President Elect Donald Trump has appointed Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education. A lot was said on the campaign trail. With a Trump-DeVos administration what direction will they take education?
Trigger warning: be aware that the following is speculative opinion or opinionated speculation or some such other nonsense and that it may offend some and those that it doesn’t offend should perhaps be offended that it doesn’t offend them.
As an educator, the first time a U.S. Secretary of Education really got my attention was when Rod Paige compared the NEA to a terrorist organization. By extension, in my eyes, he was labeling teachers as terrorists. While he did catch a lot of flack for his comments, I thought he should have been removed from office. That didn’t happen. Since that time, I think a number of his successors have taken actions outside the boundaries of the constitution and legislation that have been much worse than Paige’s comments. And often done so with the support of or direction of the president.
I doubt Trump would fire or push DeVos to resign no matter how far she strays from his campaign “promises”. The inconsistencies of Trump’s own campaign “promises” regarding education allows for considerable guided or unguided meandering and have puzzled and concerned me. Getting rid of Common Core? Does the president or secretary of education have any legal authority to do this? Scale back or eliminate the US DOE… If scaled back, will the programs/activities that may be eliminated or scaled down be replaced with things like programs to ensure opportunity and access to college or vocational/technical education? Will those programs require federal legislation or some kind of regulations to be put in place? Will we see a shrink and expand phenomena? Which will be greater—the shrinkage or the expansion? Grant programs to expand school choice—-is that local control and where will it be managed if the US DOE is eliminated? Will there be strings (ropes, chains, or shackles) attached? Anything like that provides the opportunity to attach strings. That’s my string theory.
As for DeVos and the Common Core, there may be some major smoke and mirrors action used to influence public perception. I haven’t found any public statement on her part about supporting Common Core but I do see lots of involvement on her part in groups and with activities strongly promoting and protecting the Common Core and its cabal. I also don’t think I have found any public statements she has made indicating she opposes the Common Core. I don’t count “supports high standards” as a statement promoting or opposing Common Core. How many different ways will that be used to fool people? The transition team, not DeVos, has said there will be a focus on “setting higher national standards”. Is that possibly much more dangerous than the whole Common Core debacle? Does that sound like the early stages of paving the way for the federal government to develop a set of national standards? Is that worse than having two non-government entities develop standards? I can imagine a set of national standards that won’t be the Common Core but really will be. Some people seem to want things both ways and this may be a way for that to be possible. To me, it definitely does not look promising. I fail to see how “setting higher national standards” allows for local control. But that is just me. I am sure they will find a way to convince the public that having “higher national standards” is local control in its purist form. More smoke and mirrors… and it is very clever how they will have DeVos appear to be anti-Common Core to the uninformed and unsuspecting general public.
In addition to DeVos saying she supports high standards, she says she supports strong accountability and local control. Jenni White makes a great point in her letter to President-Elect Trump when she says, “You simply can’t have “high standards” and “strong accountability” at the federal level and get LOCAL CONTROL.”
Will we have local control? Oh, I think we will… but not like most of us think of local control. Is it possible the definition of local control has been operationally changed? ESSA was a step in the direction towards federally mandating local control. Can we expect more federal mandates for local control? Won’t it be great to return to local control by federal mandate with rules, regulations, and sanctions managed by folks in Washington, D.C.? Or perhaps to have it be more local by having federal education agents stationed in each state to enforce local control requirements? Local control in its purist form?
Which direction will education head in under the Trump-DeVos administration? My guess is as good as multiple spins of the Wheel of Fortune with a compass rose superimposed. Will we really turn and go in a different direction? Or continue on the same path but encounter switchbacks and many ups and downs? Will there be more or less privatization of public education? Will there be a stop to or a continuation of education profiteering by corporate and non-profit entities? Will students benefit? Will they receive a solid knowledge based academic education? Or will they be shoved into the workforce pipeline?
We can’t sit back and be quiet (and I don’t believe we are). Different people have different ways of addressing issues that are in front of them. While people need to continue addressing the issues we need to always be exploring and trying to find ways that may more effectively address the issues. We speak but is our voice being heard?