Trump says our schools are “Flush with Cash!?” They’re Falling Apart!

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Donald Trump lies.

If you haven’t learned that yet, America, you’ve got four more cringe-inducing years to do so.

Even in his inaugural address, he couldn’t help but let loose a whooper about US public schools.

“Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves,” he said. “But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists. … An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

To which nearly every poor, nonwhite public school parent, student and teacher in the country replied, “What’s that heck did he just say now!?”

Los Angeles Unified School district routinely has broken desks and chairs, missing ceiling tiles, damaged flooring, broken sprinklers, damaged lunch tables and broken toilet paper dispensers.

They’re flush with cash!?

New York City public schools removed more than 160 toxic light fixtures containing polychlorinated biphenyls, a cancer causing agent that also hinders cognitive and neurological development. Yet many schools are still waiting on a fix, especially those serving minority students.

They’re flush with cash!?

At Charles L. Spain school in Detroit, the air vents are so warped and moldy, turning on the heat brings a rancid stench. Water drips from a leaky roof into the gym, warping the floor tiles. Cockroaches literally scurry around some children’s classrooms until they are squashed by student volunteers.

They’re flush with freakin cash!?

Are you serious, Donald Trump!?

And this same picture is repeated at thousands of public schools across the nation especially in impoverished neighborhoods. Especially in communities serving a disproportionate number of black, Latino or other minority students.

In predominantly white, upper class neighborhoods, the schools often ARE “flush with cash.” Olympic size swimming pools, pristine bathrooms – heck – air conditioning! But in another America across the tracks, schools are defunded, ignored and left to rot.

A full 35 states provide less overall state funding for education today than they did in 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which focuses on reducing poverty and inequality. Most states still haven’t recovered from George W. Bush’s Great Recession and the subsequent state and local budget cuts it caused. In fact, over the same period, per pupil funding fell in 27 states and still hasn’t recovered.

And the federal government has done little to help alleviate the situation. Since 2011, spending on major K-12 programs – including Title I grants for underprivileged students and special education – has been basically flat.

The problem is further exacerbated by the incredibly backward way we allocate funding at the local level which bears the majority of the cost of education.

While most advanced countries divide their school dollars evenly between students, the United States does not. Some students get more, some get less. It all depends on local wealth.

The average per pupil expenditure for U.S. secondary students is $12,731. But that figure is deceiving. It is an average. Some kids get much more. Many get much less. It all depends on where you live. If your home is in a rich neighborhood, more money is spent on your education than if you live in a poor neighborhood.

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world – if not probably the ONLY country – that funds schools based largely on local taxes. Other developed nations either equalize funding or provide extra money for kids in need. In the Netherlands, for example, national funding is provided to all schools based on the number of pupils enrolled. But for every guilder allocated to a middle-class Dutch child, 1.25 guilders are allocated for a lower-class child and 1.9 guilders for a minority child – exactly the opposite of the situation in the U.S.

So, no. Our schools are not “flush with cash.” Just the opposite in many cases.
But what about Trump’s other claim – the much touted narrative of failing schools?

Trump says our schools “leave… our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

Not true.

Graduation rates are at an all-time high of 83.2 percent. Moreover, for the first time minority students are catching up with their white counterparts.

It’s only international comparisons of standardized test scores that support this popular myth of academic failure. And, frankly, even that is based on a warped and unfair reading of those results.

It depends on how you interpret the data.

Raw data shows US children far from the top of the scale. It puts us somewhere in the middle – where we’ve always been for all the decades since they’ve been making these comparisons. Our schools have not gotten worse. They have stayed the same.

However, this ignores a critical factor – poverty. We’ve known for decades that standardized tests are poor measures of academic success. Bubble tests can assess simple things but nothing complex. After all, they’re scored based on answers to multiple choice questions. In fact, the only thing they seem to measure with any degree of accuracy is the parental income of the test-taker. Kids from rich families score well, and poor kids score badly.

Virtually all of the top scoring countries taking these exams have much less child poverty than the U.S. If they had the same percentage of poor students that we do, their scores would be lower than ours. Likewise, if we had the same percentage of poor students that they do, our scores would go through the roof! We would have the best scores in the world!

