What’s inside the 13th Presidential Action may be as unlucky as the Trojan Horse.

What do they say about a broken clock being right twice a day? It looked like the kingdom of trump got it right today when he issued a proclamation to celebrate education.

But, his proclamation wasn’t really about education, it was a banner waving for “choice” which sounds like a really good thing until you look below the smoke and mirrors.

As a culture we value education, and, until recently, free, public education for all students was considered a corner stone of our values, the foundation of a democratic society. When you read the 13th Presidential Action, you would think that foundation is still solid. However, it’s somewhat like the “present” the Greeks gave the Romans. On the outside, it looked great. On the inside, it was filled with armed soldiers and allowed the Greeks to win the war.

Is “choice” the Trojan Horse designed to seduce parents into thinking that handing over our free, public education system for a voucher system that supports private, religious schools is a smart trade? Beware!

Scope of the issue: In the fall of 2016, about 50.4 million students enrolled in public K-12 schools. That’s about 1/6 of the total U.S. population. About 5 million students are enrolled in private schools. What happens to education will affect every family, community and state of our country and, ultimately, the world. Next to denying climate change, this may be the most destructive of the wrecking balls that hit the country on January 20, 2017.

The 13th Presidential Action: Let’s examine this innocuous looking proclamation piece by piece.Today, the President released a proclamation in honor of National School Choice Week. The text of the proclamation is below, with commentary:

NATIONAL SCHOOL CHOICE WEEK, 2017

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

The foundation of a good life begins with a great education. Today, too many of our children are stuck in schools that do not provide this opportunity.

*** Good start. Inclusive. Recognizes an issue that deserves more attention.

Because the education of our young people is so important, the parents of every student in America should have a right to a meaningful choice about where their child goes to school.

*** Remember: EVERY student … MEANINGFUL choice.

By expanding school choice and providing more educational opportunities for every American family, we can help make sure that every child has an equal shot at achieving the American Dream. More choices for our students will make our schools better for everybody.

*** Sounds good but look deeper and ask yourself why Betsy DeVos, a billionaire, avowed voucher advocate for private, religious schools, whose children attended private school is a good leader for the national Department of Education.

*** Ask yourself why one of Trump’s campaign talking points was to eliminate the Department of Education?

***Ask yourself why Mike Pence was chosen as Vice President when he has been openly hostile to public education and the Department of Education.

Our country is home to many great schools and many extraordinary teachers — whether they serve in traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, private or religious schools, or in homeschooling environments.

*** So why does the conservative Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) believe that teachers are overpaid by 52%?

*** The Atlantic considered four different studies and found results differed widely, illustrating bias and the difficulties of making cross industry comparisons. Conservative Manhattan Institute states that teachers work 36.5 hours per week and make $34.06 (2007 study). The only problem is that an NEA study shows that teachers average 50 hours per week. That would bring their hourly rate down to $24.87. One interesting note is that even the Heritage Foundation/AEI study stated, “We have shown that existing teachers are paid above market rates, but recruiting highly effective teachers into the profession may require present levels of compensation or perhaps even higher levels.”

*** Another question revolves around Betsy DeVos’s relationship to the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Religion and Civil Society (named for Richard and Helen DeVos)? What does she really want? MotherJones says she wants to build “God’s Kingdom” and end public school as we know it. The article explains in depth her religious background and philanthropic support for Christian schools and conservative issues. (Remember this is Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education, an agency that should not be biased toward any religion or absence of religion.)

*** Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint released the following statement: “Betsy DeVos has been a staunch supporter of more education choices for students and parents, and the school choice movement will have a champion in the Education Department.” He also said she should work to “… re-evaluate existing federal education programs, work to downsize the agency …”

With a renewed commitment to expanding school choice for our children, we can truly make a great education possible for every child in America.

*** There is no doubt that our public education system needs improvement. So why wasn’t this a general “let’s improve our education system for our children and our future?” Why was it only about “choice?”

*** The voucher system that Betsy DeVos advocates and calls “choice” would redirect public funding to private and religious schools, money that would come out of the public education system. If this happened would “choice” be limited by religion? Would a Muslim school be eligible for vouchers?

I commend our Nation’s students, parents, teachers, and school leaders for their commitment to quality, effective education, and I call on States and communities to support effective education and school choice for every child in America.

As our country celebrates National School Choice Week, I encourage parents to evaluate the educational opportunities available for their children. I also encourage State lawmakers and Federal lawmakers to expand school choice for millions of additional students.

*** Parents and students should have choices and there is a valid debate about the use of vouchers. While most states have some form of school voucher program in effect, the number of students affected by those programs is still minimal. Studies on the use of vouchers are mixed with no scholarly consensus that they boost achievement. Until we are sure that programs which increase “choice” also improve education, we should keep exploring the possibility and objectively studying the results. We definitely shouldn’t dismantle the current system until we’re sure we are going to make an improvement for the future of our children.

*** We also need to be careful about respecting the principle of separation of church and state, one of our founding principles, or at least it was.

*** And, finally we need to consider the darker possibilities of school vouchers: exclusion of minorities, religious preferences, life-style preferences, and disabled or special needs students.

Elizabeth Warren in the confirmation hearing for Betsy Devos reminded us of a much darker time in our country’s educational history,

*** Some studies show that voucher programs didn’t actually increase choice because the private schools had other criteria for admission.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 22 through January 28, 2017, as National School Choice Week.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

DONALD J. TRUMP

There are many reasons why parents might choose a public school or a private school, including location, variety of programs offered, special interest programs, class size, parent involvement and so on. However there is one choice factor that limits the decision for ninety percent of parents: money.

While rich parents can choose to send their children to public schools, the majority of poor parents cannot choose private schools even when there are vouchers available because of location issues, admission issues, and the extra fees involved in private schools even when vouchers cover the full cost of the tuition fees, which they seldom do.

Conclusion: the thirteenth presidential action is a Trojan Horse. Beware!

Notes:

The Proclamation: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/26/president-trump-releases-national-school-choice-week-proclamation

Private and public school K-12 enrollment. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=55

One of Trump’s campaign promises was to eliminate the Department of Education. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-donald-trump-could-eliminate-the-department-of-education-2016-11

Are teachers overpaid? The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/11/are-teachers-paid-too-much-how-4-studies-answered-1-big-question/247872/

What does Betsy DeVos want? http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/betsy-devos-christian-schools-vouchers-charter-education-secretary

School Vouchers: Good or Bad?

http://www.nea.org/home/16970.htm

https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/education/school-vouchers-choice-student-achievement

https://thinkprogress.org/why-the-racist-history-of-school-vouchers-matters-today-c972bec8a257#.vf5zjt3u7

http://www.salon.com/2012/01/24/the_ugly_truth_about_school_choice/

omni-curious artist, writer, student of life