Politics

School Teachers Are Fighting Back After Melania Trump Pulls Tasteless Stunt

First Lady Melania Trump is facing an intense backlash from elementary school educators from across the country!

President Donald Trump’s wife Melania recently tried to deliver a donation to a school library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But things quickly went off track for Melania – soon after, her gift was turned away and now the school’s librarian is speaking out about the reasons why.

In a letter to Melania Trump, Cambridge elementary librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro delivers a powerful takedown of the Trump administration’s education policies. She perfectly explains why the Trump family’s latest publicity stunt is an insult to educators everywhere.

Here’s an excerpt from Phipps Soeiro’s letter to Melania, as published by the Book Horn:

My school and my library are indeed award-winning. I work in a district that has plenty of resources, which contributes directly to “excellence.” Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an amazing city with robust social programming, a responsive city government, free all-day kindergarten, and well-paid teachers (relatively speaking — many of us can’t afford to live in the city in which we teach). My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science. Multiple studies show that schools with professionally staffed libraries improve student performance. The American Association of School Librarians has a great infographic on these findings. Many schools around the state and country can’t compete.

Yearly per-pupil spending in Cambridge is well over $20,000; our city’s values are such that given a HUGE range in the socioeconomic status of our residents, we believe that each and every child deserves the best free education possible and are working hard to make that a reality (most classrooms maintain a 60/40 split between free/reduced lunch and paid lunch). This offers our Title I school and the district a lot of privilege and room for programming and pedagogy to foster “high standards of excellence.” Even so, we still struggle to close the achievement gap, retain teachers of color, and dismantle the systemic white supremacy in our institution. But hell, we test well! And in the end, it appears that data — and not children — are what matters.

Meanwhile, school libraries around the country are being shuttered. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit are suffering through expansion, privatization, and school “choice” with no interest in outcomes of children, their families, their teachers, and their schools. Are those kids any less deserving of books simply because of circumstances beyond their control? Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? Why not reflect on those “high standards of excellence” beyond only what the numbers suggest? Secretary DeVos would do well to scaffold and lift schools instead of punishing them with closures and slashed budgets.

Read Phipps Soeiro’s full letter at hbook.com.

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