Will Bob Casey Try to Block Trump’s Supreme Court Pick?

By Daniel Garman

Without even reading the article it can be assumed that the answer to “Will Bob Casey Try to Block Trump’s Supreme Court Pick?”, is a yes. Bob Casey has an enormous track record for opposing President Trump. Furthermore, Casey isn’t alone and uses liberals and conservatives in many fights to increase numbers and effectiveness. However, Casey seems to be in a dilemma of political views. Not only has Casey been recently unavailable for interviews and questions, but the majority of the state he represents, Pennsylvania, nominated for President Trump. Now when looking at this frankly, the whole debate of the seat is to allow democrats a way of blocking President Trump. As stated in the article, “They are still seething over Trump’s victory…”. This being the case, Casey has a very big decision to make soon as he could potentially be the difference in Gorsuch being nominated or denied. Currently, in my opinion, it is unclear which way Casey will lean; however, the article suggests that he is leaning towards supporting the state he represents. What could be the potential consequences be of Casey’s decision to either support Pennsylvania and Gorsuch or his own democratic party?

GOP Lawmaker Proposes Abolishing Department of Education

by Darshan Jha

As both the Democrats and Republicans have voiced their opinions on the policies that have been proposed by the Trump Administration, one representative from Kentucky has challenged to abolish the Department of Education. Representative Thomas Massie’s bill isn’t lengthy, but in a single page, the representative proposes to abolish the agency by the end of 2018 on December 31st.  This comes the day after the Vice President had to break the 50-50 tie to confirm Betty DeVous.

As President Reagan once tried to get rid of the agency, he was unsuccessful and many individuals believe that education policies should be left at the local and state level instead of the federal government. This isn’t the first agency that a Republican representative has tried to abolish. Representative Matt Gaetz from Florida is working on a bill that would get rid of the EPA, another agency that wasn’t flavored by President Reagan.

I believe that both of these agencies are needed, but there needs to be reform in education. I believe that we need to become a leader in education and help our youth not be in debt as they come out of college. Local and State government are having a hard time balancing their budgets due to the amount of money that is needed and therefore I think there should be a federal agency to overlook the education system. Another thing that is concerning is asking the State and Local governments to enforce Title IX, which is important for many schools in regards to sports, but also in other areas. I haven’t been able to find any articles to see if the current administration favors abolishing the Education Department, but as of now, the nomination of Secretary DeVos has been historic in many ways.


Mental Health and Learning Disorders Should Be on the Agenda of New Administration

by Mohamed Ali

In reading the article Devos Needs to Focus on Mental Health in School Aged Children, I feel that the education of our children is the base investment for the future of our country. In order for children to maximize their educational experience, the state must first accommodate to the unique make up of every child. The newly appointed Secretary of Education reminds us that millions of children in the United States suffer from disorders that are detrimental to their mental health, behavioral health and emotional health.

These disorders have a direct negative impact to the growth of our youth. I truly believe in all facets of this article from the notion that mental health or learning disorders leads to dropping out of school, to the fact that emotional and behavioral problems can lead to disciplinary measures in schools, suspension, and or retention. Most importantly, these impacts can lead to a life of unemployment, underemployment, and or worse imprisonment.

This article talks about the statistics and the possible future, of our future leaders yet it doesn’t discuss what steps or measures that will be taken to make it happen. We as a country need to focus on these children to make our country “great again”. These children need advocacy in their community starting with their parents. We have to teach these parents what rights they have about their child’s education. Only few schools have the resources or programs to accommodate for these debilitating disorders. Without informing these parents we are not advocating for these children. Hopefully Devos takes her newly acquired position seriously. She will need to look at it from the eyes of teachers, parents, and health therapist to advocate for our children. Not from the national bank account.

Maine Rural Schools Worried about Education Policy

by Autumn Herring

 Schenck High School may be facing an uncertain future due to a shrinking tax base and an aging population. Education policy has been designed to deal with urban and suburban challenges. However, rural school districts, such as Schenck, are being overlooked. There is now more focus being placed on charter schools and private-school vouchers with the new administration in the White House.

