The Trumpist Party is waging war on public schools. The Republican nominee’s son, a graduate of an elite private school that no government subsidy will or should ever make affordable to everyone, says public schools are “like Soviet-era department stores” rigged to serve teachers and bureaucrats and not students. The Republican nominee’s running mate undermined public schools by diverting funds to vouchers and charter schools. The Republican nominee glibly assured his convention listeners that his federal government would swoop into state- and local-run schools to “rescue kids” with “choice”.
“Choice” is code, of course, for privatizing public schools and moving away from the guarantee of equal educational opportunity for all.
Choice is also code for racial segregation and inequality, even in the supposedly progressive haven of the Twin Cities:
When neighborhoods were becoming increasingly segregated in the Twin Cities, says [U of M law professor Myron] Orfield, so were schools, and reformists in the Twin Cities hoped to solve the problem by adopting an open enrollment system and embracing charter schools. Those reformists argued that the ability to choose would open up schools to students from all backgrounds, regardless of where they lived. But it had the opposite effect, said Orfield. White students began using the program to move from racially integrated schools to schools without racial diversity. Many charter schools in the Twin Cities began to openly describe themselves as “culturally focused”, catering its operations to one race or another. “They never found an integrated model for charter schools,” Orfield said. Today, among charter school students in the Twin Cities, about 90 percent of black students, 80 percent of Hispanic and Asian-American students, and 70 percent of white students attend virtually segregated schools. Orfield called it a modern version of the “separate but equal” idea, one that systemically sustains inequity as well as the kind of discrimination that killed Philando Castile [Taylor Gee, “Something Is Rotten in the State of Minnesota,” Politico, 2016.07.16].
South Dakota’s Republicans passed their own stealth voucher program earlier this year, diverting public funds to private insurance companies who will give scholarships to church schools (all private schools in South Dakota are church schools). That choice is only practical in our largest communities, where we have the greatest racial diversity. The same white flight from darker neighbors that Orfield sees in the Twin Cities thus got a little easier in South Dakota’s bigger towns, thanks to our Trumpist-Republican Legislature.
Beat up on public schools and facilitate racial segregation—that’s Trumpist education policy.