The National Education Association (NEA) spoke out against President Donald J. Trump and Betsy DeVos’s education budget plans at the 96th NEA Representative Assembly. This was the second time that the NEA publicly expressed displeasure with the president’s education platform. NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia characterized Trump and DeVos’s agenda as being “profoundly disturbing.”
School Choice Fans, Critics Debate Trump’s Plans
One of the most contentious issues in the education plan put forth by the Trump administration is a $20 billion block grant to support school choice. Supporters of this concept point out that it enables students and their parents to have a lot more control over each student’s education. For example, school choice may mean presenting students with a voucher that will help them enroll in a private school instead of remaining in public school.
Meanwhile, critics such as the National Education Association have lampooned this idea by claiming that what it really does is siphon much-needed money away from the public-school system. NPR’s education reporter, Anya Kamenetz, pointed out that some students do experience academic decline when they utilize school choice.
At the same time, though, school choice tends to encourage public schools to achieve a higher level of performance. This is attributed to them dealing with competition from charter and for-profit schools. Education funding is often tied to the total number of students plus their combined academic performance. Competing with other schools for this funding could result in public schools working a little harder with each student.
National Education Association Expresses Distrust in Trump and DeVos
When NEA President Garcia took the stage, she was also responding to recent reports that the Education Department is looking at reversing certain civil rights provisions.
“I do not trust their motives. I do not believe their alternative facts… We will not find common ground with an administration that is cruel and callous to our children and their families.”
Garcia’s speech was definitely impassioned, and it’s clear that she has a vision for how the National Education Association should respond to Trump and DeVos. Many people cheered during her keynote address, but there were also several people in the audience who seemed unimpressed. Therefore, it remains to be seen if the majority of the NEA members agree with Garcia’s assessment and are comfortable with the direction she has chosen for the group.
Will Proposed Budget Cuts Hurt or Help?
Garcia and numerous others have gone on record as claiming that Trump’s proposal to cut $9.2 billion from the Department of Education’s discretionary budget will be a disaster for students. However, proponents of these cuts point out that the vast majority of the money that will be saved will come from removing programs that have been proven not to work.
A prime example of the Trump administration’s educational targets is the 21st Century Community Learning Centers that were founded by the Clinton administration. These centers have been in place for 23 years and have cost taxpayers $18 billion. On the surface, this seems like a good investment, especially when you consider that the purpose of these centers is to help disadvantaged children achieve a higher level of academic success.
Unfortunately, multiple reviews of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers have found that the program is not working as intended. Instead, former U.S. Department of Education member Mark Dynarski, who oversaw the learning centers for the Clinton administration, revealed that not only does the academic performance of participants not improve, but they also tend to have worse behavior than their non-program peers.
Will the Trump Administration’s Education Plans Come to Fruition?
At this point, everything that supporters and detractors are debating is just a proposal that may never happen. President Trump and DeVos may find themselves facing major changes to their plan to cut $9.2 billion from the Department of Education if the GOP-led Congress can finally agree on a revised budget.
To date, House Republicans have been looking at increasing military spending by $200 billion more than the large budget boost that was already suggested by Trump. To do this, however, they have to agree on how to cut this same amount from other budgetary line items. Until an agreement is in place, no one will know for certain if the National Education Association’s concerns about the plans put forth by Trump and DeVos will be worsened or alleviated by Congress.
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