“Despite Trump’s rhetoric this week in his address to Congress about giving all kids the opportunity to succeed, Trump has absolutely no regard for the structural barriers in this country that have long denied poor kids and kids of color a quality education – the single most powerful tool to getting out of poverty. From being segregated to substandard schools, to disenfranchising poor kids of color by denying them access to quality early childhood, or relegating them to the school to prison pipeline – for over 52 years we have been trying to correct these inequities. This is why Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965. As a nation, we had finally come to terms that an equitable educational opportunity was necessary to achieve success for all children and that the federal government had a critical role to play in that process. And while we have made great strides, the work is far from over. Almost 52 years later, our nation still has huge, shameful gaps in educational achievement, especially for children of color.
Unfortunately, rather than stepping it up and doing more to close these persistent gaps, we now have Violation #2*: HR610, which takes us backward, not forward. Under the cloak of “parental choice,” H.R. 610 dismantles public education and begins the process of privatizing education. By block-granting education funds to states, the federal government is, for all intents and purposes, washing its hands from holding public schools accountable for closing equity gaps – and ignoring that closing gaps requires more than focusing on schools, including investing in early education; ensuring safe, affordable housing; having access to health care, and addressing poverty.
Instead, the pernicious legislation would let states decide if and how they will close these gaps – including states that have long resisted any accountability. Even in some of the most progressive states, we see lack of leadership to closing equity gaps from the top. Like voting rights, reproductive rights, or marriage equality, education equity is a civil rights issue that requires a federal role and a national commitment to ensure prosperity for all.
As a member of Congress, I will push back fiercely against any effort to privatize public education. While I believe in parental choice for public school options, I understand the difference between empowering parents and efforts to dismantle one of our most sacred democratic institutions– our public school system. I cannot support any effort that violates the unifying principle that all children, including poor kids and kids of color, have the right to a quality public education. Vouchers provide absolutely no guarantee that children will have access to quality schools, that schools will embrace every child as brilliant and with potential, or that they will deliver on the results we have been waiting for since 1965. What they do guarantee, given the evidence from places like Michigan, DeVos’ playground, is that pockets will be lined and that once again, children of color will be left behind.
If this is what Trump meant by Making America Great Again, I want nothing of it! And neither do our children or their parents.”