Trump’s Education Reform Hurts Marginalized Students

Almost a year has passed since Donald J. Trump won the presidential election of 2016, promising to make the country great again. With a list of initiatives related to immigration, healthcare, and tax reforms, he began turning around stones former president, Barack Obama established. For over a year now, promises to uproot the Affordable Care Act (ACA), build a wall to restrict/limit illegal immigration, and reform taxes have been regurgitated from various media outlets, official documents, and the president himself. While massive changes are being made to healthcare, taxes, and immigration, other changes are projected to be seen in the education sector as well. 

With as many as 275 bills introduced since January of this year, senators are pushing for education reform from all sides. Despite a few hundred pieces of legislation being introduced, President Trump has enacted three bills regarding changes to the American education system; of the three bills, two of the bills may serve as an impetus, widening issues for many students. With an easy Google Search, I found an article outlining what bills President Donald Trump has signed thus far. At first glance, the bills President Trump has signed appear to loosen up regulations to make room for school autonomy; but when taking a deeper look into what exactly the bills are saying, the purpose of the bills are quite alarming. From the looks of it, President Trump may have aimed to funnel money and attention away from the federal budget to make room for more important things – charter/private schools.

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Since the trailblazing Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education, much of education reform focused on developing and upholding the civil rights, liberties, and protections of marginalized students. Since the mid-1950s aims of reforming education to mirror a more equitable and equal system for underrepresented, marginalized, or impoverished. In 1965, former President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), ramping up the federal government’s investment in educating the country’s impoverished populations. ESEA was implemented with the idea that states/districts would use federal money to help communities with the highest concentration of poverty. Arguably, the majority of these struggling communities in need of assistance in the 1960s were black. Due to the lack of adequate resources, segregation, and vile hatred displayed during this tumultuous time, Johnson saw it fit to make some drastic changes to the status quo. Over sixty years later, troubleshooting education for marginalized students remains a shifty goal. Now, with the two primary bills enacted by the president, that goal is becoming far more elusive.

President Trump Signs Two Public Orders on Education Reform

  1. Nullification of ESEA

His first (of the education) bills, H.J. Res. 57-115, nullifies the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) implemented by former President Lyndon B. Johnson as a civil rights law to aid lower-income students. The act offered to fund for special education centers, education agencies/programs used in communities, grants, and scholarships for lower-income students. In 2015, Obama renewed LBJ’S law as Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The value established on equality and opportunity for lower-income students was kept within Obama’s bill. He aimed for ESSA to reflect further into a variety of different components: student progress, success, and quality.

Again, President Trump and others of the Republican party believed that it should be left to the State to choose whether they extend certain programs, grants, scholarships, etc. to in need of assistance. He advocates for charter and voucher schools in comparison to public schools. Proponents of ESSA and other Democrats believe(d) that nullification of the ESEA/ESSA will lead to devastating consequences for lower-income students.

  1. Nullification of the Teacher Preparation Program Accountability System

His other bill, H.J. Res 58-115, ‘disapproves’ (or rescinds) the Teacher Preparation Program Accountability System, (H.J. Reg. 75494). The system instilled by former President Obama with aims to increase accountability for educators was annulled.

According to Obama’s bill, new requirements would be implemented to improve the quality of federal teacher preparation programs accountability systems under the Higher Education Act of 1965. These new requirements ask and assist schools to collect more in-depth and resourceful information on the quality of teacher programs. It discusses amending the TEACH Grant Program to keep their regulations clear, current, and up-to-date. Obama’s signed the bill with hopes that this would help align TEACH Grant Program regulations with the title II reporting system data found within the Higher Education Act. In essence, Obama’s executive order aimed at improving the ways in which they collect data on the teacher’s performance.

While he denounces that he made the decision in order to remove “an additional layer of bureaucracy to encourage freedom in our schools,” he does not do any elaboration of how the order Obama was putting in place was truly detrimental. President Trump expresses his content while signing the bill by expressing,” I will keep working with Congress, with every agency, and most importantly, the American people until we eliminate every unnecessary, harmful and job-killing regulation that we can find,” Trump said at a White House signing ceremony. Trump carries on with (a warning of), “we have a lot more coming.” In fact, he did not even go as far to evaluate the conduciveness of Obama’s executive order. The Republican party shared President Trump’s idea by stating it was a presidential overreach on Obama’s part. Some teacher’s unions had issues with Obama’s order also, arguing that the scores from teacher preparation ratings were based on student’s assessment and believed it was flawed greatly in that way.

