Today has really put me back in the defeated state I was in on November 8th. After listening to an incompetent moron incoherently answer questions about our education system, I had hope that Betsy DeVos would never be confirmed. I really thought that Grizzly Bears in schools would seal her fate. Then came the letters, phone calls, emails, and social media posts from teachers, parents, administrators and students about how wrong she was, and the damage that will certainly be wrought with her at the helm of America's education. Surely this would disqualify her, and there would be no way a confirmation would come. Wrong again. DeVos is all about religion in schools, and here in Michigan she has spent millions to implement voucher systems for religious schools. Trump wants to end separation of church and state. See a pattern? These are anti-intellectual and religious and political fundamentalists who view schooling as a threat to orthodoxy and tradition and want to silence critical forms of pedagogy as well as eliminate those teachers who value thinking over conformity. This is who was confirmed to oversee education of our country, from our youngest learners, to our college students.
I cried when I heard. So did many others, so I have been reading. There are talks of a national teacher walk out, and students in NYC already walked out in protest. This is a knee-jerk reaction to this horrible news, though. Our students need their teachers now more than ever, and a walk-out would hurt them more than help. Now, a coordinated teacher AND student walk-out? That I fully endorse, and would be surprised if it doesn't happen.
A House Republican has already submitted a 1 page bill calling for the termination of the United States Department of Education, created in 1980. Kentucky representative Thomas Massie believes that states should be solely in charge of education, and the federal government needs to get out.
I've been thinking about this myself. I'm not sure what to think. On one hand, education would be solely in the hands of the states. Would that promote grassroots reform that is in the best interests of our kids? But what about rural and poor school districts that rely on federal funds? Would federal taxes be lowered and that money would go to the states? But districts that are better off would still have an advantage, and equity in education would suffer even more. Or would it? What about special education? Was this the republican gambit all along? I don't know the answer. I feel that no USDoE would be better than DeVos right now. Our schools will be her little experiment, and our kids the guinea pigs. I am not OK with that. A billionaire that has never been in public schools, does not know the first thing about the issues facing them, does not know the difference between progress and proficiency, and is completely unfamiliar with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), who fights for charter schools to have zero accountability, and who has pushed her agenda against LGBTQ students by endorsing conversion therapy, has no business anywhere near education.
But what would happen if the DoE was terminated? Really think about that for a minute. Would our federal taxes decrease, and money would be available to the states? Unlikely, not in this administration. It would go to putting Melania Trump up in her golden tower and building a damn wall. It would create a gap that may or may not be funded by the states who depend on federal dollars for such programs. Special education would suffer even more than it already is, and our most vulnerable students education would be sacrificed first.
What about rural and poorer districts? How would they fare without the paltry amount they receive from the federal government? I fear even worse than they are now- and that's saying something. What about our teacher unions? DeVos is a union busting bitch- what would happen to teacher protections?
The fight to defend public education is not new. Neither is the call to get rid of the DoE. But in the political climate we are in today- these things take on new, more sinister meaning. We learned today that our kids education is available to the highest bidder. You must vote these people out that did this in 2018. YOU MUST VOTE. But that is the future. What about now? What can we do to defend our children's education, from preschool to college from a predatory administration that is dismantling our democracy from within?
SO WHAT CAN WE DO??
Start at home, in your home districts. Go to school board meetings. Visit your children's schools, and get to know teachers and administrators. Understand how your child's education works- don't be a bystander. Learn about academic standards and what they mean for students. We hear so much coming from state and federal levels- start at the local level and advocate for your local schools first.
SUPPORT& RESPECT TEACHERS! I am really tired of how demonized our teachers are. It's a wonder that anyone wants to go into education as bad as teachers are vilified. Teachers are just as unhappy with obstacles they face as parents are. Work with teachers and administrators to provide equitable education in your schools.
Join the PTA. Go to meetings- get to know fellow parents, odds are you have many of the same concerns, and strength in numbers is what we need. Don't have a PTA? Start your own parent group. Social media is wonderful for starting grassroots efforts.
Please- don't give up this fight. It's imperative that we not wither away in defeat, but to rise up and demand better for our children, for ourselves, for our country. It won't be easy, it will be exhausting and frustrating. But our kids, our democracy is worth it.
Remember the 50 Republican senators who sold our children out today. Remember them in 2018 and show them how we, the people they work for, deal with spineless, greedy cowards.
Do not give up. We must #Resist.