By Shea Howell

May 30, 2017

No one thinks the budget proposed by the White House will get much support. The details will change. Various interests will do their best to protect vital programs and services.

But there is an element of casual cruelty behind these projections that we need to address. Our elders, our children, and the people who care for them are especially targeted as excess expenditures. These projections are a clear articulation of values and polices from an administration that delights in chaos, manipulation, and lies.

Called “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the budget would completely eliminate 66 federal programs, with the biggest cuts aimed at Health and Human Services. Over the next decade the budget projects cuts of more than $3.6 trillion, mostly from Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security Disability and insurance for children. Military spending of all sorts escalates.

No where is the relationship between budgets, priorities and values clearer than in the projections for education. Betsy Devos proposed $10.6 billion in cuts to educational programs. She wants to cut funding for Special Olympics, parent support programs, teacher training, and academic and psychological support for students. While cutting public education, Devos proposes increasing funding for charter schools by 50% and she intends to encourage corporate incentives to support her “school choice” schemes.

These schemes are not some effort to “transform education.” They are a deliberate effort to shift public money to private, primarily religious schools. In the process, they would further enrich the Devos family and friends. As Michael Sainato wrote recently,  “Devos’ approach to the United States Education System is to benefit the private corporations that have leeched off it for personal profit at the expense of the public. From the student debt collecting agency she was personally invested in, to the for-profit schools that benefit from tax credits, vouchers, and other financial incentives, Devos is further increasing the polarizing class divide in the education system to benefit those already wealthy and powerful.”

Nor are these schemes motivated by religion. Rather, they cynically use religion to protect and promote white supremacy. The drive to private, Christian Academies supported by Devos has its roots in the backlash against desegregation of public schools. Between 1964 and 1972 hundreds of white Christian academies were set up, “in response to anticipated or actual desegregation orders.”

In an editorial opposing the Devos appointment, Felicia Wong of the Roosevelt Institute, said:

“An estimated half-million white students left public schools between 1964 and 1975 to enroll in schools that were known as ‘segregation academies.’ This move to private schools was part of a larger ‘white flight’ movement.  White flight was one of the greatest demographic shifts in American history. Millions of whites nationwide moved out of cities and into racially isolated suburbs. Scholar Kevin Kruse has called white flight ‘the most successful segregationist response to the moral demands of the civil rights movement and the legal authority of the courts.’ The character and quality of most American schools today, like the neighborhoods in which they are found and which they shape, have a racial past.”

Across the country people are organizing to resist this assault on our children. The #WeChoose campaign is now in 35 cities. #WeChoose demands:

“A robust, rigorous and relevant curriculum, support for high quality teaching (smaller classes, teacher aides, effective professional development), wrap-around supports for every child (nurses, counselors, clubs, after-school programs), a student-centered school climate, transformative parent and community engagement and inclusive school leadership. The result: sustainable, community schools.”

The Detroit Independent Freedom Schools (DIFS) are part of this effort. Join us as we begin a summer of growing and learning together.