Moreover, the U.S. education system does something that many international systems do not. We educate everyone! Foreign systems often weed children out by high school. They don’t let every child get 13 years of grade school (counting kindergarten). They only school their highest achievers.

So when we compare ourselves to these countries, we’re comparing ALL of our students to only SOME of theirs – their best academic pupils, to be exact. Yet we still hold our own given these handicaps!

This suggests that the majority of problems with our public schools aren’t bad teachers, or a lack of charter schools and school choice. It’s money, pure and simple.

We invest the majority of our education funding in rich white kids. The poor and minorities are left to fend for themselves.

This won’t be solved by Trump’s pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos and her school choice schemes. In fact, that’s exactly what’s weakened public schools across the country by leaching away what meager funding these districts have left. Nor will it be solved by a demagogue telling fairy tales to Washington’s credulous and ignorant.

We need to make a real investment in our public schools. We need to make a commitment to funding poor black kids as fairly as we do rich white kids.

Otherwise, the only thing flushed will be children’s future.

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24 thoughts on “Trump says our schools are “Flush with Cash!?” They’re Falling Apart!

  1. Well done! Today is/was/will always be known as a very sad day in American History – almost as sad as a particular day last November. Transitional, both, and not for the better.

    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Everything you’ve described that Littlefigners Donald Trump is totally ignorant of was the same in 1975 when I started teaching, and it stayed that way all the way to my retirement from teaching in 2005. There was never enough money to keep the infrastructure maintained properly, but they did the best they could with what they had.

    Since the system is transparent, it was almost impossible to hide money from the rest of us.

    Nothing will change the rotten, corrupt, lying mind of Littlefingers. He’s been brainwashed, educated by the conspiracy theory media, by hatemongers like Brittbart, by Betsy DeVos, etc.

    Like

  3. Good reminder of keeping the perspective of edu. systems around the world. For example differences in funding, poverty, and years of mandatory ed. (leaving the system at younger age).

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  4. School “systems” are flush with cash. Contractors and administration gets the money instead of school sites. I am in Oakland California, where a single consultant was being paid $30,000 a month. The city passed a bond so the district has $435 million for renovations of school. The district has 49,000 kids, it can afford to make all schools nice. What it cannot afford is 30k/mth for consultants.

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  5. I am an educator less than an hour north of NYC and in comparison we are in much better shape physically than the schools in the city as described in your article. We would probably be considered a middle to lower middle class community if there was even such a thing anymore. our immigrant population is rising weekly. We are not flush with cash. Our faculty and staff have been drastically reduced over the past 5-6 years because of the implementation of the so called “2% tax cap”, as well as the astronomical amount of money we pay to comply with unfunded federal and state mandates. From a nearly 90 million dollar yearly operating budget we spend more than $25 MILLION on these unfunded mandates. Therefore, staff has been cut, services have been cut, programs have been cut. Our kids lose out. It has crippled us. According to a NYS Regent, we have school districts in our state who will have to stop providing KINDERGARTEN because they can no longer afford to support it. I am filled with profound anxiety as we enter an unprecedented era of ignorance, inflexibility and monocular vision.

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  6. Well said! And let’s not forget, not only do we educate all in the US, we also test all, including special Ed students and most of our new language learners. Testing children who we know can’t pass, is tantamount to torture, but we are forced to do it anyway, and their scores are thrown into the mix of when we compare our achievement to other countries. Other countries only test/educate their best students in the data we see.

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    • Beth,

      The exams that compare student achievement across countries do make a strong effort to ensure that the sample of students in the mix reflects the demographics of total student population in every country. To see how the sample is constructed and the accommodations given to students with special educational needs, see this FAQ about the PISA exam: https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/faq.asp

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      • You know, Teaching Economist, that Trump was talking about colleges, too. He said the place where you teach is flush with cash and you deprive children of all knowledge. Why do you do that, Teaching Economist? You are a terrible person according to our president and all you’ve done on this post is defend his point of view.

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  7. […] It doesn’t mean our system is problem free. There are plenty of ways we could improve. We’re still incredibly segregated by race and class. Our funding formulas are often regressive and inadequate. Schools serving mostly poor students don’t have nearly the resources of those serving rich students. But at least at the very outset what we’re trying to do is better than what most of the world takes on. You can’t achieve equity if it isn’t even on the menu. […]

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