Schools are a microcosm of society, and what young people learn there goes far beyond classroom instruction. Students replicate the social stratification they learn in their primary and secondary institutions, and many of these institutions are designed in ways that allow and even encourage discrimination against students of color, students in the LGBTQIA+ community, and students from low-income families. In order to improve our country, common sense dictates that we ought to begin with our schools—a task arguably more difficult when our president’s budget request includes a nine-billion dollar cut to education that would slash funding for—among other essential programs—teacher training, technical and vocational education, before and after school programs, and loan-forgiveness initiatives. While, in truth, we have fifty educational systems rather than one, the decisions that are made at the federal level matter, and Trump’s proposed cuts in educational funding will hurt underserved students the most.
To make matters worse, the cuts to Medicaid in the Senate’s proposed healthcare bill would, ThinkProgress reports, “cut off a major funding stream for education services that benefit K-12 students, particularly those with special needs.” Up to four billion dollars that public schools have traditionally received in Medicaid reimbursements will now be slashed—four billion dollars that are essential in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a program for which funding is already too low. According to ThinkProgress, “A quarter of school leaders said they use Medicaid reimbursements for things like walkers, special playground equipment, and technology to help students see and hear. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they used the reimbursements for salaries of health care professionals.” The Washington Post’s Emma Brown explains, “Many school districts, already squeezed by shrinking state education budgets, say that to fill the hole they anticipate would be left by the Republican push to restructure Medicaid, they would either have to cut those services or downsize general education programs that serve all students.”
It’s not only K-12 students who are at risk under the current administration’s budgets and proposed policies. On July 1st, regulations designed to protect undergraduates from predatory, for-profit colleges, were supposed to take effect. The loudest voice against these regulations? An association of for-profit colleges in California, of course. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has sided with the for-profit schools by freezing the implementation of these regulations, which, The New York Times’ Stacy Cowley writes, “were finalized in October  by the Obama administration after years of negotiation and review.” DeVos claims that the protective measures are “unfair to students and schools,” but Maura Healey, attorney general of Massachusetts—one of the eighteen states bringing a lawsuit against DeVos—argued, “Her decision to cancel vital protections for students and taxpayers is a betrayal of her office’s responsibility and a violation of federal law.” As U.S. News & World Report’s Lauren Camera explains, the regulations, “protect first-generation students, veterans and service members, as well as students of color, all of whom have been disproportionately targeted by for-profit schools.”
Stay informed and stay loud—we must protect our young people’s right to an education that fully and fairly equips them to thrive in our complicated society.
1) Stay informed.
Betsy DeVos hasn’t received a lot of attention from the press, in part because she is famously difficult to reach. Don’t allow her to move forward in the shadows with measures that will hurt our students.
Check in on these resources regularly:
- The National Education Association
- Education Week’s Politics K-12
- NPR-Ed – You also can sign up for a weekly roundup of education news here (scroll to the bottom of the page).
- The New York Times’ Education Section
- The Department of Education’s press releases (read to understand the “official” administration position, keeping in mind that the wording on these is “spun” to make DeVos look good…)
2) Stay Loud
Oppose cutting funds for kids in special education (From Jen Hoffman’s Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience):
- Call or email: Your two senators (look up or leave message).
- Script: “Hi. I’m concerned about cuts to services for kids in special ed programs. I believe we have a responsibility to fully support all learners. The Senate healthcare bill strips Medicaid funding which currently covers essential tools, staff, and screenings to give these kids a fair chance. I oppose the bill for many reasons, but this one is critical. (If it affects you directly, share why.) Thanks.”
Oppose Education Funding Cuts in the Trump/DeVos Budget (From the NEA website):
- “The priorities President Trump outlined in his budget are reckless and wrong for students and working families. If enacted, the Trump budget will crush the dreams of students, deprive millions of opportunities, and make it harder for students to access higher education.”
Cosponsor and Support IDEA Full Funding Act (From the NEA website):
- “The Trump/DeVos is devastating for students and our nation’s public schools. It slashes opportunities for the students most in need by cutting education funding by more than $10 billion, including a $113 million cut to IDEA – a program that helps ensure all children with disabilities receive a free, appropriate public education.”
Oppose Sec. DeVos’ efforts to exclude LGBTQ kids from quality education (From Jen Hoffman’s Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience):
- Call or email: Your three MoCs (look up or leave message).
- Script: “Hi. I’m from [ZIP] calling to express my concern about Betsy DeVos’ agenda to exclude LGBTQ kids from receiving a quality education. As Sen/Rep [name] knows, sexual orientation is not a legally protected status in the US. So when DeVos says she’ll uphold the current law, this means she can legally discriminate against gay kids in education. That’s not okay. (Share story if you have a LGBTQ family member or friend.) America can’t afford to abandon our kids. Will [name] work to be sure all kids receive a robust, quality education?”
Oppose Betsy DeVos’ Decision To Loosen For-Profit College Rules (From Jen Hoffman’s Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience):
- Call or email: All three MOCs (look up or leave message).
- Script: “I’m from [ZIP] and I am very concerned about Betsy DeVos’ decision to loosen for-profit college rules. I want students to be protected. I want colleges and universities to be evaluated based on how many graduates are able to pay back their loans–and if programs consistently fail these tests, they should lose access to federal student-aid dollars. Thank you.”
[DO THIS TODAY] Ask Betsy DeVos not to repeal or weaken regulations that protect students from predatory for-profit colleges (From Lauren Sanders, Associate Director, National Consumer Law Center):
Write your own comment or choose one of the following (composed by Lauren Sanders):
- Continue to grant relief to the tens of thousands of students who have applied for relief from student loans taken out to attend fraudulent schools but are still waiting.
- Immediately implement the ban on forced arbitration to preserve student loan borrowers’ right to go to court if their schools violate the law or break their promises.
- Stop giving federal loans and grants to schools that do not equip their graduates to succeed in their careers.