Archive for March, 2019

What More Can Ts Administration Do to Schools?

Monday, March 25th, 2019
2020 budget for schools  -back to chalkboards?

2020 budget for schools -back to chalkboards?

The news media has caught our attention with the articles that reveal more and more, day after day, about the  prestigious colleges and universities that can be entered at side and back doors with loads of dollars.

On top of the dispiriting news to students who struggle to get the best grades in the toughest classes offered at their high school, to get the best references, to do the most community service, and to scrounge for financial resources and scholarships to enroll in college, we also get the news that very few minority group students get to attend the high quality high schools that they prefer. The media attention is about New York City high schools, but the same can be said about big urban school districts all over the country, entrance exams or not.

It takes a strong, mature, astute student to climb over these man-made obstacles.

Then what happens? The Trump administration’s budget proposal for 2020 is revealed. The U.S. Department of Education, with Betsy DeVos’ agreement, will get $7.1 billion dollars less than in 2019. In addition, $5 billion dollars are for vouchers, rejected, if you recall, in the 2017 tax bill debate. With less money, what will be eliminated? Public service loan forgiveness, subsidized student loans, Title II funding for teacher development and enrichment, Title IV funding for academic support and after-school activities are examples.

In the meantime, the Alliance for Quality Education reports on examples of chronic underfunding in New York for urban and rural schools. And so, what does less money mean? Limits are created on educational opportunities and challenges for students – for instance, shortage of support staff, large class sizes, and lack of computers and science lab equipment to name a few. The 2020 Trump budget is not going to address these deficits and make schools better, is it?

Now, how has Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Superintendent of Education, been spending her days lately? On May 10, 2019 she overturned long-standing regulations in the latest edition of ESEA, Every Student Succeeds Act. Up to now, every district using federal funds must offer low-income and vulnerable students in private schools the same services as those offered in public schools. The funds could not be used by a contractor with religious affiliation to provide any services to the school. Then the U.S. Supreme Court, as you may recall, changed that rule in the Trinity Lutheran Church, Inc v Comer decision, stating that it is unconstitutional to deny a federal grant to resurface the church’s school playground because of religious affiliation. Somehow Ms. DeVos has used that limited decision to say that “she will no longer enforce [the] provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools.” The New York Times, “Secretary Eases Church-State Separation in Education” by Erica I. Green, March 11, 2019.

In other words, is the superintendent spending her time worrying that religious observance and practice is part of the secular public school? Rather than worry if enough federal, state, and local funds are used to improve academic success for public school students in America – which is her obligation?

On the other hand, the Dream and Promise Act 2019, HR 6, introduced on March 12, 2019, by two New York representatives and one California representative, gives 2.5 million people the opportunity for legal status and a path to citizenship. Most important, it allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and move to citizenship whether it’s via higher education, military service, or employment. The bill includes students brought to this country before their 18th birthday, regardless of whether they participate in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or were allowed to remain here for humanitarian reasons under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

Opportunity for all students is money well-spent. The bill needs much support to make its way through the House and Senate, much less to get the unreliable administration to tweet that the dollars spent are for a good reason.