What does this mean for underprivileged and/or minority students?

On the other hand, many believe uplifting Obama’s order will create a downward spiral for outcomes for marginalized groups. An issue with retaining qualified teachers in schools where students are more like to live in poverty begins to shed light on how removing teacher accountability could negatively affect students. Students who directly experience cultural and socioeconomic inequities tend to have educators in classrooms who have grown overwhelmed, stressed, and/or insensitive over the current dilemma. Schools already have the ‘first out policy’, requiring that the newest teachers be laid off the initially, protecting those who have established seniority and rank. The last teachers to be hired are first to be fired, which means that senior educators tend to stay in more affluent schools. If the teachers with the most experience are at the affluent schools, what is left for students in poor schools? 

With existing socioeconomic inequity and lack of dedicated teachers in poor schools,  Trump’s reforms are highly alarming. Civil rights groups, such as The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, see this directly affecting students of lower socioeconomic status, minority students, members of the LGBTQ communities, students who do not speak fluent English, and students with disabilities. Many teachers working in lower performing schools located in lower socioeconomic areas may not give their students the preparation needed to be successful upon their high school graduation dates. Students who are underperforming in some of the country’s most impoverished areas are the ones who will take the biggest hit; teachers who are working in these areas are less likely to base their student’s progress of their own performance. Critics of Trump’s decision to rescind the accountability program view the move as a direct threat to civil rights. Despite the numerous letters asking for the removal of Trump’s new rule on the basis of student civil rights, the bill was signed into place and fails to empathize with the needs of most students (since most students attend public schools).

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President Trump’s Budget Cuts to Federal Spending on Public Education

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence teamed up with Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education,  to devise a plan to funnel more money and resources into voucher schools instead of investing more in public education. DeVos, a proponent of school choice and deregulation of schools, encouraged the nullification of both bills passed by President Trump this year. With spending for federal education being cut by 11 million dollars, it seems Trump’s policy on education stresses autonomy of state policymakers and middle to upper-class families.

Programs focused on teacher training, after-school programs (for mostly impoverish students) and arts education are being cut in addition to the removal or grants. The Trump/DeVos budget takes more than $1 billion and aims them towards developing new voucher strategies and charter schools. While this may allow limited families to choose the best schools, it also allows more chances for a large space in the achievement gap; however, DeVos plan for achieving “better results” did not work out. When taking a look at D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only federally financed voucher program in place, students who attended private schools in the D.C. area performed worse than those in lower-performing public schools. The scores of students who attended lower-performing public schools did not show improvement nor did they show regression. What does all of this information tell us? I am not sure and it is not clear – it is obvious that reforms on education are here and they are coming in rapidly (just as projected). In fact, civil rights groups such as The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called out DeVos ability to be a positive leader in education for black and poor students in a passionate letter.

Keeping to Date with Reform

The rise of budgets cuts and President Trump’s policy for school choice are beginning to show effect. Public schools are already losing money. The new budget cuts are recent and we have yet to see the positive and/or negative consequences of the reforms in full effect, but it is something to keep an eye out for.The ramifications of the nullification of bills Reg. 57-115 and 58-115 may bring further destruction to marginalized communities across the nation. The question asked here is, why rescind an executive order urging schools to improvement for the majority of American students? The question does not revolve around the conversation of minority students, but that does nothing to diminish the largely negative impacts these minority students will face. If anything, the new reforms will further divide achievements into categories of students: those with money to pay for adequate education, and those who do not.

It is important to remain vigilant of what changes are being made to these bills because it can affect our future. After all, children are the future, and education is key.

YOU SHOULD GO AND LOVE YOURSELF

“You can’t truly love someone if you do not first take the time to love yourself.” These phrases sound like canned commercials with the only chance of implementation lying with the practice of baking and bronzers, but love has no shimmery look.

I’ve tried wearing rose-colored glasses in the dark and it did nothing to shield me from what was to come. I remember – I was sixteen and in my first (what I thought was serious) relationship and nobody could tell me a damn thing about love. I knew all about love already, I had it all figured out on my own, and I knew who I wanted to give all my love to for the rest of my life. Well, I believed I knew what loves meant and what it meant to embody love.

