Donald Trump is in favor of school choice.
Well of course he is! After all, he made a lot of money scamming poor suckers out of their hard-earned cash with Trump University.
He knows how privatized education benefits the corporations who run the school and not the poor schmucks who want to learn.
If he gets his way, our national education motto will be caveat emptor.
He is betting the American public is so stupid they’ll give a man caught in a scandal for cheating people out of an education the power to set all education policy for our nation’s children.
And it’s all right there before the public.
In fact, the parallels between Trump University and school choice policies are apparent to anyone who looks. Here are just a few of the similarities:
1) False advertising
First of all, Trump University was never an actual university!
The New York State Education Department warned administrators when the institution was founded in 2005 that it was operating without a license. So what did the “school” do? It changed its legal name to The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.
See? We’re not saying it’s a university anymore. I mean we still call it Trump University colloquially and in advertising brochures and so on. But on legal documents we never make that claim.
It’s a classic bait and switch scheme.
But the same could be said of many charter schools.
They don’t claim to be private schools. They claim to be public schools. However, they aren’t subjected to nearly the same transparency and accountability standards.
Public schools are run by an elected school board. Most charters are run by appointed boards.
Public school board meetings are held in public. Any taxpayer can attend, comment on the proceedings and demand access to public records such as its budget. Many charter school meetings are held behind closed doors. Taxpayers have no access or input in the decision-making process nor access to records that should by all accounts be public record.
Charter schools are public schools just like Trump University was a university.
2) Choosing Students
So who could attend Trump University?
Not just anyone. According to the “Private and confidential” playbook obtained by The Atlantic, the one essential qualification listed all in caps was “ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED IN FULL.” In other words, Trump’s school would accept anyone who could pay the entrance fee.
That same playbook, by the way, admonished staffers not to talk with reporters and “If a district attorney arrives on the scene, contact the appropriate media spokesperson immediately.”
Similarly, charter and voucher schools get to choose their students, too.
Advocates pretend school choice means parents get to choose where their kids go to school. Wrong! It means school administrators get to choose who they’ll accept.
At private schools that accept vouchers, the amount of taxpayer money spent at a traditional public school and given to the private school in the form of the voucher is rarely enough to pay for the full tuition. So voucher programs often make it impossible for poor kids to attend private schools. They just reduce the cost for rich kids whose parents can afford to pay the difference.
At charter schools, administrators are infamous for picking students based on the ease with which they can be taught. Sometimes they don’t accept students having academic difficulties or who are in special education programs. Other times they kick them out before state-mandated standardized tests. That way they can falsely inflate their own test scores and pretend like they’re doing a great job teaching all students when they’re not.
3) Quality of Services:
Former Trump University students are suing the reality TV star and Presidential candidate because they claim they paid tens of thousands of dollars for nothing.
You got a free 90-minute seminar that promised enrolling in the school would teach you everything you need to know about real estate investment. Then you were told to enroll in a $1,495 three-day seminar where you were told to enroll in increasingly more expensive additional seminars even up to an Elite Gold package costing $35,000.
However, very little attention was spent to actually teaching students much of anything. Each seminar was basically an advertisement for the next seminar.
Prospective students were told they would be “mentored” by “handpicked” real estate experts showing them Trump’s own real estate strategies.
But no one has yet been able to produce a single instructor handpicked by Trump. Moreover, many of these instructors didn’t even have any knowledge of real estate, They came from other academic fields.
Trump never reviewed the school’s curricula. It was developed by a third party for motivational speakers and timeshare rental companies.
Moreover, Trump never attended any of these seminars personally. Attendees were often told that he was in the building or on his way, but he never showed up. At one seminar, attendees were told they’d get to take their pictures with Trump but ended up getting pictures with his cardboard cutout!
Similarly, many of our nations charter schools provide a substandard education.
When compared with traditional public schools, no evidence has been found that they do a better job. In fact, the evidence says charter do no better and often much worse than traditional public schools.
One reason is that many charters don’t require their teachers to be of the same quality as traditional public schools. Charter often skimp by hiring uncertified teachers or Teach for America trainees who have no degree in education and have only passed a six weeks course.
Also, cyber charter schools, in particular, often use third party companies to create their entire curriculum. This is usually just taking a text book in a given subject, digitizing it and having students answer the questions that used to be in the back of the book.
The parallels are clear. Perhaps that’s why Trump feels comfortable championing choice in education.
He is, after all, an expert on how it works and how it cheats the public.
Creating one excellent education system for everyone is both cheaper and more efficient than dividing children up so they can be monetized. But such a system doesn’t allow corporations and investors to turn a profit. Let’s be real – that’s why Trump is advocating for it.
Several lawsuits have been filed about the Trump University scam and will continue haunting Trump well past the November election.
However, he still maintains it was “a terrific school that did a fantastic job”.
His son, Donald J. Trump, Jr., even gave a speech touching upon school choice at the Republican National Convention this week.
Young Trump never attended public school, but he knows his dad’s business model.
His comments came under fire largely because he repeated several passages written by conservative writer and law professor F. H. Buckley. However, the campaign defended the move saying Buckley helped write Junior’s speech.
And maybe they’ve got a point. As H. L. Menken wrote -“Nobody every went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
That’s what the Trumps are doing. And if their education policy becomes a reality at our nations schools, they’re going to do everything they can to ensure that stupidity continues for generations to come.
For them education isn’t about making America great again. It’s about providing an endless stream of suckers to be taken advantage of by the predators of big business.