We Must Be Vigilant and Vocal About Our Resistance to Decreasing Supports for Our Students

“As a teacher, as a parent and as a citizen, it’s distressing to see the department [of education] walking away from its core responsibility of advancing equity.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. John B. King recently spoke out about federal rollbacks on the progress for equity that had occurred under the previous two secretaries of education.

There is signaling that more gutting of the barely minimal supports that were in place for students are coming soon. We must be vigilant and vocal about our resistance to decreasing supports for vulnerable students. It is not the early 1800s where education was mainly for the wealthy. Public education is for the good of the public and society.

Under the new administration, Title I dollars to support students in impoverished communities and Title II funding that can support professional development of teachers and administrators may be lost. Budgets indicate priorities and values. It is clear that from the proposed education budget, the stated priorities do not value our communities’ educational needs and many factors are not being considered.

Dr. King believes that the new administration’s role in supporting equity and defending the vulnerable is changing—for the worse. He shared that the department, which was created to ensure accountability and students’ rights, is being undermined by: 

  • Throwing out school accountability rules: Trump signed a bill that rescinded the Obama administration’s rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act, a school accountability law. What that means is that states get much more freedom in how they grade schools. “The regulations would have helped to ensure that states honor the law,” King said. “It was wrong to undo them.”
  • Scrapping school diversity grants: The Obama administration created a grant program to promote socioeconomic integration in schools, but Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded it “with little explanation,” King said. “I think it was a mistake.”
  • Pulling back on civil rights enforcement: The Trump administration has already rescinded Obama-era protections for transgender students—a move King called “cruel and wrong”—and student loan recipients. In DeVos’ public appearances, King sees signs that the administration might withdraw in other areas too. “The signals…have been that she doesn’t think there does need to be a robust federal protection of civil rights,” King said.

 

Read more about Dr. John B. King’s speech and his concerns.

 

What do you think?

About the author

Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

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