The Tropical Belly
We were all consumed by the beast, and I solely did not find the belly comfortable. To be fair, I let myself get hauled to a Donald Trump rally by a relative out of sheer morbid curiosity. The time frame was the 2016 campaign in the James L Knight Center.
The man who would eventually hold the highest office in the United States spent his time on stage going through his talking points to fill the desires of the crowd. I turned to an older woman next to me and asked, “will he talk about any of his policies.” The lady responded, “he cares a lot of education, he’ll talk about it.” As if Trump heard our conversation, he stated, “another major reform will be school choice… I’ve outlined a plan to provide every disadvantaged person in America the freedom to choose a private, public, or religious school of his or her choice.”
This was the first time I heard of the school choice policies. These statements by Trump were highly vague, not going into the organization or funding of this policy. Several pieces of school choice legislation already exist. However, the latest policy proposals by the Trump administration are blurry in regard to legality.
What is School Choice
One of the main proponents of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’s agenda is school choice. The theory of school choice is a way for governments to give back tax dollars to parents to choose the educational option for their children. Tax funds for education are then split between families, who can choose between private education, public education, charter schools, or homeschooling.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been a proponent of these systems and has introduced several measures to promote the system. In February 2019, DeVos introduced a proposal which planned to provide nearly $5 billion per year in tax credits for contributions to groups offering scholarships for private schools and other programs. This proposal was deemed as the ‘Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act’ and enables each state to have control over these scholarship funds.
Critics accuse school choice initiatives as a way to funnel money from public schools to private organizations, essentially trying to privatize the school system. Other critics state that programs promoting school choice are irresponsible, as they put funds in the hands of schools that lack proper supervision.
“School board officials support choice, and employ a lot of creative ideas to provide it, but sending tax dollars to schools that lack local supervision is not an appropriate use of taxpayer funds.”– Thomas Gentzel, executive director and CEO of the National School Boards Association
Teachers have also protested against school choice, which often promotes publicly funded charter schools- which are privately run.
Secular School Scrape
School choice programs sometimes divert federal funds into private schools. As stated by Erica Green of the New York Times:
“Ms. DeVos will join Republican lawmakers in championing legislation that would allow states to opt into a program that provides individual and corporate donors dollar-for-dollar tax credits for contributing to scholarship programs that help families pay private-school tuition and other educational expenses.”– Erica Green of the New York Times
I am not saying school choice programs have or have not benefited underprivileged and challenged individuals. However, an overlooked issue is how these school choice bills violate the secular laws and principles of the United States.
At its core, Betsy DeVos’s push towards the expansion of school choice could be viewed as a means to propagandize Christianity wrapped in a veneer of improving childhood education. One can argue that federal funds should not be allowed to go towards religious schools of any creed and the laws are violate the separation of church and state. One could argue that private religious schools are not an extension of their places of worship, yet, this idea is flimsy considering many private schools have their own places of worship on campus.
The school choice policy will allow private institutions to pull ahead of their public counterparts, and these private institutions, for the most part, will be preaching Christianity. DeVos is weaponizing her seat as the Secretary of Education to make public schools comparatively ineffective to private counterparts. More capital will likely lead to better education and make Christian schools desirable, increasing the demand for religious education.
The Motivation for the President to be for School Choice
According to a Morning Consult Poll, only 55 percent of the White evangelical base now supports trump as their first option, despite 80 percent of voters choosing him in the 2016 Election. This dwindling approval of Trump is likely due to his controversial behavior, including controversial sexual allegations and other questionable religious values. President Trump’s motivations towards these policies have the tendencies of a politically natured policy.
With school choice, the Trump Administration seemingly is scratching the backs of evangelicals, helping the base to ignore Trump’s controversial behavior.