Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Wrecking Crew: The Demolition of American Education

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Environmental protections are gone, national parks and national forests will be sold off, federal agencies will be given to private corporations to run for profit (by cutting costs and services, reducing employee pay, outsourcing, and so on), with the Air Traffic Controllers being the first to go. Diane Ravitch (here’s an interesting interview with her about her changing positions—on No Child Left Behind, for exaple) writes in the NY Review of Books:

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’s proposed budget for the US Department of Education is a boon for privatization and a disaster for public schools and low-income college students. They want to cut federal spending on education by 13.6 percent. Some programs would be eliminated completely; others would face deep reductions. They want to cut $10.6 billion from existing programs and divert $1.4 billion to charter schools and to vouchers for private and religious schools. This budget reflects Trump and DeVos’s deep hostility to public education and their desire to shrink the Department of Education, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of it entirely.

The proposed budget would shrink the assistance programs that now enable 12 million students to attend college: funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, thus “saving” $490 million. It would eliminate a student loan forgiveness program, enacted in 2007, that encourages college graduates to enter careers in public service—such as social work, teaching, or working as doctors in rural areas—by relieving them of their college debt at the end of ten years of such employment. Some 550,000 young people have joined this program in the past decade; the first wave are due to have their debts forgiven in 2017, but it is not clear if the administration will follow through on the promise to cancel their debt.

The proposed budget would maintain funding for Pell grants for needy college students, but would eliminate more than $700 million in Perkins loans for disadvantaged students. No attempt would be made to lessen the burden of escalating college costs for students, whether middle-income or poor. Student debt is currently about $1.4 trillion, and many students, whether they graduate or not, spend years, even decades, repaying their loans. These cuts will reduce the number of students who can afford to attend college.

The most devastating cuts are aimed at programs for public schools. Nearly two dozen programs are supposed to be eliminated, on the grounds that they have “achieved their original purpose, duplicate other programs, are narrowly focused, or are unable to demonstrate effectiveness.” In many cases, the budget document says that these programs should be funded by someone else—not the US Department of Education, but “federal, state, local and private funds.” These programs include after-school and summer programs that currently serve nearly two million students, and which keep children safe and engaged in sports, arts, clubs, and academic studies when they are out of school. They have never been judged by test scores, but the budget claims they do not improve student achievement, and aims to save the government $1 billion by ending support for them. The budget assumes that someone else will pick up the tab, but most states have cut their education budgets since the 2008 recession. No mention is made of how other sources will be able to come up with this funding.

The administration wants to end many programs that are aimed at the poorest students and disadvantaged minorities in particular, while canceling vital enhancements to public school education like arts and foreign-language funding. These include supplementary educational services for Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian students ($66 million); arts education ($27 million); American history and civics academies ($1.8 million); full-service community schools that provide comprehensive academic, social, and health services to students and their families ($10 million); library-based literacy programs ($27 million); “impact aid” to districts that lose revenue because of federal facilities like military bases ($66 million); international education and foreign language studies ($73 million); the Javits program for gifted and talented students ($12 million); preschool development grants to help states build or expand high-quality preschool services ($250 million); Special Olympics programs for students with disabilities ($10 million); and Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, funds used to train teachers and to reduce class sizes ($2.345 billion). In addition, the Trump-DeVos budget would eliminate funding for a potpourri of programs including mental health services, anti-bullying initiatives, and Advanced Placement courses ($400 million). This is only a sample of the broad sweep of programs that would be eliminated, not just reduced. Some of the programs, like the Special Olympics for handicapped students, are small grants but they have both real and symbolic importance. The cuts to funds for reducing class sizes will have an immediate negative effect.

With billions cut from existing education programs, the only area of increase in the education budget would be grants for school choice. The department’s Title I program consists of billions of dollars distributed to states and districts to aid in the education of poor children, by providing smaller classes, extra aides in the classroom, or other assistance. Trump would set aside $1 billion of Title I funding as a reward for states that create open enrollment policies, which allow parents to choose schools that are not their neighborhood schools, and that allow federal, state, and local dollars to follow students to the public school of their choice. In “reform” circles, this is known as the “backpack-full-of-cash” method of financing school. The money goes wherever the student goes.

The other Trump-DeVos initiative is $400 million to “create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement…and rigorously evaluate such innovations.” This murky statement is aimed at setting aside funds to underwrite vouchers that could be used at private and religious schools, as well as research on the effectiveness of these programs.

Ironically, the Trump administration is modeling some of its approach on the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, which held a contest for states in 2009 and 2010. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2017 at 5:55 pm

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