Rebekah McClung, a civics and economics teacher in Virginia, thinks Donald Trump is doing a pretty good job as president. He hasn’t been perfect ― if it was up to her he would tone down the tweeting ― but overall, she rates him a 4 out of 5.
Her satisfaction with the president includes his plans for schools, even though his proposed budget slashes $9 billion from federal education programs. After all, as a conservative, she doesn’t see the point in leaving children with a huge national debt, even if decreasing it comes at the expense of enrichment programs.
“Really we’re just talking about building cultural centers and sending kids on field trips,” said McClung, referring to the defunding of 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provide after-school and summer programs to more than 1.6 million children. “I don’t know – I don’t necessarily think that’s the responsibility of the federal government.”
McClung’s view stands in contrast with many of the nation’s leading education groups and teachers unions who are decrying the proposed education budget. The American Federation of Teachers said Trump’s proposal “takes a meat cleaver to public education.” The nation’s former secretary of education John King said that the cuts will hurt all students, especially low-income and minority ones. But McClung says that the cuts seem like a necessary evil, even if “cutting a budget sucks, no matter what.”
McClung isn’t alone, even if she might be in the minority of educators. Several other teachers who also voted for Trump told The Huffington Post that they are fine ― if not happy ― with the cost-cutting the president proposed for the U.S. Department of Education. While a few expressed hesitation with his pick for education secretary ― Betsy DeVos ― they said they have faith in the president’s judgment.
The proposed budget slashes funding for a number of education programs ― including ones that provide after-school programming and teacher training ― overall decreasing Education Department spending by over 13 percent. Still, the budget also adds money to charter schools as well as a nebulous school choice program for private institutions. It does not touch funding for special education, something which pleases McClung, who works in a public school.
Her support is not without its caveats. If a private school choice program ― which could come in the form of vouchers ― ends up leading to more “miscommunication and more red tape,” then it’s not something she would support.
“As far as the voucher program is concerned I can’t say I’m for or against it because I really have no idea what they’re talking about,” said McClung, explaining that the details for such a program are still unknown.
Kitty Sullivan has her own concerns about a private school choice program. Sullivan, who taught for 33 years in rural public schools in Florida and Georgia and now works for a university, does not see the point of increasing money for private school choice in rural areas. These areas might have only one public school system or one school for all students.
“I’m afraid they won’t get the same opportunity to go to a private school,” said Sullivan of her former students.
As far as the other budget cuts, Sullivan does not have a problem with an overall decrease in spending, although she is not specifically familiar with the programs Trump would be cutting and how it could impact students. She does have ideas, though, as to how existing money could be reallocated. More money needs to be invested in early childhood education, she said. If the budget cuts will mean any sort of redistribution of funds in this direction, then she’s for it.
Whatever comes out of the Department of Education should not be happening. It’s a state and local issue. Dan, a history teacher who voted for Trump
But none of the priorities in Trump’s budget impact the education issue that Sullivan most wants to see fixed: The Common Core State Standards and standardized testing. Sullivan voted for Trump, in part, because of his promise to rid states of the Common Core. Since taking office, Trump has conspicuously dropped the subject. Sullivan is hopeful that he will follow through.
“If he doesn’t do this I’m going to not be happy,” Sullivan said. “I would say a lot of teachers are not going to be happy … Its gotten to the point where my teacher friends said they spend more time testing than teaching. They’re burned out on it.”
Jeanne, a public school teacher in Ohio who did not want her last name published in an effort to keep politics out of her classroom, is similarly hopeful. Jeanne detests the Common Core and is confident that Trump will get rid of the standards “because he’s a man of his word.”
While Jeanne has not studied the budget, she is supportive of the idea of general cuts. She sees a lot of wasted money in her own school and even some “lazy teachers.” Even though she cares deeply about public schools, she’s optimistic that injecting more competition into the public school system ― by way of more charter schools or voucher programs ― could help solve public school issues.
“I do believe that there will be public schools. We have to educate kids. We have to educate America. This might just be another avenue that would be good,” said Jeanne.
But the views of Jeanne, Sullivan and McClung are nowhere close to that of Dan, a republican history teacher in Michigan. Dan doesn’t care what’s in the budget, because he doesn’t think the federal government should play any role in education.
“It’s a department that constitutionally, shouldn’t exist. Whatever comes out of the department of education should not be happening. It’s a state and local issue,” said Dan, who did not want his last name released for fear of backlash against his views.