Don’t take a wrecking ball to our public schools

A budget isn’t just a spending plan, but a moral document that tells the world what you care about and what you don’t, what you respect or disregard, what you prize or disdain.

The Donald Trump-Betsy DeVos budget tells us everything we need to know about what they value. It is a wrecking ball, and it is aimed directly at our nation’s students and public schools.

This Robin Hood-in-reverse budget takes funding from neighborhood public schools and diverts it to voucher programs. It is yet another indication that the dangerous duo of Trump and DeVos cares little about America’s students, has no regard for public schools, and opposes the idea that all students—wherever they live—deserve the opportunity for the support, tools, and time to learn.

Given its embrace of voucher schemes and deep funding cuts, the Trump-DeVos spending plan—or rather, cutting plan—is a direct attack on the opportunities that we educators champion for each and every student. Trump and DeVos are proposing to slash billions of dollars from programs that are vital to student success.

 The budget they have proposed cuts deeply into funds for, among other things:

  •  after-school programs;
  • ·         college loans for low-income students;
  • ·         arts education;
  • ·         reductions in class size; and
  • ·         professional development for educators.

It does not reflect the promise we make as educators to ensuring that every student has a quality education or our commitment as a nation to the values that define America. To borrow a phrase that meant little during the presidential campaign and means even less now, this budget will definitely not “make America great again.”

Education is hit hard (you can click here to see how the budget would affect students and particular programs in your state), but it’s not the only area that suffers. Cuts are planned for a variety of programs that help poor people and families who are struggling to make ends meet, including the modern-day food stamp program and Medicaid. (And by the way: Cuts to Medicaid would have a tremendous impact on special education.) Even Meals on Wheels isn’t safe in Trump’s hands. 

Trump also wants to cut programs that protect the environment and fund research on cancer and other diseases.

The budget is the latest example of why Americans have no confidence in Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos: Their priorities are reckless and wrong for students and working families.

One of these priorities, as we all know, is vouchers. DeVos—who is not an educator and never even attended a public school—has been fascinated with them for decades. She made Michigan’s students guinea pigs for her voucher schemes. The result has been the collapse of schools in some of the poorest communities, driven by for-profit operators.

You would hope DeVos might have learned something from her experiment. I mean, after all, in science classes, our students learn valuable lessons by trial and error. They could teach DeVos a thing or two, because the education secretary is doing the opposite of what makes sense. She cuts things that work to fund things that don’t and wants to force her terrible ideas on all of us.

We believe our nation has a responsibility to provide great public schools for every student in every neighborhood. This responsibility requires us to invest more money in public schools, not less.

Unlike DeVos, we know that it is heartless to leave a child’s opportunity for success to chance, and that’s exactly what betting on a private school voucher does: it throws the dice on our children’s future.

What every child needs is a quality, well-equipped school in his or her neighborhood with a well-rounded curriculum, class sizes small enough for one-on-one attention, and community support services like after-school programs and health care.

Voucher schemes don’t provide those opportunities for every student. Instead, they weaken the neighborhood public schools that 90 percent of America’s students attend.

We must raise our voices in opposition to the Trump-DeVos budget and their agenda for education. Email Betsy DeVos and tell her that we won’t let her destroy public schools. Contact your representatives in Congress.

We have the power to stop this wrecking ball in its path. Our students are depending on us to make our voices heard.

2 Responses to “Don’t take a wrecking ball to our public schools”

  1. Darleen Saunders

    While I agree with much of what you wrote and that DeVos is not helping one bit, I do not agree with your title. We do need to take a wrecking ball to the public school system. Let me explain.

    Our public school system was created for a completely different time and purpose. If you look back at the history of the American education system you will find just who, what and why we did what we did. Way too much to go into here. But know that it was important to get kids off the streets so men could get work, we modeled schools after Prussian schools, and we needed a kind of workforce to come in from the fields and work in factories.

    None of this applies to todays work force. What we need now is a whole different kind of education. One that teaches children how to think, not what to think. One that celebrates creativity, problem solving and independence. We no longer need to mass group students into separte classrooms arrange by birthday to study subjects in isolation from other subjects.

    We need to get students into the world, into the places that they will be working, learning skills relevant to todays workworld. We don’t need to make “seat-time” because more of the same is not going to make them learn more. You get my drift.

    New times–new needs–new education for all. Let’s not be afraid to blow up “school”.
    Oh, and vouchers are not the way to do it–only more of the same.

  2. Sarah lehrmann

    As a special educator and a mom to a special needs child, this proposed budget makes me ill. We cannot afford for someone who had never even attended a public school to wreck our public school system.


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