Trump has released his proposed FY 2018 Federal Budget, and – surprise, surprise – it’s a disgrace. Government budgets are moral documents, making the priorities of a governing body plain for all to see. No matter what a politician may say during a campaign, you can tell what they actually care about by looking at what they fund, what they cut, and where they find the money.
This is definitely the case with 45’s proposed funding for the Department of Education. He proposes cutting FOURTEEN PERCENT of the entire DOE Budget. That’s a huge amount to cut. Teachers and child-raisers: imagine walking into your neighborhood school and being told that they will be cutting 14% of their budget in less than a year. What do you think they would cut? We’re already outsourcing meal preparation and custodial services to private operators, contracting private bus companies with deadly results, relying on fundraisers and donations to pay for field trips and enrichment activities, asking parents to provide extra school supplies, and even bringing outside organizations into schools to teach reproductive health (aka sex ed), art, and STEM. Some districts are replacing their teaching staff with completely untrained and unqualified “teachers” through Teach for America and similar programs. So what does that leave to cut?
Somehow, it always ends up being the services for people who need it the most. ESL teachers, school psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, and other specialists often get their hours cut first because they only serve a small portion of students — despite the fact that they’re already spread too thin.
And that is exactly what is happening with 45’s proposed DOE Budget. He wants to cut funds for professional development for teachers (even though teachers cannot stay certified unless we have ongoing professional development), no- or low-cost after-school programs for children of working parents, financial aid for first-generation and low-income college students, and even work study programs for college students (the doublethink is PAINFUL: we want college students to work, but we won’t offer them jobs any more). 45’s rationale for cutting these programs? “They were already spread to thin.”
Since when is the solution to something being “spread too thin” cutting the program entirely?
“Oh man, my floor is really dirty, but I only have enough cleaner to wash half of it. I guess I’ll dump the cleaner down the drain.” “I need two eggs for this pancake recipe but I only have one. Fuck it, I’m gonna throw that egg at a bird just to spite it!”
Actually… that’s not too far off from what 45 is doing here. Not only does he want to take money away from programs that benefit veteran educators, at-risk children, and the hardest-working college students, but he wants to turn around and give that money to privately-owned schools that are often worse at educating our students! He wants us to throw out our free-range eggs and then pay someone twice as much to make us a wartime powdered version.
The one positive thing is that the president does not set the federal budget – congress does. There is time to organize and resist. I haven’t had time to really process this too much, but here are a few ideas on what the pubic can do to support our public schools and resist increased privatization:
- Have an education-focused Town Hall. Invite teachers, special education families, first-generation college students, and providers of related services to speak about how federal funding makes their work (and the positive outcomes related to that work) possible. Invite electeds at ALL levels — school board members, mayors, county commissioners, state reps, and congress members — to come and listen.
- Organize a People’s Movement Assembly with an education focus. Work collectively to understand the threats to schools in your community and make a plan for supporting public education that works for all students.
- If you can, volunteer in your local school and talk to the teachers about what they need. You may be able to directly support your neighborhood school and the students by starting a school food bank, helping with progress monitoring (I can’t legally provide the full article, but the gist of it is that yes, volunteers can appropriately help with RTI progress monitoring), offering translation services, providing tutoring after school, hosting monthly family dinners, and more. That volunteerism can make the difference for parents who are considering whether to stick with their neighborhood school or accept a voucher.
- Call, email, and visit your state representatives and members of congress (MOC). Call them daily. If you live in a major city, odds are your MOC has an office near you that is open every weekday. Make an appointment to meet with a field representative, or just show up and deliver a statement.
- Go to school board meetings. Let your school board know that you support public schools, want extensive oversight of existing charter schools, and reject the idea of funding any new charter or voucher programs until all public school needs are met.
- Then go to your city council or county commission and tell them the same thing. Where I live, the county makes decisions about school funding – and they’re claiming that they can’t afford to fully fund our schools because they want to build a new jail for a for-profit prison operator instead. Commissioners need to hear from us!
- Teachers — UNIONIZE! If you haven’t joined your union, you need to. I don’t even have time to get into why unions are so important for teachers. Luckily, these fine folks have explained it for me.