Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trump's Education Secretary Nominee ... What Next?

In the interest of full transparency, while I did not necessarily support Donald Trump, I did vote for him.  I still consider him to be the lesser of the two "choices" that we had in this presidential election but some of his nominations to cabinet positions are very troubling to me.  By far, the biggest concern so far is the appointment of Betsy DeVoss as Education Secretary.

There is no real need to regurgitate information about DeVoss, her interests and her focus that are clearly anti-public education.  The impact that her wealth can have clearly is not focused on the needs of the majority of the children in this country but, like the Walton’s, the Gates, and many others, her interest in changing the public education that has served so many seems to have nothing to do with the public education system but is solely focused on personal agendas and profit motives.  

So what can we do about it?  First of all, we always have the opportunity to send messages to those who will approve (or not!) President-Elect Trump's cabinet appointments.  Take the time to write to your US Senator and express your opinion and concerns about the appointment of DeVoss. 

Second, the world of those who advocate for choice other than public schools is as much about using incomplete information as it is the profit motive.  When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Colorado, the text book in my Statistics class was "How to Lie with Statistics"; those words ring very true in today's discussion about public education.  It has never been more important than now for those of us who advocate for the more than 5.3 million Texas public education students to make certain that facts are a part of the discussion, whether relating to graduation rates, so-called failing schools, or the tremendous successes of population sub groups.

Third, while we may be concerned about this appointment, the reality is that the bigger concern for us lies with the continued and (so far) never ending push by the Lt. Governor for his personal agenda in support of vouchers.  While the arguments of a free market system certainly warrant consideration, the reality is that in those states where voucher programs have been adopted (one need look no further than DeVoss' home state of Michigan), the results have generally not been a better school environment.  We must do our homework and must be able to articulate the often-failed impact of voucher programs.

Throughout history, grassroots organizations have sprung up to battle actions by those in power; while it would be unfair to call public education advocacy a grassroots effort, that is where it all began.  Advocacy groups and individuals across the state have had a significant impact on public education and there is an increasing groundswell of support.  As advocates, we need to continue our efforts to make education a priority.  Our students are counting on us to do so.

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