Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Make America dumb again: What Michelle Rhee’s meeting with Donald Trump says about the president-elect’s education priorities - Sacramento News & Review -

Sacramento News & Review - Make America dumb again: What Michelle Rhee’s meeting with Donald Trump says about the president-elect’s education priorities - News - Local Stories - November 24, 2016:

Make America dumb again: What Michelle Rhee’s meeting with Donald Trump says about the president-elect’s education priorities
Focus on expanding school vouchers could further segregate schools, say education policy experts


 The rumors that controversial charter school champ Michelle Rhee could be the nation’s next education czar accelerated Saturday when she and husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, emerged from a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump outside the swanky New Jersey clubhouse where Trump has been making cabinet-seekers kiss his ring.

And, on the surface, that all seems strange.
After all, Trump is the divisive Republican billionaire who wants to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, ban Muslims from entering the country, overturn women’s reproductive rights and who anointed a white nationalist as his closest political adviser.
What could Sacramento’s first couple have in common with such a man?
Turns out, more than it would appear.
Rhee is one of a dozen people that have been mentioned for the education secretary post, and joins other “school choice” proponents like Indiana Rep. Luke Messer and Eva Moskowitz, a New York charter school executive who withdrew from contention last week after taking part in The Donald’s pageant-style cabinet auditions.
For her part, Rhee has largely maintained radio silence on the topic of Trump. Like other media outlets, SN&R was unable to reach Rhee for an interview, and the mayor’s office ignored multiple requests for comment.
On Tuesday afternoon, Rhee tweeted that she was not interested in the cabinet position, but supportive of the president-elect and “hopeful about the opportunity to find common ground on this important issue of education.”
There are plenty of signs why Trump and Rhee could make a simpatico team, and what Rhee’s candidacy suggests about the president-elect’s education goals, say education policy experts.
According to Julian Vasquez Heilig, a Sacramento State University professor of educational leadership and policy studies, Trump is espousing a pro-market philosophy adopted by the corporate education interests that Rhee runs in circles with. Trump has also indicated a desire to completely warp the public educational system by shifting $20 billion in federal education spending into expanding student vouchers and privatized charter schools. Heilig says that could only happen if Trump guts federal education entitlements like Title 1, which provides funding to the poorest public schools.
The effects could speed up the segregation that already exists in many school districts, Heilig says, and wither public schools into near collapse.
“A lot of people think that what Trumps says sounds good, but a lot of people don’t understand the implication of what it means,” said Heilig, director of Sac State’s Doctorate in Educational Leadership program and an education blogger.
“Our public education would be completely different than what we have now,” he added. “You could actually see more districts go bankrupt.”
The teachers’ unions actually invented the idea of charter schools during the 1980s, Heilig says. Back then, the notion was to create schools run by teachers and community members, cutting out middle-men administrators. But by the ’90s, the plan had been co-opted by private management conglomerates that looked to schools as profit-vessels, and teachers disavowed the model.
Vouchers, on the other hand, originated in the South as a way to outmaneuver the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, “to make sure white kids don’t have to go to school with black kids,” Heilig said. They’ve since been repackaged as a golden ticket to poor students in failing schools, but that’s not how they work over time, Heilig says.
In Florida, for instance, vouchers were first issued to low-income students, but then expanded to the greater population in a bait-and-switch that left poor children stranded in undercapitalized schools.
“Over time, it actually made schools more segregated,” Heilig said.
That’s because privately-run schools can decide which vouchers they accept, while public schools cannot. So a private or parochial school can deny a minority student with special needs, for instance, and only accept vouchers from affluent white students with good test scores and who can pay additional tuition.
“It might even exacerbate segregation of rich and poorer schools,” said Robert Bifulco, an associate professor of public administration and a senior research associate at the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University.
Public schools are then left with the most challenging students and not enough resources to serve them, creating a vicious cycle of plummeting enrollment, school closures and bankruptcies.
And that’s really the intent, Heilig says, borne of a free-market ideology that believes schools should be able to profit and segregate. “It has nothing to do with poor kids,” Heilig said of vouchers.
Like Trump, Rhee’s rise to celebrity owes more to attitude than accomplishments.
“Michelle Rhee is more of a pundit than she is an educator,” Heilig noted.
Related stories: 
On Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee’s latest power moves
Some call the mayor and his wife the next Bill and Hillary. SN&R, 08.21.14.

Preparing to fail
“Radical” Michelle Rhee's “blood sport” agenda syncs up with district's plan to close its most diverse schools.SN&R, 03.14.13.

Mayor Kevin Johnson and wife Michelle Rhee bring Students First education road show back to Sacramento
The mayor asks, “Is education the civil-rights issue of our time?” SN&R, 02.02.12. 

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