Throughout Donald Trump’s campaign and in his recent announcements he has come out swinging on education that, "There's no failed policy more in need of change than our government-run education monopoly and you know that's exactly what it is."
There’s just one problem. Schools are not a monopoly! In fact, they are the last vestige of the old Mom-and-Pop local democracy holding out against Corporate driven Federal takeover! They are not managed by a single entity.
There are well over 14,000 different local school districts across the country, and 80% of them are managed by locally elected school boards, providing every parent in the district with a direct conduit of someone to meet with, complain to, and fire through the next election if they don’t like the service they are getting. Each school system is directly responsible to the people who own it-- the people in that district.
Each district is different, in size, demographics, and services- just like the locally owned stores that we once had; the locally owned department stores, where you could get alteration services, often for free; the hardware stores where you could get someone who would not only sell you the part, but explain how to put it on; the medical care where you got follow up calls, free samples if the doctor knew you were laid off, and even the occasional house call. That’s the kind of service we still have available from our schools in most communities across the country.
Think about what your child’s teacher does for their classes every day: buying crayons and pencils, supplying newsprint, bandaiding booboos, and keeping extra changes of children’s clothes in their cabinet, just in case, and waiting with them for you to arrive when they miss the bus. The service our children are getting -- when the district is not impoverished, is a very person to person service.
Who then, is so dissatisfied with the schools, that they want them leveled, closed, and remade? Those who would like them to be managed by Corporations (profit and non-profit) whose offices are almost always hundreds of miles away; people like Betsy DeVos, who never attended a public school, and whose children never attended a public school, but who along with her husband contributes heavily to private schools, and Alice Walton who owns her own charter chain, as any number of other billionaires do. Mostly people who want to apply that money districts are spending on local children, to their own pockets instead.
Those 14,000 districts, currently contribute about 46% of the money it takes to education their children. Another 45% comes from taxes they pay into their state, and only about 8-10% comes from special programs the federal government funds-- Title I funds for extremely poor schools, IDEA funds for students with special learning needs, and a handful of other programs.
Lately, though the federal government, heavily influenced by outside lobbyists, has pushed localities and states to standardize, withholding chunks of that 10% if localities and states don’t up the standardization of how they treat their students, including standardizing the curriculum through the Common Core (or federally approved substitutes) and standardized measurement through commercial, poorly developed standardized tests-- and lots of them.
All the requirements the Education Reform movement (both Republican and Democrat) have been pushing have one thing in common-- They syphon off those local dollars to distantly managed corporate enterprises and take control away from local districts as to how they manage their schools. When you look at the numbers on average-- by pulling those dollars collected from the parents at the local level (mostly through property taxes) and at the state level (mostly through state taxes) -- that’s on average about $9,000 per year per student. We educate 50 million children a year in this country.
Trump published that he would require localities and states to contribute $12,000 per year, per student for the new Education Secretary to give to private schools or charter school services. -- That’s correct, Trump would increase the taxes local parents have to pay, and that money would not go to the schools their children attend, but go to the corporate-school only certain students could go to.
So, the next time Trump says local schools are a government run monopoly, we might just ask, Does he know what a monopoly is?