What Does the 2016 Election Mean for Public Schools?
The election results represent two waves of change. It isn’t simply that the government will shift its policies and emphasis under soon-to-be President Trump and a Republican Congress; there also has been a release of an ugly stream of fear, hate, and aggression. Both are hitting people in different ways.
Education was not a major—or even a second-tier—issue in this election, but what little we know about the Trump administration’s ideas for K-12 education policy show that the administration wants to leverage federal dollars using a different focus and different tools. The Republicans have long championed changing the focus of decision making from the federal government to parents. We can expect that the new Administration and Congress will try to change federal policy to redirect money from schools to individuals in the forms of school choice, portability, vouchers, and/or tax breaks.
This isn’t as simple as it sounds. The challenge will be in determining how what sounds like big money --$20 billion -- will translate when it is divided by the millions of children now receiving Title I funds. It will bring up questions of who is Title I eligible or whether a minuscule amount should be spread among all the nation’s more than 50 million public schoolchildren, plus those who are homeschooled or attend private or parochial schools. Another question: How will a change in control and funding streams impact students with an IEP?
And, there will be other issues if this becomes the overall policy. Such a move would be a historic shift from students who are low performing and living in poverty to a general-aide approach. This change in emphasis would mean a loss of concentration of resources for improving resource poor schools.
The policy is only one side of the coin. On the other—which we’re already beginning to see--is this massive shift in how people interact and what this means for parents, teachers, and local school leaders. We have heard of white kids shouting at black kids, “we won.” We have heard of swastikas being spray painted on lavatory stalls in middle schools. All of this at a time when children are hearing that their families may be split apart by government agents raiding their homes because of where they come from or how they practice their religion. LGBTQ community members are now wondering if their newly found acceptance is temporary, and African-Americans are thinking that all of this confirms that they are second-class citizens.
How will we as educators and parents manage the hate being heard in so many places? How do we find the moral and physical courage to stand up to bullies?
Coping with the social change is harder than the change in government. The social change isn’t controlled by anyone and there are no rules.
LFA groups have begun sharing information with their members to provide help on how to help by mitigate the hate by acting. We suggest you check in with your professional society to learn how others are helping to make a difference, but here are three resources that offer ideas and strategies for handling these issues:
- ‘I’m Going to Reassure Them That They Are Safe’: Talking to Students After the Election, an article by NEA Today.
- Resources to help teachers and students interpret the results of the election, promote dialogue with students and families and safeguard a supportive, positive school environment from the American Federation of Teachers’ “Share My Lesson”
- Guidance from the American School Counselor Association on supporting students after the election.
We as educators and advocates must now come together to protect the immediate safety and well-being of our schoolchildren as well as their prospects for future success. Their lives are at stake.