Changes in education, P-1

By Dick Miller:


(First of two parts)

WE.CONNECT.DOTS:    With new players in place as a result of last month’s general elections, the political battle on the who, how and why of education is certain to escalate.

At the Federal level, President-elect Donald Trump promises to “drain the swamp.”  Education will feel the changes through two departments in Washington.

Mr. Trump has nominated Amway heiress Betsy DeVos, 58, as Secretary of Education.  She is a multi-million-dollar contributor to the Trump campaign and other Republican causes.

Her long-term goal is to universalize charter schools run by Christian organizations.  For the time being, she will use her new position to advance the public voucher system.

Both programs typically educate with non-union teachers.

She has been instrumental in expanded school voucher programs in Michigan – where she has been state Republican Chair and GOP National Committeewoman.

If she can’t get President Trump’s ear, Mrs. DeVos can rely on her relationship with Mike Pence, current governor of Indiana about to become Vice President.  Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, will run her agenda in that chamber.

Mrs. DeVos is closely associated with Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, the largest Christian college on earth.  Reportedly, he was offered the education post first, but turned it down and supports Mrs. DeVos.

The father-in-law of Mrs. DeVos, Richard DeVos is a founder of Amway and the family is worth about $5.5 billion.  Her brother, Erik Prince, was the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, a military contractor that grew when Dick Cheney was running those operations.

With the incoming President also promising to reduce the national deficit, do not be surprised to see a lowering of the priority of school lunches and other programs that strive to equalize public education benefits.  Something must give in favor of vouchers and charter schools.

Owners of these charter schools write campaign checks to government elected officials (mostly Republicans) who support their ventures.

In fairness, Mrs. DeVos was not an early supporter of Trump, casting her delegate vote for Ohio Governor John Kasich.  Also, while a staunch supporter of Christian education, two years ago, she asked a Michigan Republican to resign after he made anti-gay and anti-Muslim comments on social media.

Under the headline “Immigration Rhetoric Rattles International Students” in last week’s Pittsburgh Business Times, this is what reporter Lydia Nuzum wrote:

“The day after the presidential election, a Chatham University student answered a knock at his door.  On the other side were two people with badges asking if they could search his apartment.

“The student, who is Muslim, let them in.  He asked what agency they were with, but claims he never got a clear answer. They searched his apartment and asked him questions, including whether he owned guns.”

President-elect Trump has selected retired Marine General John F. Kelly, 66, as secretary of Homeland Security.  Kelly is at least the third member of military brass to get powerful and sensitive positions in Trump’s cabinet.

Kelly, a well-known border security hawk, will be the point person for Trump’s campaign to purge “undesirable” immigrants from the U.S.

Depending on which way Trump rolls out enforcement of a ban on Muslim immigration, “millions could be blocked from entering the U.S.,” per the New York Times.  A total ban on Muslim would also have a major financial impact.

According to the non-profit professional organization “NAFSA: Association of International Educators,” international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $32.8 billion to the domestic economy in 2015 and supported over 400,000 jobs dedicated to the program.

NAFSA contributions in the Pittsburgh region for that year were reported in the Pittsburgh Business Times.  The range is from Carnegie Mellon University ($210 million and 3,640 jobs) to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary ($356,954 and two jobs).  International students constitute eight percent of enrollment at Duquesne University and five percent overall in American schools.

The low average for all costs is likely $50,000 per annum which means each student represents $200,000 outlay for a four-year education.  These deals are “cash cows” to the local institutions because there is very little scholarship investment in international students.

Even that only started being negotiated recently by Arab countries.  The wealthy oil sheikdoms have opened huge educational centers on their own shores and would like to limit their students from going overseas.

While a shortage of class seats in the Arab world existed, the governments there tended to provide liberal funding for students to come to the U.S.  Governments have reduced those opportunities, requiring families to pitch in.

Not wanting to see their child booted out of the U.S. in the junior year for some sort of “young people” violation, parents are expected to make decisions as soon as they understand Trump’s intentions.

In the meantime, other countries such as Canada and England are beginning to compete for this business.  The financial impact is significant enough for Moody’s to already issue investment advisories on tax-free school bonds where “income from this source is significant.”

As commander of U.S. Southern Command, Marine Gen. Kelly’s missions included the border with Mexico, counternarcotic trafficking and counterinsurgency.

In his writings and speeches Kelly, 66, said foreign nationals from such terrorist countries Somalia, Iran, Lebanon and Pakistan also use the southern region’s smuggling networks.

Department of Homeland Security was the product of this nation’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attack.  The biggest change in U.S. government since the Defense Department was created in 1947, legislation required the incorporation of all, or part of, 22 different federal departments including U.S. Secret Service, Nuclear Incident Response Team, Federal Emergency Management, US Customs, Coast Guard and the Border Patrol.

The people that search passengers about to board aircraft in the U.S. are employees of DHS.  Certain functions of the FBI are now in DHS domain.  DHS became operational Jan. 24, 2003.

Bottom Line:  DHS supposedly estimates that if the U.S. only banned all immigration from countries that are 75 percent Muslim, this would slow immigration traffic here by 675,000 per year.

Next week, we focus on political happenings this year that will affect the face of education in Pennsylvania.

Updated: December 26, 2016 — 11:44 am © 2016