Public education in the U.S. has suffered from decades of failed neoliberal policies. Budget cuts have deteriorated the K-12 system and tuition increases have made higher education unaffordable for working class families and youth. The ultimate aim of the richest 1% is to completely defund public education and transform it into a profit generating scheme. This will funnel the majority of the working people, including youth and students, towards becoming extremely exploited low wage workers for multinational corporations or push them to become expendable soldiers for U.S. imperialism’s military industrial complex.
As of 2016, about 43 million people in the U.S. hold student debt that amounts to $1.3 trillion, while tuition rates have increased by 10% over the past five years. Trump’s proposal for addressing college student debt is for borrowers to make monthly payments of 12.5% of their income for 15 years, then the rest of their debt would be forgiven. This is only slightly different from the existing policy under Obama for borrowers to pay 10% of their income for 20 years. Trump has expressed his desire to eliminate the federal Department of Education. This is unlikely as it requires an act of Congress, so instead he plans to use public education funds towards privatization. Trump is promoting a “school choice” model which would redirect $20 billion in federal education funding towards block grants for local governments to implement private school vouchers. These block grants would be prioritized for cities that direct public school funding towards charter schools. These vouchers give families the illusion that they have “options” to send their children to charter schools, private schools, magnet schools, or public schools. In reality, “school choice” is nothing but a privatization scheme to systematically defund and dismantle the public education system across the country at the local level.
Trump also supports “merit-based” pay for teachers and seeks to destroy the tenure system. This neoliberal deregulation scheme would remove job security and further exploit teachers by forcing them into a situation of unstable employment. Moreover, Trump wants to prioritize deporting undocumented people in his first 100 days in office, and has threatened to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which would impact millions of undocumented youth.
Meanwhile, Trump plans to expand military spending by $100-300 billion. These funds will be used for 90,000 additional Army troops, 20,000 additional Marines, an expanded Navy fleet from 272 to 350 ships, quadrupling the number of Air Force fighter aircrafts to 1,200, the large-scale modernization of military facilities and missile defense, increasing the nuclear weapons arsenal, and an increased emphasis in cyber warfare.
To fit the bill, Trump has proposed cutting non-defense spending by about 1% per year. By 2026, spending on non-defense programs would drop by almost a third to 37% of the federal non-defense budget: from $530 billion in 2016 to $380 billion in 2026. This plan would steal and misappropriate funds from necessary public programs such as education, scientific and medical research, healthcare, child care, housing assistance for low-income families, and other social services that the majority of the American people rely on due to economic crisis in the U.S.
This prioritization of the military over education and social services will only exacerbate the current economic and social crisis by plunging the U.S. into further debt and increase the burden and suffering of the working people. They will also further intensify wars of aggression and intervention around the world.
Since 1974, the Philippine government has implemented the Labor Export Policy (LEP), or the systematic export of its own people abroad as its response to the Philippines’ worsening economic and social crises. Since then, over 10 million Filipinos have been forced to migrate overseas, seeking work and economic opportunities in the hopes of a better livelihood for their children, and to bring financial support to their families back home.
Filipino youth in the U.S.–many a direct result of LEP sending Filipinos abroad–are not exempt from the crisis of the American educational system. Having left the Philippines for “better” opportunities, Filipino parents pressure their children to take advantage of the American educational system in pursuit of the “American Dream.” However, in this educational system, Filipino youth face the rat-race culture in American schools and the necessity to take on several jobs and incur huge debts to afford college. Meanwhile, they are not taught the history of Filipinos in the United States, especially about Filipinos’ positive contribution in the fight for justice here in the United States.
Recent immigrants from the Philippines are now experiencing the frustrating flaws of the new K-12 neoliberal education system that has been implemented in the Philippines since 2011. The K-12 education system in the Philippines is a scheme to turn Filipino youth into more easily exportable and exploitable cheap labor to meet the needs of the international market. However, upon arriving to the U.S., Filipino students who have graduated from high school in the Philippines are only credited for their 3rd and 4th year of high school and forced to retake their first 2 years of high school. In addition, undocumented youth do not qualify for federal and some state funding, depriving at least half a million Filipino youth of the opportunity to access higher education. Even when undocumented youth graduate, they cannot practice regulated professions, forcing them to take up jobs that are not commensurate with their degrees and that leave them in debt for longer.
The neoliberal attack on education affects the content and aim of the U.S. education system—to serve corporate and capitalists’ interests by funneling youth into professions that contribute to the military-industrial complex; partnering with or funding public and private institutions for military research; and by recruiting youth directly into the military after graduating from high school. The military actively preys on youth who cannot afford higher education by promising “free” education, including undocumented youth who are also promised an adjustment of status by serving in the military.
If you are 13-35 years old, of Filipino descent or identifies with the Filipino people, and is interested in making concrete changes in your community, you can join Anakbayan!
If your organization is down to take back our education and agrees with the demands above, we’d love to hear from you!
Take a selfie answering the question, “How has the education crisis impacted you?”
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