I had bruises, a broken spirit, and a tender heart to show for it. I spent too many nights soaking pillows and throwing fists against walls to not know what love is. This energy I was investing in this relationship and on this person was inadvertently draining me and taking my attention from other important life goals. This must be love.

Because what else is all this destruction for? I fought off demons to maintain these feelings. I stabbed at old wounds to revive what existed between the two of us. Swinging moods and arms became routine when the family would ask me about my love. I would tell them, they just do not understand what it feels like to love so hard it hurts. They kept ensuring me that it was my own love I was looking for.  Sneering at anyone who dares say I am incapable of loving just because I don’t “actively practice” self-love, I found myself wanting to keep these feelings of love under wraps. I wanted to work on the love between him and me in silence since everyone was just so doubtful that this could be love.

It was love because I said it was love. Do not even think about interjecting your wisdom saying about seeking love in the wrong places – I have heard them before.

And finally, the silence was broken by cries from things others than love. Dishonesty, malice, hatred, uncertainty, jealousy, made themselves known just when I believed love encompassed them all.

Love was not hurt, but sometimes love hurts.
The time I spent loving him, was actual time spent hating myself. I don’t know how but my dislike for the way I was treated by him only highlighted the things I didn’t like about me. It wasn’t until I awakened in a room that wasn’t mine to recognize a face that wasn’t mine, and a spirit that wasn’t either. Who are you?

Years later, I am still learning the basics of dating myself. Taking myself out for ice cream on random nights, reading my favorite novel, crying my favorite cries. Putting makeup on simply to take photos and tell myself I’m hot shit.  Dancing in the mirror or in store aisles. Singing-off tune to r&b. Writing down my feelings for everyone to somehow feel but never read. Setting standards. Setting expectations. Setting curfews. Making trips, making moves. Kissing my wounds. Smiling at my own jokes. Shuttering at my own smile. Talking myself out of a black hole. Telling myself it will be okay. Placing ice packs on bruises. Putting gloves over sharp fist.

It is difficult transforming from an abuser of yourself to a lover. The hardest person to get along with and sustain a healthy, lasting love, is yourself. when love has a look, it will be me. 

“THAT’S RACIST!”

If one can agree that chattel slavery existed (and still exists) around the world, you would think that one could agree that racism exists as well. Unfortunately, many people would like to believe that racism is simply an ideology that people made up in the 2000s to divert from some “real” problem, like the ending of the world, who wins the next Super Bowl, or animal cruelty. It is unfortunate that black people are still attempting to convince others of their situation – but here we are, still preaching about the injustices and mistreatment of our people. Because I am totally sick of reiterating myself to people who do not even know the basics of our lovely American history, here are five things to remember about racism:

Now, slavery has existed around the world since the beginnings of time in one way or another and began being considerably recognized during the rise of the Roman Empire. It was not until the discovering of the New World (or the “new world” for European eyes) 1492 by Christopher Columbus that chattel slavery became normalized across the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and many discussions. He became the first white man since the Vikings to travel to unfamiliar lands. It has been proven that he did not discover the Americas, but he did bring awareness to all of his European buddies about the brown people living in San Salvador, Dominica, and Hispaniola. Columbus actually ended up carrying some of these brown people (against their will) to work as slaves, before knowing the legality of chattel slavery at the time. Prior to 1492, there had been slaves transported from Africa consistently to European countries, particularly Portugal (1441).

Slave Trade
Small visual of the slave trade that began in the late 1500s. Most slaves were not transported to North America, but to South America.

The sugar-slave complex (1452) is the birther of chattel slavery, and perhaps the complex that changed the world. Sugarcane was first planted and harvested in Madeira, Portugal and people went nuts. People could now have people work for free on plantations harvesting sugarcane. Since then, economics and race relations have never been the same. Even though other forms of unfree labor were familiar in Europe throughout its history, historians see chattel slavery differently because slaves are seen as commodities that are being bought and sold rather than them solely treated as servants doing work. Even further than this, chattel slavery being brought to brown countries with brown people gave way to the birthing of colorism.

