Michaela Bush, Columnist
President Trump’s back at it this week, with his address to Congress being another powerful—and of course, controversial—speech on February 28. One of the topics he covered was education, and of course, this has been a debatable conversation since his election and the acceptance of Betsy Devos as the Secretary of Education.
During his address and during his campaign, he promised that he would try to help low-income families by making education more attainable for them, especially for minorities. One girl, the First Lady’s guest to the address, was in the crowd: Denisha Merriweather. She became the first in her family to graduate high school and college with a Master’s in social work, as a result of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program. She is proof that low-income families can and ought to break out of the vicious cycle that so many fall into. On the 28, Trump additionally signed an executive order promising historically black colleges/universities greater access to the White House as far as policymaking etc (USA Today). They are asking for around $25 billion for all of the HBCUs in the country—over 100— for things like financial aid, college prep for students who need it, and infrastructure. Under President Obama’s administration, these colleges/universities only received around $4 billion over the extent of seven years, and he actually cut $73 mil from the educational packet for these colleges, but also received other forms of federal funding. (blackagendareport.com, U.S. Department of Education)
What else do Trump and Devos plan to do for education? Firstly, they plan to advocate for school choice and to find a better solution to the federalized Common Core. A lot of people are against school choice because it will take some funds away from public schooling, but I think this is a key factor in opening up possibilities for expanding education in low-income areas. I live in a small rural town with dumpy public schools surrounding the area. Yes, dumpy. Why are they dumpy? A friend of mine from one of these schools once asked what books I had read for school thus far to compare our schooling: as a senior, this individual was only just being introduced to Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare. I was reading these works by fifth or sixth grade. Kids from my school district have to go through remedial college courses in order to begin their higher education because they simply weren’t prepared. Kids drop out of college because they fail out of it. I was blessed: I jumped headfirst into college and have been doing pretty well, if I say so myself. What’s the difference? I was cyber schooled. One of the most intellectual kids I know has been homeschooled since the start. Another friend of mine was cyber schooled, then went to public school for high school, and commented that she was covering algebra in ninth grade instead of seventh like we had.
Before the mass hysteria starts, I want to ask this: is school choice so awful if it will, indeed, help students expand into their full potential? Is it so bad? I understand that taking funding away from public schools will only worsen the situation for kids who remain in it, but that’s where reform comes in at.
Reforming the policies and budgets will help these schools. Trump knows how to work with money, and I’m confident that he will be able to assess education budgets so that public schools aren’t so hard-hit by those who choose to educate their children in an alternative manner, and also so they funnel the money into programs that count, rather than pointless programs that don’t help students excel. Additionally, DeVos has been working for school choice for over 25 years (Forbes.com). Certainly, she’s had time to learn and comprehend the complexity of the systems she’s working with now.
If you want some interesting tidbits to think about concerning education and how well it could be revolutionized concerning Common Core or school choice, I recommend watching the TED Talks with Sir Ken Robinson, specifically “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” and “Changing Education Paradigms”. They are incredibly thought-provoking. It describes the cookie-cutter qualities of the education systems we’re under now (including Common Core) and how they just don’t work. We’re individuals; you and I each have separate talents, thought processes, and abilities. Obviously, anything that tries to cram everyone in the same box will probably result in that box exploding at one point in time. (Or needs to.)
What are your thoughts on today’s educational system and how Trump and DeVos ought to handle it?