Guess What Donald Trump Thinks Is The Civil Rights Issue Of All Time?
After weeks of protests against police brutality and a Supreme Court decision allowing LGBTQ people to sue if they are discriminated against at work, Donald Trump, a man personally affected by exactly zero civil rights issues, is ready to say what the civil rights issue of all time is. Is it ending police brutality or dismantling systemic racism? Is it trans rights? Gay rights? No. It is absolutely none of those things. It is funneling money meant for public schools for all to private schools and charter schools for some, otherwise known as "school choice."
Because yes. Of course. Let's stop everything we're doing and fighting for right now and destroy public education, for funsies.
During a speech ostensibly about systemic racism, Trump claims that "we're fighting for school choice, which really… https://t.co/NU5h3hohNU— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar)1592325681.0
Republicans love school choice because they hate public schools. Public schools are socialism. What they'd really like, especially people like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, would be to get rid of public schools entirely and have all the schools run by large corporations or religious institutions.
Via The Hill:
Trump was delivering remarks in the Rose Garden on an executive order to encourage police reform amid national unrest over police brutality and racial injustice when he touched on his administration's push for school choice.
"We're fighting for school choice, which really is the civil rights of all time in this country," Trump said. "Frankly, school choice is the civil rights statement of the year, of the decade and probably beyond because all children have to have access to quality education.
"A child's ZIP code in America should never determine their future, and that's what was happening," he continued. "All children deserve equal opportunity because we are all made equal by God.
Yes. All children do deserve access to quality education. But what if there was a way to do that without hurting the children who still need public schools?
Because there is. It's called not using property taxes to fund schools.
It's not that schools are just naturally good or bad because of where they are located, it is that schools in poorer areas have less funding and schools in richer areas have more funding, because their funding is attached to property taxes. That is bad. It should not be a thing. There should not be schools with golf teams and swimming pools and crew and every extra-curricular activity on earth just a few miles from schools that don't have school nurses or enough books for all students.
If you do the school choice thing and funnel that property tax money to charter schools or private schools, that just means that public schools are going to have even less funding, meaning they will be even worse for the children who still have to go to them.
If you will notice, no one is trying to sell this idea to people who live in rich areas with well-funded private schools. If it was such a great thing, they'd be clamoring for it. But I think you'd have a real hard time telling those people they're gonna take away money from the public school they spend all that tax money on and give it to a private school or a charter school that their kid might not even be able to get into.
Education activist Jonathan Kozol explains:
One of the most compelling ways some voucher advocates advance their argument is by giving parents in poor neighborhoods the incorrect impression that a voucher will enable them to send their children to the kinds of private schools attended by the children of the affluent—"wealthy people have these choices … why, then, shouldn't you enjoy them too?"—even though they know that this enticing invitation is outrageously misleading. Vouchers equivalent to present levels of per pupil spending in our urban schools would pay, at most, one-quarter or one-third of the tuition at the private schools attended by the privileged.
So the kids that could actually use these vouchers aren't the ones who would need them the most. They are the kids whose parents are at least halfway there in terms of being able to afford a private school already.
The other problem with voucher programs and lotteries and school choice is that programs like that peel off the children of parents with the most ability to get involved with their child's education and the greatest understanding of the system, which hurts the children of parents who are not able to do that, and hurts the schools because they're less likely to have parent volunteers.
School choice advocates claim lottery systems and requiring private schools that accept vouchers to have open admissions can ameliorate this, but that's not really how it plays out in real life.
Even without a voucher system in existence in most states, the semiprivate charter schools that exist in many cities typically claim that poverty levels for their students are no different from those of the students who attend the ordinary public schools in the same neighborhoods. They also insist that their admissions processes are nonselective, and they point, for instance, to a lottery approach that's often used to narrow down a large number of applicants. But when I asked the principal of one such school in the South Bronx how parents even knew enough to get into the lottery to start with, how they'd heard about the school and knew its application deadlines and the like, he said most of the parents "heard of us by word of mouth" or "read about us in newspaper stories." (There had been some favorable stories on the school in question in The New York Times, which could not fail to skew the field of applicants, since most people in the area were not readers of The Times, which is not widely sold in the South Bronx.)
I also noticed, when I visited the school, that I'd never been in any school in the South Bronx before that day in which so many kids were wearing new prescription glasses and had new attractive backpacks and appeared, in other ways, so well prepared for school—an exceptionality I've noticed in some of the other charter schools I've visited in other cities.
There are fewer requirements on charter schools than on public schools. They don't have to accept all students in the area. They can close without warning if they're not profitable enough, leaving children having to go find a new school that will take them in the middle of the year. This happened a few years back at a Chicago charter school where a friend of mine worked. This could mean that instead of your kid going to a school in their neighborhood, they have to take a bus and a train to whatever other school they're able to get into at that point in the year.
Now, I'm not saying there are not people who benefit/would benefit from school choice. Of course there are. There are people who will benefit from just about anything. But it does come at a very great and very cruel expense. So as far as the "civil rights issues" of our time go, given that we have so many to choose from at the moment, I think we might want to go with something else.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse