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Trump’s Devastating War on Public Schools: Voucher Program Funnels Billions to Private Corps

If you already think public schools are drowning in the bathtub of direct government sabotage, wait until you read the latest news: Team Trump is seeking to gift $1.4 billion to school vouchers, including for use toward private schools, and the funds will come from—you guessed it—the sparse and dusty coffers of our public education system.

As the L.A. Times reports, the move would come with “deep cuts to federal aid to public schools, according to budget documents released Thursday.”

The go-to darling program of ursaphobic Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would “provide tax funds to families that they can use to pay for tuition at private or religious schools.”

That, as it seems, appears to be merely the tip of the bear’s claw when it comes to gutting public schools like an unsuspecting salmon struggling upstream. The $1.4 billion swiped from public school funds for private and religious schools, which would begin at the start of the fiscal year, Oct. 1, would merely be “the down payment on a program that would be ‘ramping up to an annual total of $20 billion,’” according to Trump’s most recent budget release.

Those standing in opposition to school vouchers claim the obvious—detracting $20 billion a year from public schools would leave public school funding in such dire straits that it would make Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboards look like a prepper’s pantry on the verge of revolution in comparison to the squalor public schools would be left with should the budget be approved. With public schools begging for change in buildings that likely should be condemned, with teachers working longer hours with shrinking pay, as in Michigan, where teacher salaries have dwindled consecutively for the last five years, all while teachers continue to pay out of their own pockets and meager wages for classroom supplies, a 16 percent cut in the public school programs to absorb this latest program is unconscionable. While public schools scrape the bottom of the coal barrel for a means to limp forward, while hungry children stand to lose their free and reduced lunch programs, vouchers are being expanded to give those already better off a tax break to afford separate, more privileged education.

Loss of billions

All in all, the total $20-billion annual public school robbery would amount to approximately one-third of federal education funding being stripped from teachers’ pockets, classrooms’ supplies, and students’ bellies, to name only a few examples. Likely, arts and sports programs will suffer, as well. Corners will be cut. Staff will be shorthanded. Counselors will be fewer and further between, and stress in the classroom, already high due to the scarcity of funding for public schools, will skyrocket.

The L.A. Times reports:

“Of the proposed new $1.4 billion, about $250 million would go to private schools, $168 million would go to new charter schools, which are independent schools within the public system, and the rest to expand programs that allow parents to send their children to public schools outside their local attendance areas.”

Keep in mind those numbers only reflect the “down payment” on a much larger program, too—one that aims to be more than 14 percent larger in the coming years.

Schools will suffer, and many programs, such as before- and after-school programs, as well as numerous grants, will crumble up like old photographs long forgotten in a small pile at the bottom of some vacant trunk, shoved haphazardly in the basement of the public’s conscience. Meanwhile, our children will grow up with the flawed arrogance of corporate education and creationism.

Why, exactly, do we continue to pay taxes?

H/T: L.A. Times / The Independent / Michigan Radio / Business Insider | Featured image by Jared Eberhardt via Creative Commons

Dylan Hock is a writer, educator, and social activist. He serves as a board member of The James Jackson Museum of African American History and volunteers as an officer for the Ezra Pound Society. He is published in Star Power: The Impact of Branded Celebrity.