I never believed I would be writing another column about Donald Trump. Neither did my students.
I asked them to write a one-word reaction to the election when they came to class the day after the election. Along with the profanity were a few gems: “shook,” “confused,” “scared” and “moving.”
Plenty has been made about the immediate impact that Trump’s victory has had in the classroom, from teachers consoling their immigrant students to students acting out on Trump’s more virulent speech. There are even tips.
But we need to take a step back and look at what a Trump presidency could mean for our school system.
The president-elect has already begun laying out his policy for the first 100 days, and there is an education point:
Ignoring what was said about education on the campaign trail, since politicians always make big promises and Trump’s promises tend to contradict each other, we can analyze this statement as his official position and try to extrapolate what may happen in the next few years.
No matter who runs the government, teachers and education advocates have to fight for what they need. It has always been that way.
Scenario No. 1: The School Choice and Education Opportunity Act is passed verbatim.
A strict reading of the 48-word policy would mean a reappropriation of funding from public schools to “vouchers” to help subsidize costs of private and charter schools. This idea was last enshrined in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 as an option for students attending schools that were labelled “failing” by standardized metrics.
The untold side of this policy is that there is no increase in spending; instead, funds designated to help public schools are siphoned off into vouchers. Less funds means more “failing” schools, which leads to more vouchers and so on until education becomes a privatized business instead of a public service. Common Core has been seriously declawed by the Every Student Succeeds Act and can be easily abandoned by a new secretary of education. President Trump will also have to outline how he plans to make colleges affordable.
Scenario No. 2: New leadership reverses the course of current leadership.
Speaking of the new secretary of education, Trump has a lot of power in his choice. Will he break precedent and pick a longtime educator or just pick another “reformer”?
With the appointment of John King Jr. this year, the department has started the process of moving away from relying on standardized testing and reinvesting in local leadership and policy. This can be easily set aside for a new “fix all” solution that undermines all the work of the last administration.
Teachers shake their heads, realign their lessons again and life goes on. You would be surprised how often this happens.
Scenario No. 3: Leadership gets replaced, but nothing really changes.
This could very well happen once the new administration starts governing in January. Education was not a huge priority in the 100-day policy statement; it was 22nd out of 28 policies. President Trump might be too invested in some of his more visual priorities to really put the effort and energy into his education policy.
Also, considering that most of the Congress that just passed the ESSA law has been re-elected, they may be happy with the work they have already completed and just preserve the status quo.
Scenario No. 4: The Department of Education is defunded significantly.
Going from one extreme to another, the Republicans in Congress have listed the DOE as being a department they consider when cutting government spending.
If the funding gets diverted to the individual states, they would have the opportunity to the money in schools, or use it for something else.
If the DOE is eliminated, the results would be disastrous. More than 200 Hawaii schools receive Title I grants for school funding. Free and Reduced Meal programs would be gone, as well as Pell Grants for college students.
No matter who runs the government, teachers and education advocates have to fight for what they need. It has always been that way. We did not get the person who would be more likely to meet us halfway or be more sympathetic to our cause. But that does not mean we give up; it means we fight harder.
To quote the best speech Hillary Clinton has given all year: “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”