Trump’s budget has no common good

In addition to drastic cuts to scientific research and environmental protection proposed in President Donald Trump’s budget for 2018, we heard about drastic cuts to the federal Education Department.

US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before Congress again yesterday, but this time, she didn’t mention bears or guns even once. What she did suggest is that states should decide on their own whether to allow schools that receive federal tax dollars to discriminate against students who are poor or have a recognized disability, the Washington Post reports.

Betsy DeVos's Opening Testimony

Not only does the proposed budget fundamentally reshape college loan programs, but it also re-imagines Title I funding, which is used primarily to help schools that serve high-poverty areas meet the needs of the students who attend those schools, as well as Title II, which is used primarily to develop the skills of good teachers.

But Mr Trump and Ms DeVos have a different agenda.

And it’s giving education officials in the federal government as well as state departments of education an uneasy feeling. For example, just a few hours before Ms DeVos testified, James W Runcie, the chief operating officer of the US Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, resigned. He sent a memo to his colleagues, citing several reasons for his departure, as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Although he was expected to leave before completing his five-year term, his departure was abrupt and unexpected.

“I cannot in good conscience continue to be accountable as the Chief Operating Officer given the risk associated with the current environment at the Department,” he wrote in that email. “I want to also provide the Secretary with the ability to select a Chief Operating Officer that will be better aligned to whatever governance and management model she believes is most effective.”

Even if it’s not, actually, effective.

The belief in “school choice” is rooted in the mostly flawed and debunked premise that the needs of poor students and their families would be best served not by improving the quality of their failing public schools or providing for wraparound services but by giving those families some money to help them pay tuition at a private school that could provide these services.

But if this budget passes as is, it will come with reductions or elimination of the mandates that require schools that receive federal funds to meet the needs of the very students school choice advocates say they want to help. Our leaders don’t want these schools, which will be receiving tax dollars from all citizens, not just those with kids who attend school in a given district, to be held as accountable for the education they provide as the public schools are.

The massive absence of logic in the argument simply boggles the mind. Anyway, what Ms DeVos told Congress, on behalf of the many businesses that would like to start private schools and receive our tax dollars, is reported above, as we received her testimony from her department. But since words don’t seem to get through, perhaps a picture will help. I chose a pie chart.

Households in any given school district in America (Voxitatis)
Private school owners want the middle green money (sizes vary).

Criticism has already come in from education and child advocates everywhere:

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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