Predictions for 2017: What will the new year bring for teachers and education?

20th December 2016 at 12:15
Crystal ball, education, predictions, teachers, students, schools
I am usually positive and upbeat at school, but the election of Donald Trump makes it tough for me to feel positive about what 2017 has in store for education, says teacher Larry Ferlazzo

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I have usually approached each new year, and each annual list of education predictions, with an over-riding sense of optimism and hope. Not this year.

Though I strive, and am usually successful, in bringing a positive and upbeat attitude to the classroom each day (it’s really not very hard to do with the students I get to teach), I don’t think I can bring the same mood to many of my education policy predictions for 2017 (though they do contain some bright spots!).

Let me know if you think I’m being overly pessimistic!

1. Donald Trump and his new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, will attempt to replicate her disastrous efforts in Detroit throughout the United States.  They will ram through a $20 billion voucher program through Congress that will allow states to apply for funds to let parents use them for private or religious schools, and promote charter schools with no attention to their quality, as DeVos did in Michigan. Much of that money will be taken from the Title 1 program, designated to support low-income students and their schools.  Some states, like California, will refuse to seek the voucher funds, but others — such as Nevada and Indiana — will pursue it and, and as a result, further weaken their public schools that will–already be devastated by the loss of Title 1 funds.  In many communities, public schools may very well enter a “death spiral.”

2. Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court will be swiftly confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. Though it may not happen this year, a Friedrichs – like case will soon rise to the top and the court will rule that unions cannot charge non-members for representing them to their employees — even though they benefit greatly from that representation. Such a ruling is likely to spread chaos in its wake, as it has done in Wisconsin schools when changes were instituted almost six years ago. This ruling is likely to be made despite evidence that strong teachers unions benefits schools, students and their families.

3. On the brighter side, this attack on teachers unions is likely to spark a “push-back” from teachers to bring a more vibrant organizing and a stronger community connection to union work, sometimes known as social justice unionism or teacher-community unionism. The Supreme Court ruling may – and I want to emphasize the word may – end up being an example of the old community organizing adage that your opponent sometimes does your best organizing for you.

4. There will be an initial sigh of relief among many immigrant students and their families when Donald Trump becomes president and he focuses on expanding a border wall between the United States and Mexico, and “just” continues the same level of criminal deportations that took place under President Obama. However, by the end of the year, if his popularity begins to wane, expect him to start broadening his definition of “criminals” eligible for deportation and watch fear sweep through many of our schools and communities.

5. A new President Trump will also put ending the DACA program, which allows hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came here as children to “legally” work — including hundreds of teachers — on the backburner at the beginning of his administration. He will claim he has more important issues to confront and, like his deportation plans, hold it in reserve in case he feels he needs it to generate personal support among his base at the end of the year.

6. The Every Student Succeeds Act will pretty much end up being ignored by the new Trump administration, and the U.S. Department of Education will basically approve whatever plan states with administrations and/or legislatures that they like submit and oppose the plans of any state they don’t like (California, for instance). Even with the latter, however, they won’t really push any fights — the Department of Ed’s focus is going to be laser-like on creating and implementing a nationwide voucher program.

7. One positive development this year will be the ever-increasing use of restorative practices in schools instead of punishments like suspensions that affect students of color disproportionately. Extensive research will finally be done and unveiled documenting the effectiveness of restorative “best practices,” particularly at the secondary level.

8. I borrow this last one from educator Bill Ivey every year. He predicts that “each and every school day will bring tens of thousands of reasons to celebrate in schools across the country.” That sure sounds good to me…

You might want to review my previous years’ predictions and evaluate the quality of my foresight:

Eight Education Predictions (and some wishful thinking) for 2016
Nine Education Predictions for 2015
Nine educated education predictions for 2014!
10 education predictions for 2012
Education-Related Predictions for 2011

This article first appeared in The Washington Post and is reproduced with their permission


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