For students in Schenck they have no other choice than to attend Schenck High. All the other school’s considered ‘good’ are too far away for these students to travel too. Superintendent Eric Steeves is worried that if they are forced to bus students away from Schenck they will be losing tuition money. The closest the next school district is from Schenck is over an hour away. “It depends on how it’s organized. . . . It may be up to their town to pay for that. And in this weather, it would be horrific.” Stevees states his concern during an interview.

More than half of Maine’s students attend rural schools as well as nearly 9 million of the 50 million public school students across the country. These rural schools are struggling to compete with private and charter schools because of limited housing, low pay and difficult working conditions. Rural schools in financially stable areas will remain successful. However, schools such as Schenck, held together by a poor local tax base and weak state support, will continue to struggle.


It’s National School Choice Week – but are our nation’s public schools a viable choice?

by L. Duelfer

Since its induction in the 1970’s, the goal of the US department of Education is to assure that every child has access to the best school for them regardless of where they live. Private schools have always been available for since the start of the colonies, and the government has supplied a public school option that grew throughout the 19th century. The mid 1800’s saw a standardization of teaching so that every child would have access to the same education mirroring the Prussian system school system. Public education funded through tax dollars of the states became standard by the late 1800’s, and by 1918 every state required children to attend school, and even then it was only to the age of 14. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education_in_the_United_States#Federal_era) Despite this ideal of every child having the same opportunity to access the same resources, there were always other factors when deciding if a child attended this school. Once they were able to square away tuition costs, there were still other priorities that the students had to weigh on when deciding to pursue their education. From what were the needs of the day (often dwarfed by household economics) to the skills required for tomorrow (most jobs didn’t require or utilize a secondary education). During the 20th century the number of school buildings grew so did the ways lessons were taught, with child psychiatry noting different learning styles and learning abilities.

With such a growth of knowledge and ways that it’s being obtained, it’s not an absurd notion that the current nominee for Secretary of Education in 2016 would be an advocate for school choice who looks to the future and sees the choice for which school is right to be in the hands of the individual. Hurray! Tomorrows leaders are having their learning be tailored to their needs today. Betsy Devos has referenced the need for school choice in her Jan 17 hearing, stating that “parents no longer believe that a one-size-fits-all model of learning meets the needs of every child, and they know other options exist, whether magnet, virtual, charter, home, religious…” and going on to explain that not parents are frustrated by their lack of accessibility to these options. Indeed, the documentary Waiting for Superman (2010) emphasizes how unlikely it is for a child to make it into a good school and are forced to play the odds in an even more morbid telling of The Lottery.

The opposition is worried about two big issues – is the ability to chose ubiquitous and are is there a guarantee in equity in those quality in those choices. The first issue is that fights this utopia of choice is that, well, we don’t all live in an utopia of choice. “Choice” is most abundant where there is already wealth and opportunity. In poorer communities there are only so many resources, and very often one new school is funded by taking resources from one school to another through a voucher system. This system basically evaluates the amount of money of a school that would go to a child and then transfers it to their next school. The problem that the opposition has with it is that the sum does not equal all the parts and all the remaining children in the public actually have less resources. One citizen interviewed in this article mentioned that in order to have each of her children go to their chosen school she would have to drive over 200 miles a day. This family resides in Betsy Devos’ home state of Michigan, and so after 28 years of advocating for a better system, they should have the best opportunity to prove that her choice system is obtainable for every family.

