Betsy DeVos gave a speech to voucher enthusiasts last night, and Emma Brown of The Washington Post parsed the words for clues about the administration's education agenda:
Many education observers had expected her to lay out a specific policy proposal, such as a federal tax credit that would funnel public dollars toward scholarships to private and religious schools. Trump has pledged to spend $20 billion per year expanding school choice. But DeVos said nothing about tax credits or any other specific policy, saying only that Trump would propose something big — and that the administration would not force states to take part ... She also said the administration would refrain from “bribing states with their own taxpayers’ money,” a not-so-veiled reference to President Barack Obama’s initiative to offer billions of stimulus dollars to states that adopted his preferred education policies. The Trump administration, however, plans to offer $1 billion to local public school districts that agree to adopt choice-friendly policies, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.
For those of you keeping score, when your political opponent offers resources to states in exchange for reforms, it's a "bribe." When you do it, it's a "$1 billion offer."
In the meantime, Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week tells us what to expect in the actual budget documents from DeVos and the White House:
We know Trump wants to create a new $1 billion grant program under Title I spending for disadvantaged students to allow them to choose the public schools of their choice. But how would that funding work if it is outside the traditional Title I spending structure (which relies on formulas to get money to districts)? If it is optional, what will be the terms under which states would apply for the money? And would there be limits on which public schools they could use the money for? ... Would most of the cash go for actually dispensing vouchers to students, or for research into vouchers? What would be the research standards the department would apply to voucher studies? And which students would be eligible for any voucher funds?
Despite the clear lack of detail-orientation among the top officials in this administration, it's safe to assume that there are worker bees at the department of education sorting through the plausibility of various options. For context, it was a Big Deal when the Obama administration moved almost $5 billion of federal funding into school improvement grants ... and that was amidst a historical increase in federal education spending, tied to the stimulus (ARRA) passed in 2009 to ameliorate the effects of the Great Recession. Title I is a block grant from the federal government to states, and it is distributed based on a formula. States count on that money form year to year, which means they're liable to get fussy (read: call their United States Senators) if anything significant happens to the money.
In other news, Jeremy Fox of The Boston Globe is following the Massachusetts charter school with the discriminatory hair policy:
The board of trustees of a Malden charter school unanimously voted to suspend a controversial policy that punished students for wearing hair braid extensions, a rule that many said discriminates against black and biracial students. The Mystic Valley Regional Charter School eliminated that provision of the school’s dress code for the rest of the academic year on Sunday, after meeting privately for more than two hours to discuss a letter from Attorney General Maura Healey saying that the policy was unlawful.
For a soupçon of good news, check out this speech from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, as reprinted by The Pulse Gulf Coast. Landrieu delivered this address, as his city removed four public memorials to the Confederacy:
The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.
The whole speech is remarkable, especially coming out of the mouth of a southern politician who identifies as White. Read the whole thing. This country needs to reckon with its actual history, not a fictionalized one. As James Baldwin said, “To accept one's past - one's history - is not the same things as drowning in it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought."
Have a great day!