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 for 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 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 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.

Life Will Look Beauiful, Again.

A very short message on dwelling in negativity and remembering beauty:

Sit down on your couch, beanbag, lawn chair, mattress, tile, floor, street and think about your life. Think about all that your life entails: the chaos, the wonder, the tribulation, the climbs, the leaps. Especially the leaps.

Wait – now, I was told to do this very same thing by a peer of mine at school. He said just think about your life and reflect in order to restore the aspects of your life you deemed beautiful. He urged me to dig deep in order to discover the hidden mystery of why my life looking a little estranged, distant, different, hideous. Diving into some areas of life just isn’t possible when your mind does not allow you to enter those parts. Some nights I lay away wondering when the faint memories will rush from the back of my head into the front of my eyes so that I am able to confront that ugliness that has made its home here. On the nights that I am able to take a piece back with me to contemplate on, I am left in ruins wondering what ruined me. I wondered what had gone so wrong in my privileged life in order for me to ever witness such ugliness, so near and full of youth. Telling me to timely think about the past influenced me to fall into a victim mindset.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion:

“Reflection is good, but I need more than reflection. I need reform.”

So, for now embracing a different routine that allows me to think about my life in a positive, reflective way without getting lost in old photo albums and childhood nightmares. Looking back on past scars and being able to say, “yeah, that was pretty fucking tough. I thought I was going to die. I know I will not feel that way in that situation again” became a goal of mine. It is best that we look back at things for what they were and do not do too much contemplation and explication. Somethings cannot be thoroughly explained, and some things are not meant to be. In a way, seeing lapses of my childhood in fragment makes for a cinematic finish. Maybe one day I will sit and be able to write about the times I sat on my couch and reached some of those memories in a journal while drinking wine and rubbing my beautiful new Akita. Until then, I am left to remember this.

Do not worry yourself too much. Your life will be beautiful again, just in different ways.

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.