Betsy DeVos's record does not at all show that she believes in public education. She is a cheerleader for charter schools. She's all about vouchers and charter schools -- two things I vehemently oppose because they take money away from public schools. And although she and Mr. Trump both say they are against Common Core, her past doesn't demonstrate that.
I want a Secretary of Education who will abolish Common Core, abolish PARCC, abolish NCLB/RTTT, abolish charter schools, and abolish vouchers. And then, I want that Secretary to abolish the US Dept of Education and return control to states and local school districts. If the DOE is to remain and stick its nose into states' business, it should only be to help the states that perform below average. Leave the states, like mine, that have always done well alone.
But what about the poor inner city districts or the rural poor with abysmal outcomes? These children and these school don't fail because the kids aren't bright or the teachers are underpaid or whatever else has been addressed before. These children don't do well in school because they're hungry. They can't get a good night's sleep because their bed is a ratty old couch and their bedroom is the family room, if they're lucky. They don't get help with their homework because mom's too busy working 2-3 jobs or taking care of the younger siblings or is passed out from drugs or alcohol and dad, well dad's nowhere to be found. These kids fail because of extreme poverty that the average American doesn't even know exists. If the government wants to help these kids succeed, they have to throw out all the rules and the plans and the things that work in middle-class and upper-class school systems. They have to help these kids LIVE in order to help them LEARN.
To start with, extend the school day. Extend it to say, 6:00 pm. Make it an opt-out thing (as opposed to opt-in) where the kids will stay at school until the buses send them home at 6:00 unless the parents sign them out of the program. Feed them a healthy, nutritious, delicious dinner. These are the kids who are on free and reduced lunches. They are thankfully now receiving free/reduced breakfast too but what about after school? Some of these kids don't eat again until the next morning. How can they do homework if they're hungry and can't concentrate?
What else can be done with this extra 3-4 hours of school?
- Teach them how to cook. Simple, healthy meals. Girls and boys, not just the girls.
- Buy a bunch of washers and dryers and have the kids bring their dirty laundry to school and teach them how to do laundry and give them a place to do it. Some kids skip school simply because they have nothing clean to wear and they're embarrassed.
- Teach them how to grocery shop wisely in the stores available to them. If the family has no car, the corner convenience store may be the best they can do routinely. Teach them what's bad for them and why and what's good. How to read nutrition and ingredient labels. Feed them foods they've never had before so they'll know what they taste like before they buy.
- Teach them how to stretch the few dollars they have in the store. Teach them about unit prices. They probably learn it in math class, but not that this bottle of ketchup's unit price is per pound and the one next to it is per quart and therefore not comparable.
- Start a school garden and have all the kids take turns working in it. It's a proven fact that if kids grow food, they'll eat it. They know what it is and they are proud that they grew it.
- Teach them about money, budgeting, credit cards (yes, you have to pay for what you buy on them!), balancing a checkbook (no, just because you still have checks doesn't necessarily mean you still have money in your account!), online banking, etc.
- Offer tutoring and homework time.
- Have organized sports and other physical activities. Not gym class and not recess but somewhere in between.
- Teach them about nature and music and art and all the things schools used to teach before standardized testing took over the school day.
- Offer them medical and dental care that most of us take for granted: annual checkups and biannual dental cleanings.
- Ron Finley: The Gangsta Gardener: http://www.ted.com/speakers/ron_finley
- Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? http://www.unnaturalcauses.org/
- Gardening as Cultural Renewal - the Gila Crossing School Program: http://www.unnaturalcauses.org/video_clips_detail.php?res_id=47
- Living in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods is Bad for Your Health: http://www.unnaturalcauses.org/video_clips_detail.php?res_id=217
- There's No Such Thing as Small Stuff: Being Poor in Louisville: http://www.unnaturalcauses.org/video_clips_detail.php?res_id=409
- Food Fight: http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/hip-hop-video-compares-food-industry-drug-dealers.html