Equal­ity in ed­u­ca­tion will suf­fer un­der Trump

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Kal­man R. Het­tle­man Will the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion be abol­ished or gut­ted, as can­di­date Trump vowed? Will the Com­mon Core stan­dards be abol­ished, another cam­paign pledge? What are the prospects for Mr. Trump’s pro­posal for a $20 bil­lion block

How will Pres­i­dent Trump af­fect pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion? Al­most cer­tainly not as much as his sup­port­ers wish and his op­po­nents fear. Ei­ther way, the next four years are likely to bring bit­ter set­backs in the strug­gle for equal­ity of ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity for poor and mi­nor­ity stu­dents.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will not seek to oblit­er­ate the Obama legacy in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion as it will, for ex­am­ple, in health care, the en­vi­ron­ment and bank reg­u­la­tion. The dif­fer­ence is that, ear­lier this year, Congress had al­ready beaten him to the punch on K-12 school pol­icy.

The re­cent Ev­ery Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act wiped out ag­gres­sive ef­forts by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and his sec­re­tary of ed­u­ca­tion, Arne Dun­can, to use fed­eral power to hold states ac­count­able for the abysmal aca­demic achieve­ment of low-in­come and dis­abled stu­dents. The Wall Street Jour­nal called ESSA “the great­est de­vo­lu­tion of power back to the states in ed­u­ca­tion in 25 years.”

Democrats were com­plicit, and that’s a big rea­son why de­bate over ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy was miss­ing in the oth­er­wise vi­cious com­bat be­tween Mr. Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton. Yet the clear­est his­tory lesson from the na­tion’s long quest for equal ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity is that states have failed the course. They have never pro­vided strong ac­count­abil­ity or ad­e­quate re­sources to en­able the poor­est stu­dents to come close to meet­ing high aca­demic stan­dards.

The states are likely to do even less in the years ahead. Even though the Obama legacy in K-12 school pol­icy has al­ready been re­pu­di­ated, a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will hardly be in­dif­fer­ent or idle in the na­tion­wide ed­u­ca­tion wars. That may be es­pe­cially true if Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Pence, who chairs Mr. Trump’s tran­si­tion team, ex­erts out­sized in­flu­ence. When in the Congress, he was one of only a hand­ful of Re­pub­li­cans to vote against the Ge­orge W. Bush-led No Child Left Be­hind Act. As gov­er­nor of In­di­ana, he has zeal­ously fought any fed­eral role and pro­moted con­ser­va­tive choice op­tions, in­clud­ing vouch­ers.

Here’s a short primer on high-vis­i­bil­ity is­sues that loom across the Trump-Pence ed­u­ca­tion land­scape.

There’s no chance of that now that its author­ity has al­ready been cur­tailed and con­ser­va­tives are in charge. New of­fi­cials will have am­ple means to fur­ther wa­ter down reg­u­la­tions un­der the new ESSA law and push choice and pri­va­ti­za­tion.

Fac­tu­ally, there are no fed­eral stan­dards to re­scind since the stan­dards are de­pen­dent on state-by-state adop­tion. What will van­ish is any fed­eral sup­port for them.

Can­di­date Trump of­fered no specifics, in­clud­ing no men­tion of where the money would come from. But this is fer­tile ground in which con­ser­va­tives can plant fed­eral seed money for states to ex­pand choice op­tions, in­clud­ing char­ters, vouch­ers, tax cred­its and ed­u­ca­tion sav­ings ac­counts.

While Mr. Trump said the choice funds would be tar­geted for low-in­come stu­dents, the po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity is that much of the money may come from a shift in Ti­tle I dol­lars, al­ready ear­marked for poor stu­dents. From there, the over­whelm­ingly Repub­li­can state gov­ern­ments are sure to find ways to vastly broaden the tar­get pop­u­la­tion.

Most im­me­di­ately, a con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity damp­ens the chances of a fa­vor­able de­ci­sion in a pend­ing case seek­ing to raise the bar for ser­vices for stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties. Fu­ture de­ci­sions could par­tic­u­larly threaten teach­ers unions.

These are not happy pro­jec­tions for ed­u­ca­tion re­form­ers who be­lieve that na­tional and state ac­tion to over­come in­equal­ity of ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity is crit­i­cally needed and long over­due. We must now wage the strug­gle with more re­solve and ac­tivism than ever.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.