Blunt right to be concerned about public education
Now that the Republicans have failed to get rid of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, “Obamacare,” we should be turning our attention to another cause celebre of the Trump administration, the public funding of private education.
According to the Washington Post, President Donald Trump’s budget plan calls for investing an additional $1.4 billion in school choice programs, including $250 million in a new initiative to provide public money for students to attend private schools. At the same time, he proposes the regular Department of Education budget be cut by 13 percent, or $9 billion.
The new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, said the proposal “places power in the hands of parents and families to choose schools that are best for their children” and represents “the first step in investing in education programs that work.”
However, taking away money from the public education pool will necessarily reduce, not increase, the choice level of the parents of public school children, including those who, even with vouchers, cannot afford private schools and those who live too far from private schools.
As Nick Kyle, of Joplin, a person who has spent his career educating children and adults, expertly pointed out (Joplin Globe, Feb. 19), the success of a school system generally reflects the poverty rate of the area served by the school. There is clear evidence that moving disadvantaged children into charter and private schools does not help. (“Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins,” New York Times, Feb. 23). Kyle also indicated that statistics show most charter schools perform no better than the public schools. Often the apparent success of private and charter schools is a result of citing test scores of students who have been raised with the advantages of coming exclusively from upper middle class families. However, it is deceptive to compare the scores of these students to the scores of public school children who come from all levels socio-economically, including children with special needs.
Given its mandate to educate all children, our public education system has been doing a good job. The summary of the Department of Education’s proposed 2017 budget noted that over the last 7 years, our nation has made considerable progress in education: The high school graduation rate has reached an all-time high of 82 percent; dropout rates are at historic lows; and since 2008, more students are graduating from college than ever before.
The Joplin Globe has reported that Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., chairs of the Senate and House education appropriation committees respectively, have expressed caution about diminishing or eliminating programs helpful to educating the nation’s children.
According to the Education and Law Project, proven educational programs include high-quality early childhood and prekindergarten services, strengthened teacher licensure requirements and training programs, early college high schools, and reduced class sizes.
We should support and reinforce these legislators’ caution. It is a myth that public schools are less able to prepare our children for their future than are private schools. Please urge these and other legislators to protect our public education system.
DOUGLAS BROOKS is the chairman of the Southwest Missouri Democrats.