Colorism is racism, too.

download-2.jpgColorism (which is the belief that lighter your complexion is the better), perpetuates racism. Colorism is a sub-category of racism, and is the “prejudice” aspect of what makes racism. It is the idea that having mixed children absolves prejudice and eliminates the possibility for socially ‘unattrimages-2active’ offspring. It is the idea that having lighter complexion gives you a softer look and even softer personality. It is the idea that having darker skin makes you dirtier, more likely to commit a crime, more rugged, less refined. It is hearing Kodak Black reiterate words about dark black women being “too gutter” or hearing the constant praise of mixed-race people. It is putting European phenotypes on a pedestal and forcing contouring kits down throats. The fetishization of mixed children is sometimes looked at as proof that implicit bias still exists. If you place racial bias in any setting where there is power, racism is created.

Having mixed children can not, and will not “fix” racism.

First of all, there is no real way to “fix” racism unless you are strengthening it since racism is a powerful construct. This means that racism is defined as ‘prejudice plus power,’ which could not possible by knocked down by mixing phenotypes and genotypes. The correct way to end racism is to completely decimate the source. In essence, the only way to destroy racism is to stop teaching it. The roots of slavery lie in the history of not only our nation but the world. Colorism was spread as quickly as produce across borders, and the repercussions are still seen today.  

Reverse racism does not exist

Remember,

Racism = power plus prejudice

Before you get ahead of yourself, think again “what does it mean to be racist?” well, based on the idea of racism as a power construct, a racist would be someone who promotes its power and each. Now, don’t get me wrong – racism is not only black and white – but I will say it is white, and whatever else isn’t white. Based on our good friend history, racism was not created until European travelers decided to sweep some brown nations and see what is up over there. Because that is when and how racism was created, I believe it is safe to say that white people (Europeans) created racism in order to control people and make an economic profit. You cannot be racist if you do not hold power, however, you can be prejudiced, bigoted, and biased if you are not white. If someone black discriminates against someone white because of their skin color, they are subjecting someone to prejudice but not racism. It is important to understand how racism works because it is the only way to know how to stop its impact.

Slavery birthed racism, and racism is still seen today

If you ever believed that everyone in this world was treated equally, you were not only optimistic – but perhaps naive. Battles fought, lives lost, words written, songs sung, etc. cannot be undone and each has their own place in the world. What occurs throughout history has a direct and indirect influence on how we view, and what we view in the world. Slavery reached its hand in history and gave way to Jim Crow Laws, redlining, and Tignon Law. If racism was a thing of the past as soon as one deemed it so, we would not continually see new cases where minorities had to fight for their rights. It is seen in cases like Dred Scott Decision (1857), Strauder v. West Virginia (l880), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Korematsu v. United States (1944), Sweatt v. Painter (1950), Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Levy v. Louisiana (1968). Other cases of justice and injustice based on racial struggle can be seen with a click of a mouse or keyboard. Although others stand in agreeance that America has yet to real racial equality, we have long ways to go.

African-Americans have been enslaved longer than they have been emancipated in this country, yet we are continually having the debate over whether the consequences of racism are still prevalent and/or detrimental. Most African-Americans (or black people in general) are only a couple generations from slavery. In fact, my great-grandmother is still alive and was a sharecropper in Mississippi. At the same time, families that used to own black slaves were able to build legacies, leave homes, and generate economic wealth. Matter of fact, this wealth is still being distributed and disbursed. 

You cannot “fix” racism because it must be destroyed not mended

The first step to dismantling racism, eliminating prejudice, and removing hate are to discuss history – literally. Read history and weep until it hurts, because people are still hurting from ignorance. If there is one thing that is sure, it is that ignorance is a breeding ground for control and compliance. 

Read up on American history, talk with people about their experiences, knowledge, and feelings, and most of all – work on yourself. Feed yourself knowledge. Here are a few articles I found pretty neat about the eerie history of our country:

“10 Eeerie Slave Hauntings of the Deep South”

“In Charleston, Coming to Terms With The Past” 

“Is There A Right Way To Put Slavery Onscreen?”

“Slave Stories”

Stay woke, everyone.

 



Black History Month: Should It Exist?

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Black History Month, held every February of each year, is known as a time to reflect, recognize, and show respect to the black Americans who have paved the way for other Americans to reach many social and economic milestones.

