As a teacher in a public high school in New Jersey, I can tell you that we talk about the presidential race almost every day.
While many of us are divided over Democratic candidates Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, we can agree on one thing unanimously: we are terrified of Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner.
We’ve already seen and felt how our two-term Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has hurt education in significant and lasting ways. Christie’s commitment to Trump has increased teachers’ fears about his educational policies, as it is clear Trump intends to keep Christie on his staff in some way if he wins the presidency.
Trump is scarier than Christie because he is difficult to assess. He has wavered so often in so many of his opinions, even his political affiliations. He doesn’t have a history of time in government, as Clinton, Sanders, or Christie do, so we can only assess him based upon who is advising him, what he has written in his books, and what he states publicly.
The billionaire property mogul has voiced common Republican concerns about education – namely, that Common Core is hurting education, and that there should be more support for charter schools. In 2015, Trump announced that he would “end Common Core. Common Core is a disaster” and instead defer more power to local government.
In his book, The America We Deserve, Trump announced his support for charter schools and other programs that enable parents to choose where their children go to school.
He states that: “Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone, surrounded by a very high union wall. Why aren’t we shocked at the results? After all, teachers’ unions are motivated by the same desires that move the rest of us. With more than 85 per cent of their soft-money donations going to Democrats, teachers’ unions know they can count on the politician they back to take a strong stand against school choice.”
Not surprisingly, most teachers’ unions (and teachers) have denounced Trump for his lack of support of teachers’ unions and public schools, and are instead throwing their support behind Clinton.
She has expressed a strong desire to help teacher and unions, not vilify them as Christie has done in New Jersey. Clinton has focused on education in low-income districts such as Detroit, emphasizing the importance of free, quality education from preschool through high school and affordable college tuition.
She recognizes the issues in urban schools stem not from curriculum or teachers, but from larger issues of poverty – unemployment, poor access to healthcare and nutrition, impossible cost of college, etc. She is one of the only candidates talking about how the children of Flint, Michigan are going to struggle in school due to lead poisoning in their local water supply.
Not only does a Trump presidency scare teachers in my school on a purely policy level, his behavior is appalling. His hateful rhetorical, disregard for facts and truth, and bullying tactics are horrifying traits for the leader of our country to possess. This conversation has become less about who we want to become president, and more about who we can’t stand as president.
At least in that way, teachers are united.
Rebecca McGrath is a high school teacher in New Jersey.