Labor Voices: ‘The Trump Effect’ in our classrooms

Steven Cook

As educators, we work to move America forward by fighting to ensure every child has equal access to high-quality public education. Hillary Clinton has dedicated her life to that same mission.

It started with her first job out of law school — instead of heading to a corporate firm, she worked at the Children’s Defense Fund, fighting to remove barriers preventing children with disabilities from going to school.

In her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, she vowed to work for a future where “you can get a good job and send your kids to a good school no matter what zip code you live in.” From her work to champion universal early childhood education to her plans to make college tuition free for low- and middle-income families, Clinton has stood on the side of students and education.

Unlike her Republican opponent, Clinton has a firm grasp of the issues. She envisions a future in which educators are not scapegoated for the ills of society, but instead are viewed as partners in providing solutions and supports for students.

She has labeled for-profit charter schools “unacceptable,” and she understands the current culture of over-testing students and over-emphasizing test scores does little to advance 21st century skills. For low-income students, the effect is worse, as schools narrow the curriculum and eliminate extra-curricular programs to focus on test scores.

In contrast, Donald Trump doesn’t talk much about public education.

His education plan includes elimination of the Department of Education and deep cuts in funding for critical programs — from pre-K to Pell grants — that serve low-income students. Trump has spent far more time talking about building that wall, insulting women, and mocking the disabled than he has about his plans for strengthening America’s public schools.

Just as troubling is the example Trump is setting for America’s children. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently released a report entitled, “The Trump Effect,” documenting a marked increase in incidents of bullying in the classroom — harassment aimed primarily at immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslim students.

It’s not just those attending his rallies that Trump has emboldened to express hateful rhetoric. It is trickling down to students, infecting our schools and poisoning the learning environment. Targeted students are suffering from anxiety and expressing fear of what this election could mean for them and their families.

His disturbing language aimed at women is only adding to the problem.

Public school employees strive to teach their students respect and acceptance of their fellow students. Their job has been made more difficult by the daily barrage of hate rhetoric coming directly from Donald Trump’s speeches and tweets. Trump has attacked entire races and religions. He has attacked and mocked people with disabilities and those he considers overweight. The example he has set for the children of America is simply abhorrent.

Imagine the effect four years of a Trump presidency would have on our children.

Clinton has laid out a vision of a nation bound together by shared goals and interests, rather than divided by differences. On education, she has a solid record and plans to move America forward by improving public schools and creating greater access to higher education.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.