President Donald Trump slammed America’s education system during his inaugural address last Friday, saying that while the system is “flush with cash,” it leaves “our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”
Trump has inherited a huge problem in America’s education system. According to a recent Department of Education report, the $7+ billion Obama pumped into the education system during his presidency had “no impact” on student achievement.
This report could influence the Senate’s decision whether to approve Betsey DeVos, Trump’s controversial pick to lead the Dept. of Education.
Fox News calls DeVos an “outspoken school choice advocate who has questioned the way federal education dollars are spent.”
Former President Bush introduced the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program in 2001 to boost test scores and graduation rates among America’s lowest-performing schools. The Obama Administration allocated over $3 billion for the program in 2009, and continued to sink more than $500 million into SIG each year afterwards.
SIG was the “largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools,” reports the Washington Post. The aforementioned Dept. of Education report, which analyzed data from over 500 schools across the nation, found that SIG did not lead to improvements in math or reading test scores; graduation rates; or college enrollment.
“Overall, we found that the SIG program had no impact on student achievement,” writes co-author Lisa Dragoset.
Past research shows that “if you put more resources into failing districts and failing schools, you’re not going to get better student achievement,” argues American Enterprise Institute resident fellow Andy Smarick.
Nina Rees, who worked in the Bush Administration as deputy education undersecretary, blames absent leadership for the failure. “The premise of the program was extremely sound, but it is simply human nature to pick things that are easier to implement as opposed to a more aggressive approach.”
DeVos, with support from both Smarick and Rees, hopes to use federal money to expand the number of schools available so that low-income families have more choices. President Trump has already suggested allocating an extra $20 billion for school choice.
DeVos has stated that she does not intend to dismantle public schools, but many have been quick to attack her for her focus on charter schools.
“There are times when it appears that charter schools are used as a wedge to attack public education,” argues Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). “And the signals of that tend to be that failing charter schools are protected compared to failing public schools. The standards really aren’t there.”
The Miami Herald calls DeVos an “enemy of public schools,” citing failures in Detroit after DeVos pushed to expand funding for private charter schools. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly feels DeVos is unqualified for the position and believes she lacks any sort of commitment to public education. This Wednesday, he said he plans to vote “no” when the Senate meest to consider DeVos’ nomination next Tuesday (Jan. 31st).
DeVos, along with Republican lawmakers, is pushing to implement the Every Student Succeeds act of 2015. This law effectively scraps the SIG program and replaces the No Child Left Behind act.
This bipartisan legislation promises to preserve standardized testing, but removes consequences for regions with poor performance.
Author’s Note: The total educational failure among the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable youth is an outrage. Despite the opposition, DeVos may be the perfect choice. Critics who continue to support Obama’s policies are supporting a failed system.