Black History Month: To be or not be? That is the question. Over the past decade, growing controversy has arisen over whether Black History Month is effective in its purpose of celebrating and spreading knowledge of many influential black figures in American History. When first asking others if Black History Month ought to exist, the typical response is “Absolutely!” When delving deeper into the purpose of Black History Month and why it was initially established, the answer becomes less obvious.

After being frustrated with the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of Black Americans in school after obtaining his Master’s degree and Ph.D., historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson coined a week in February as” Negro History Week.” He did so in the year of 1926 in order to honor the birthdays of civil rights activist, Frederick Douglass, and President Abraham Lincoln, who static1-squarespaceis often known as the leader who emancipated the black slaves. It wasn’t until 1976 that the week Woodson set aside would turn into a month-long celebration known as Black History Month. For decades since the adoption of the holiday, it has been recognized as a month for reflection and is also celebrated by Canada and the U.K. Now first – let me say that we have made immense progress over the past decades, with going from a one-week celebration to a whopping four weeks! But before we rejoice in the achievements, let’s look at Woodson’s reasoning for creating the week of acknowledgment once more.

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Many are aware of the accomplishments of Frederick Douglass (thanks to the redundancy of primary and secondary education), yet many do not know the significance of Abraham Lincoln’s executive actions and how his intentions for change are far from heartwarming. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, legally freeing around 3 million slaves in designated areas of the  South. While many rejoice at those numbers and idolize President Lincoln for being moral, caring, and understanding of the black experience in America, they are unaware of his intentions. As Philip Randolph expressed, “freedom is not given; it is won,” so why did Woodson base Black History Month’s precursor on a man who debatably “gave” black slaves freedom without honest intentions of bettering the lives of Black Americans? In fact, the  Emancipation Proclamation was signed as a military measure and did not free slaves on the border states like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri (all of which had remained loyal to the Union).

In early schooling, Black History Month often focuses on civil rights leaders who are deemed less “threatening” and are able to be watered down to fit the idea of Black cooperation while remaining peaceful and complacent. James Baldwin says that “Education is indoctrination if you’re white; subjugation if you’re black.”This is not to say that leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass remained complacent because that would be far from the truth; all of them suffered physical, legal, and emotional repercussions. Although these leaders assisted in paving the way towards equality and equity, much of the dialogue from black America is missing. Textbooks will frequently provide MLK’s iconic and moving speeches, tell stories of Park’s courage to remain seated on the bus, explain the Underground Railroad, and mention Douglass’ journey from a slave to a free man; however, we are not taught of MLK’s internal battles with remaining peaceful, the woman who did not give up her seat prior to Parks, Tubman’s relentless attitude in the face of death, or Douglass’ many famous speeches or books. What is clearly missings from these teaching of famous black Americans are the details, which leads me to the main reason Black History Month should not exist: Black History is American History. 

“Black History is American History.”

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Black Americans have contributed to the upbringing and current hegemony of the country, yet school districts are still told to dedicate one month per year in educating students on their contributions (it is no wonder the racial tensions remain so high in the country, we never address history!) Perhaps if we taught history in accordance with chronological events (regardless of race/ethnic background), we would have a more accurate and inclusive view of history. Imagine all that we would learn through incorporating more about the Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, the Black Panthers, Angela Davis, W.E.B. Dubois, Sojourner Truth, Nina Simone, Booker T. Washington, Muhammad Ali, and many more years long! In theory, Negro History Week should be celebrated 52 times each year, and we should always be ready to celebrate.

As  James Baldwin once wrote,

“…any Negro who is born in this country and undergoes the American educational system runs the risk of becoming schizophrenic.  On the one hand, he is born in the shadow of the stars and stripes and he is assured it represents a nation which has never lost a war.  He pledges allegiance to that flag which guarantees “liberty and justice for all.”  He is part of a country in which anyone can become president, and so forth.  But on the other hand, he is also assured by his country and his countrymen that he has never contributed anything to civilization – that his past is nothing more than a record of humiliations gladly endured.  He is assumed by the republic that he, his father, his mother, and his ancestors were happy, shiftless, watermelon-eating darkies who loved Mr. Charlie and Miss Ann, that the value he has as a black man is proven by one thing only – his devotion to white people.  If you think I am exaggerating, examine the myths which proliferate in this country about Negroes.”