UFT Worries About Public Education In Trump Administration

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The conversation quickly turned to the recent political events at the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Conference in Manhattan yesterday as more than 50 educators from across the city met to voice their concern about the changing educational climate.

The election of Donald Trump last week has sent the education sector into a frenzy, as educators try to brace for a new era of educational policy under an unexpected administration. The new President-Elect is an advocate of charter schools and school choice, while Vice President-Elect Mike Pence is an advocate of market based reform–school vouchers.

The final panel featured Dale Russakoff (author of “The Prize”), Aaron Pallas (Professor of Sociology and Education at Teacher’s College), Michael Mulgrew (UFT President) and David Kirp (author of “Improbable Scholars”) discussing the future of corporate reform in the U.S. education system.

Corporate reform in education was a movement that started many years ago in which educational experts and advocates pushed for closing the “achievement gap” and creating the best schools for students to attend. However, the movement turned into a way for private funding to enter into the educational system and created a competition system among schools and teachers based on a system of standards. This movement opened the door to charter schools and “school choice” that now is prevalent throughout many schools in the city today.

“The core of a real education is the building of a trusting relationship between teachers and students. And you can’t do that with markets, or vouchers or technology and that’s the core of the enterprise,” said Kirp.

Trump will be looking to appoint a Secretary of Education within the coming weeks. Current names being mentioned for the position are Michelle Rhee (former Chancellor of Washington D.C. schools) and Eva Moskowitz (CEO of NYC’s Success Academy Charter Schools), who come from opposing educational ideologies.

Rhee is a champion of education reform, and as the Chancellor of D.C. schools she took on a campaign of firing supposed “bad teachers” and closing “failing schools” in order to create a system where every student was receiving the best education by the best teachers.

Moskowitz is a strong believer in the charter school system and students having a choice on which school to attend instead of being limited by the boundaries of the public school system.

“The issue is that if your school system is putting together the nuts and bolts, and are building the support and processes so that there is a constant look at the rigorous curriculum, and that there is a training regimen going on with all of the teachers so that they are getting the proper input to do their job with their students,” said Mulgrew explaining how successful schools breed successful students. “Once you start embarking on those things, then you start to see the changes happening.”

In the end, it seemed the attendees came to a consensus that the future trajectory of corporate reform is ending, but a new phase is appearing where improvement from year to year is the main goal by closing the achievement gap and not allowing schools to be underfunded due to a lack of support in the community.

This will make students less prone to joining the charter school or school choice system because they will know their neighborhood school is providing the same educational opportunities as other schools.

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