President Elect-Donald Trump’s decision to tap Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education has sent shockwaves through the education community throughout the nation. Since the Reagan Administration, DeVos and her husband, the former CEO of Amway and the owner of the Orlando Magic have used their influence and power in Republican-party circles to promote school “choice,” and since the beginning of the Clinton Administration they have worked to influence the funnelling of money away from public schools and towards charter and private schools.
The appointment can mean only one thing – Trump’s administration will seek to destroy public schools, ironically the lifeblood of the rural and exurban largely white communities that put the Republican in the White House. The hope many of us had that Trump would be a free agent type-President, not-beholden to the agenda of the special interest groups that fund the GOP (such as the DeVos’ 30-year plus crusade against public education) have been dashed with this one appointment.
Similarly, Incoming Florida House of Representatives Speaker Richard Corcoran has come in with a bang, which makes sense since he’s been the heir apparent for this position since the second he was elected to the House in 2010. Corcoran was Speaker Marco Rubio’s Chief of Staff a decade ago and has an intricate knowledge of the legislative process that few recent Speakers of the House have had as they have taken office.
Corcoran choose his first speech as Speaker of the House to attack Democrats and the teacher’s union. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Corcoran said:
“They [the teacher’s union] are attempting to destroy the lives of almost 100,000 children, mostly minority, and all of them poor. This flies in the face of research. It defies common sense. It is downright evil.”
Corcoran implored the Democrats to urge the union to drop its lawsuit which has been filed against the expansion of the voucher program in Florida which was signed by Governor Scott.
It’s clear that school “choice” will be a pet agenda item of Speaker Corcoran. Advocates of public education should prepare for an onslaught these next two legislative sessions.
With DeVos directing national education policy and Corcoran firmly established as one of the most powerful politicians at the state level, the thirty year assault on public education pushed by right-wing and corporate interests might enter a new phase – those who care about public education have been forced to play defense for sometime now but now might be even more under fire than ever.
Unfortunately, elections have consequences and the failures of Democrats in the state of Florida to effectively organize and blunt the right-wing agenda while losing election after election has impacted public education and school children profoundly. It’s only going to get worse in 2017 and 2018.