School Choice May Leave Some Behind

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During his presidential campaign, President Donald Trump promised to re-purpose $20 billion in school vouchers for low income families while visiting an African American charter school in Cleveland, Ohio.

Betsy DeVos, a Michigan school choice advocate and billionaire philanthropist, is Trump’s nominee for secretary of education. Yesterday, the Senate panel approved DeVos’ nomination after publicly appearing to have failed miserably.

Debating her qualifications and potential conflict of interest range from her knowledge of educational pedagogy to financial investments. It has been reported that she has financial ties to a charter school, an online student  lending company, and a for profit online charter school company.

Her advocacy for private school voucher programs has made her the ultimate public education adversary. Teacher unions across the nation oppose her nomination. Her idea of education reform has caused a great deal of mobilization.

School choice gives low income families the opportunity to use vouchers to attend private schools that participate.

Where would this $20 billion come from? The 2017 budget request for the Department of Education is $69.4 billion, which includes Pell Grants. Special Education and Title 1 would receive a combined $28.4 billion in funding.

Title 1 is a provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that allocates funding to impoverished schools and school districts. Concern has been expressed that the Trump’s voucher program will take away from the overall educational opportunities from disadvantaged students, who receive public education.

Although, school choice gives some parents options. It doesn’t seem to promote equitable education. While choice and option on the surface are synonyms, parents should be able to select the best option from many choices. Separate is the racial component while equal addressed class disparity.

Rob Goad, former congressional aide, is assisting President Trump in formulating a school choice plan. Goad helped Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana launch a school choice caucus in 2014. DeVos’ family and organizations donated millions to the school choice initiatives in Indiana.

On Trump’s website, it states “If the states collectively contribute another $110 billion of their own education budgets toward school choice, on top of the $20 billion in federal dollars.” State contribution “could provide $12,000 in school choice funds to every K-12 student who today lives in poverty.”

Vouchers have had both positive and negative impact on student achievements in states such as Ohio, New York and Louisiana. There are no definitive studies that state significant academic gains. Moreover, many districts don’t have the private schools to participate. Many cities are dealing with numerous school closings and consolidations. Often the voucher doesn’t foot the bill for the entire cost of private school tuition, let alone supplies needed or the necessary transportation.

In 2006, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reported a substantial achievement gap amongst private and public school in reading and mathematics for grades 4 and 8.  But per Paul E. Peterson and Elena Llaudet the advantage disappears in math for 4th graders and equality is maintained, while similarity is achieved in math for 8th graders and lost in reading after statistical modifications are made. Often these reports have sample size inconsistencies and methodological problems.

African American students need expectation. Vouchers and resources can’t fix a pupil who is being taught by an individual that looks at him through the lens of statistics. Often a child’s experience is vastly different than her teachers. When the educator doesn’t believe, respect can’t be established and the opportunity is lost.

Application of education is to be able to further utilize resources with the intent to be viable within one’s community. Bad parenting is not the blame for poverty, overcrowded classrooms, little to no resources, outdated curriculum and antiquated early childhood collegiate programs.

Education is not the place for an adult’s idle mind or savior complex. Just elevate their minds. Give them the tools to save themselves.

Evidence shows the no one way of schooling solves the educational crisis in America. There are several issues that need to be addressed. Hopefully, DeVos’ dedication to school choice doesn’t ignore them.

Despite the public’s outcry, her political donations or her anti-LGBT sentiments aside, a DeVos confirmation should be expected given Senate Republicans have a 52-48 majority. She needs 51 votes. U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are in opposition. There’s still Mike Pence’s vote.

 

 

 

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