We The People: Believe?

Donald Trump urged Americans to believe him during the presidential campaign and said that a vote for him was a vote for a “100-day plan to restore prosperity to our country … and … make America great again.”

A politician’s hyperbole is expected but we must be able to trust our president. It is an essential and expected part of our representative democracy. Mr. Trump received the votes and trust of the people on November 8 and was elected. He is working hard to deliver on his promise of a School Choice and Education Opportunity Act to redirect federal education dollars to private, charter or religious schools.

His choice of Betsy DeVos to be education secretary is part of the fulfillment. She has doggedly promoted charter schools and stymied all attempts to regulate them in Michigan. This encouraged growth of for-profit schools.

When you give away tax money, there must be accountability. In 2000, the charter schools crusade in Michigan picked up steam and the DeVos family funded a state ballot initiative for a school voucher system that failed. Undeterred, they used a not-for-profit organization to funnel political donations to influence legislators as well as the public debate.

DeVos admitted that she buys influence to achieve her goals and her family donated $4 million to Republicans in the U.S. Senate with more than $3 million donated in the 2016 election cycle. Michigan now has three of the 10 school districts with the highest percentages of students enrolled in charter schools, and Detroit has 55 percent of students in charter schools, but experts say school performance has “plummeted” since charter school expansion.

John Austin, a former member of the Michigan Board of Education, said that more than 85 percent of the state’s charter schools are run by for-profit companies with almost no oversight.

Will this affect New York City? If the federal education money used in New York City schools were eliminated or ‘redirected,’ 1.1 million students could lose $500 million a year in vital funding. It would mean larger classes, fewer teachers and the loss of many after-school programs.

Our schools receive Title I funds to help poor students and poor populations in New York City schools. They pay for teachers, guidance counselors and staff to help challenged students. Fort Hamilton High School and Madison High School have students that speak more than 40 different languages and Fort Hamilton stands to lose more than $2.5 million in Title I funding.

When you give away public school money, even if it is given to another school, you are diminishing all public school education. This plan offers false hope; it is a smokescreen to create a for-profit marketplace for education entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump cannot seem to get past his election. He said, “We had a massive landslide victory … in the electoral college.” The truth is that Mr. Trump won the election and he is the president. Why must he repeat and conflate information concerning the election when education and foreign policy issues must be addressed?

Mr. Trump carried 30 states and received 306 electoral votes while Mrs. Clinton received 2.5 million more votes but lost the election. It is baffling why the administration is fixated on exaggerating the actual margin of victory. Kellyanne Conway tweeted, “306. Landslide.” Actually Mr. Trump won 56.88 percent of the electoral vote which is no landslide and 12 presidential elections since 1945 — 1948, 1952, 1956, 1964, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2008 and 2012 — had larger margins.

On Thursday, at a press conference, Mr. Trump continued to describe the election in incorrect and self-aggrandizing terms. He stated that his Electoral College win was the biggest since President Ronald Reagan.

A reporter challenged him on the description since Presidents Obama and Clinton had larger margins of victory. Mr. Trump interrupted the reporter and said, “I was given that information, I don’t know.” Why did he say it?

He continued, “I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan. In other words, the media’s trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges … and they’re not happy about it for whatever reason.”

Insisting that the president deliver accurate factual statements is not an attack. Mr. Trump then called a question about whether his team had discussions with Russian leaders on policy before the inauguration “fake news.”

Shepard Smith, Fox News anchor, said it was “crazy” that Mr. Trump’s continued to use “ridiculous, throwaway lines that are not true at all.” He sensibly stated, “We have a right to know” and that the president should not put down reporters “for asking questions on behalf of the American people.”

Smith is correct and Mr. Trump must focus on issues and answer reasonable questions honestly if he wants to be believed.

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