosen to house a school because it was centrally located, so that all students would live within a reasonable distance to the school. This devotion to public education did not end there. The Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act of 1862 …
… granted each state 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) for each of its congressional seats. Funds from the sale of the land were used by some states to establish new schools; other states turned the money over to existing state or private colleges to create schools of agriculture and mechanic arts (known as “A&M” colleges). The military training required in the curriculum of all land grant schools led to the establishment of the Reserve Officers Training Command, an educational program for future army, navy, and air force officers. The second Morrill Act (1890) initiated regular appropriations to support land-grant colleges, which came to include 17 predominantly African American colleges and 30 Native American colleges.
Universities like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Colorado State, and a host of other institutions were born out of the Land Grant College Act.
We owe it to future generations to fully find our public schools and ensure that post-secondary education is affordable for all—whether that means a welding program at a local community college or a PhD in physics. Instead of a budget that devastates education and brings us back to an era of segregation, we need a Land Grant College Act for a new era, one that encompasses education from kindergarten through a bachelor’s degree, at the very least. It should include technical schools so the kid who wants to be an auto mechanic has just as much access to an education as the kid who wants to work in the space program.
Will it happen under Trump? No. But the slash-and-burn politics of the Republican Party will not last. Let’s just hope there is something left to save when they are gone.