Last week, Trump added education plans to his fairly small list of policy proposals. Through his ideas for education reform, he shows he believes that — like everything else in his world — children are for sale.
“There’s no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly,” Trump said, along with accusations that the Democratic party has “trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth in failing government schools that deny them the opportunity to join the ladder of American success.”
Trump has claimed that he would allocate $20 billion of federal money into “school choice” programs, though he doesn’t say where it would come from. Instead of strengthening some of our nation’s weakest and poorest inner-city schools, Trump would like taxpayers to send those students away to private schools or charter schools.
He also wants states to contribute another $110 billion of their own education budgets to students selecting the school of their choice. He says his plan would give every elementary school student living in poverty $12,000 to use on private or charter schools.
Although this might sound like every student living in poverty would magically get a $12,000 check for a better education, there are several looming issues with Trump’s plan. To begin with, if the government starts sending taxpayer money into private schools, who’s to say Trump wouldn’t cash in? Why wouldn’t Trump — at least as infamous for his shady business practices as Gov. Deal is — start private schools in every city and charge $12,000 tuition for elementary school students?
Also, public inner-city schools would still exist, though devoid of already-scarce public funding. Georgia is already fighting to keep public schools under local control as it is. The last thing Georgia’s students need is public funds going into the pocket of a greedy company that doesn’t know the first thing about education.
It’s also important to note that Trump presented these ideas at one of the worst examples of school choice in the country. According to recent data commissioned by the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “Ohio students attending private schools with vouchers performed worse on standardized tests than similar students who stayed in public schools.” Ohio’s poor-performing charter system was also heavily ridiculed at a recent conference on school choice.
It could be that Trump doesn’t know how bad education privatization has played out recently or he doesn’t care. Or, according to former state representative Steve Dyer, now a researcher for the union-aligned Innovation Ohio think tank, something even more sinister is at play. “So why would Trump visit such a school? Could it be because it is run by a for-profit company whose founder is a notable (and wealthy) player active in education politics?”
When corporations get involved in education, it’s always the students who lose. Georgia can’t afford to sell our already struggling student population to for-profit corporations just to make the rich richer.