What Does Trump Pick Mean for Educational Opportunity?

For more than seven years I have worked in education reform. The number of times friends, classmates, professors, and community members have asked me how I sleep at night are many. I started in this work because despite everything I know about privatization and its impact on low-income communities, I understood that the reform movement was giving an answer to the questions communities of color have been asking for generations. The request has been simple in nature, “can we be treated as human?” Yet, this has been answered with crappy housing, failing schools, and under or no employment. So for me the reform movement–while it may or may not have long-term implications for the privation movement–has given our children an opportunity to know the dignity of being counted as human. Therefore, I have bolded response to the question of how I sleep with the proclamation, “with both eyes closed.” Because I know that our children don’t get a second chance at the second grade, and the information they receive in each grade has a tremendous impact on their growth potential.

Nevertheless, as I read the names of the potential Secretaries of Education under President Elect Donald Trump’s administration I was faced with the frightening reality that maybe I was wrong. As the names of prominent members of the education reform movement such as Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz were being considered for the role I was truly afraid of what that might mean for what I have considered my life’s work. I feared that if either Rhee or Moskowitz accepted the position it would mean I missed something very important about the education reform movement. I thought their appointments would have meant that somewhere along the way I missed the movement embrace racist ideologies. I missed the movement embrace xenophobia. I missed the movement embrace sexism. I missed the movement embrace homophobia. If the movement is moving in the direction of this type of hatred then somewhere I was blind and I can no longer consider myself an education reformer. However, with the appointment of Betsy DeVos there is something more terrifying taking place.

Some in the reform movement are excited about the fact that a reform minded person is at the helm of the nation’s educational future. There is little doubt that DeVos will push for school choice in the K-12 sector. However, the greater concern comes from considering the implications for DeVos’ appointment has on Higher Education. Where the President elect is promising to be tough on crime in the inner city, many Republicans have been pushing for less harsh punishment of sexual offenders on college campuses across the country. If this is the cost of moving reform forward, then I can not be a part of the movement.    

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Joseph Butler

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