Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sheltering in place: For students in Donald Trump-loving coal country, “school choice” isn’t a solution - Salon.com

Sheltering in place: For students in Donald Trump-loving coal country, “school choice” isn’t a solution - Salon.com:

Sheltering in place: For students in Donald Trump-loving coal country, “school choice” isn’t a solution

The only high school in Martin County, KY, is condemned. 45% of its minors live in poverty. How will Trump help?

Sheltering in place: For students in Donald Trump-loving coal country, "school choice" isn't a solution
Donald Trump supporters at a rally in Charleston, W.Va., May 5, 2016. (Credit: AP/Steve Helber)

In August of 2013, Sheldon Clark High School closed its doors. During the previous school year, blasting through the Appalachian mountains for a nearby highway project, occurring at times as close as 100 feet away from the school building, had students sheltering beneath their desks with their hands over their heads. Giant boulders and debris regularly fell from the mountains that surround school grounds.
Cracks in the already outdated floors and walls began to lengthen. Officials deemed the school unsafe, but Sheldon Clark is the only high school in Martin County, Kentucky, and there was no other place to put the students. Eventually, after the school year had been delayed for almost a month, school board members decided the approximately 600 high schoolers would be squeezed into the local middle school, which was equipped to serve only 400 students, until other arrangements could be made. Those 400 displaced middle schoolers would be crowded into another local middle school.
More than three years later, students are still sheltering in place, and though architectural plans for a new high school are being considered, the current budget is so tight that amenities like an auditorium and a community technology center are not yet feasible. Regardless, school officials hope to begin building a new high school in the fall of 2017.
Despite the difficulties facing the public schools in Martin County, in the 2016 presidential election, the majority of area voters chose Trump, the candidate who during his campaign stated the Department of Education must be eliminated or severely curtailed, who unsuccessfully tried to woo poor urban African-American and Hispanic-American voters with a proposition of $20 million in federal funds for school choice, and who has now, as president-elect, chosen Betsy DeVos, a billionaire with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, as his Secretary of Education.
While this outcome may have seemed inevitable to outsiders who think of Kentucky as an exclusively red state, as a native east Kentuckian, I can attest it has not always been so. Past support by Democrats for better pay and working conditions for coal miners like my grandfather kept Republicans from having such an extreme political stronghold in the region for many years. In both 1992 and 1996, most Kentuckians voted for Bill Clinton. And, until Nov. 8, 2016, Kentucky’s House of Representatives had remained staunchly Democrat for 85 years, creating at least some semblance of a bipartisan balance of power (though it must be said that both Republican Party and Democratic Party candidates in the 2011 gubernatorial election expressed their commitment to maintaining Kentucky’s coal industry). Still, the number of Kentuckians voting Republican has risen steadily, and a staggering 89 percent of Martin County voters cast their ballots for Donald Trump this year.
I teach English at a community college in eastern Kentucky, and many of the writing Sheltering in place: For students in Donald Trump-loving coal country, “school choice” isn’t a solution - Salon.com:

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