Critics of soon-to-be Secretary Devos are also worried that she will privatize schools, which will stop the ability for over site to ensure that a quality education lies within everyone’s district for everyone’s needs, assuring that public schools remain public as a reflection and source of pride to the local community. For instance, if every child truly were able to select their school the only institutions with enrollment would be Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and Hogwarts. Therefore a level of regulation does need to be in place to safeguard misplaced expectations from letting a bunch of adults wander free with the hopes of just controlling their world with their mind and a well-chosen stick but no concept of basic physics resulting very misconceived expectations of aerial travel. There isn’t an easy solution. Even if every classroom had a regulated size with the best resources available, not every person would learn the same way, need the same lessons, or be able to shine with their talents and aptitudes. If everyone went to magnet schools, there would be a missed opportunity of a solid basic skill set that allows people to change careers throughout their life. The idea of a school is to help mold a child into a productive citizen. Obviously there is a required level of the three R’s, but there are other items which falls into debate. How much science should someone have? What about history? International policy? Language? Do we need to name every state’s capitol or is it more important to know computer programming? And if you are in a private institution, how much can religion dictate the curriculum? Does the government have a right to intervene, and where is the line between having “one nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance to allowing children to go to a commune following the doctrine of fringe cult? For those tackling this issue, the worry is not choice between if children should take their SATs through interpretive dance or with a number 2 pencil, the issue is assuring the quality in every education system and where and how to draw those lines.


New Jersey Debates Charter School Teacher Qualifications

by E. Cohen

A proposal in New Jersey would give high performing charter schools more lee way in concern to the hiring of teachers and principals for the school who don’t have a traditional background in concern to teaching. Various opponents arguments state that it would hurt the quality of the instruction that children would achieve. They also argue that public and charter schools should be held to the same standards. Supporters argue that there is a shortage of teachers in key subjects and that the regulations prevent the hiring of for example scientists, from being brought in to teach the specific specialty subject. It would be the idea of having professionals in the industry be the teachers of those subjects to the charter school students.

The conflict that has emerged according to the article, is the debate over how much freedom the charter schools should have from state mandates. The State board of education in New Jersey is expected to discuss the proposal on Wednesday to decide on the next steps. The five year program if approved would work as follows: The charter schools could hire teacher candidates with bachelor’s degrees who also satisfy two criteria from a menu of four choices: having at least a 3.0 grade point average in college, passing a basic skills test, passing a test of subject matter, and having relevant experience in work or education. The traditional path to becoming a teacher faces higher standards than this with hours of certification needed.

There are many various different arguments to whether the charter schools in New Jersey should face different standards than the public ones, with various political education leaders taking different stances on the issue.

Article by Leslie Brody, “Charter Schools Seek More Leeway in Hiring Teachers.” Wall Street Journal,  January 29, 2017. 

Advocates for School Choice

by K. Braun

This Washington Post article highlights National School Choice Week (NSCW; January 22-28), advocating for school choice.*  While NSCW events were coordinated across the country, the main events took place in Washington, DC. Organizers selected the capital due to its obvious political significance and also because the District of Columbia currently has “the nation’s only federally funded voucher program.” The specific confluence of circumstances as a new Republican administration begins in 2017 makes the timing of NSCW particularly advantageous for school choice supporters.

NSCW demonstrates large-scale, concerted advocacy efforts undertaken by groups to gain or retain a place on congressional members’ legislative agendas. As the House and Senate both now have a Republican majority, school choice advocates recognize an opportunity to make significant headway on favorable legislation. Event participants can encourage legislators to act, while NSCW lobbyists can work with legislators and their staffs to propose draft bill language to enact the changes that NSCW favors.

NSCW further focused legislators’ attention by building on existing media coverage of the confirmation process of Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s education secretary nominee. Participants will likely ask their senators to vote in favor of DeVos’ confirmation, as they view her as a school choice champion. (Her past actions have involved lobbying efforts to expand voucher programs and charter schools throughout the country.) Opponents of school choice likely gather at another time within their own issue-specific organizations and lobby senators just as forcefully against school choice.

Article: Brown, Emma. “DeVos receives praise at ‘National School Choice Week’ rally.” Washington Post, 24 Jan. 2017.

* The NSCW organizers define school choice as including all education types: “traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.” However, the article treats school choice as educational options other than public school. The article does not mention the group’s organization, but its website emphasizes that it is an “independent effort” involving partners such as chambers of commerce and schools (notably absent is mention of teachers’ groups or unions).