Surprising many education observers, President Donald Trump mentioned public schools during his inaugural address today—but not in a way that pleased students, parents, or teachers.
Saying that “Americans want great schools for their children,” Trump went on to describe the nation’s current education system as one “flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”
“Flush with cash” is not the way most parents and teachers would describe their local schools.
An analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that at least 31 states provided less state funding per student in 2014 than they did prior to the recession in 2008. The national average for public school per pupil spending stood at $12,296 for 2012-13. (Funds from the federal government only account for 9 percent of education spending, while local funds make up 45 percent and state funds account for 46 percent.)
Juxtapose that with the tuition costs at the schools Trump’s children have attended.
Trump’s youngest child goes to Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School where tuition ranges from $44,120 to $47,540 depending on the grade in which a child is enrolled. His four older children also attended private schools that currently charge tuition ranging from $30,000 to $55,000.
While almost everyone can come up with a wish list of aspects of public education they’d like to improve, the reality is that schools today are doing a better job educating a larger percentage of young people than ever before. Almost half of all high school students now go on to college.
Focusing on the many positives of our education system doesn’t create the political will necessary for disruption and change, however.
Trump supports the privatization of public schools and his nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has advocated for school voucher schemes and unregulated charter schools. The proposals she might advance as secretary of education are truly frightening to anyone who holds dear the future of our democratic public schools that serve all children.
The road to standing up for students and public schools during the Trump presidency will likely be a long and arduous one to walk. The first step? Call your senators at 855-882-6229 and urge them to vote against DeVos’ nomination for secretary of education.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will vote Tuesday, January 24 on DeVos’ nomination, so don’t wait—make your call today.