The Trump administration has been on shaky ground of late when it comes to black education. 

There was the strange announcement that HBCU funding would be reduced; then a quick recanting of that. And Betsy DeVos is expected to face as many protesters as she is parents when she gives a commencement speech at Dr. Mary MacLeod-Bethune’s school.

So, they’ve called in a ringer: noted education expert and expert on all things black, Speaker Paul Ryan. 

Perhaps because of his state’s demographics, Ryan today is not in Wisconsin, but in Harlem, visiting a charter school there, Harlem Success Academy.

The founder and CEO of the Success Academy, Eva Moskowitz, is a longtime proponent of charter schools, and was very nearly nominated education secretary instead of DeVos.

amNewYork reports that Ryan was met with a crowd of protestors who began gathering hours before the speaker’s visit. The protesters reportedly chanted, “Health care for all, not just for Paul.”

Photo: Kelly Weill

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called the visit, “pretty, pretty disturbing,” while Mindy Rosier, a teacher at a public school that shares Success Academy’s building called Ryan’s visit “a slap in the face to all the hard working public school teachers out there.” 

“He should come downstairs to my all special needs” school, Rosier said of Ryan, “And see how hard we work. Public schools are the majority in this country and he needs to familiarize himself with what we do.”

Others against the visit linked the recent House health care bill to DeVos’ plans for education reform.

The national director of the Working Families Party, Dan Cantor, said, “What Moskowitz, Ryan and Betsy DeVos share is misguided market fundamentalism that believes students and patients need nothing but more competition. But that competition guarantees some people will lose, and that’s the wrong way to treat public goods like education and health care. It’s a dystopian agenda that every leader in New York must reject.”

Photo: Girls Really Rule

And what do Harlemites think of all this?

In a statement sent to Blavity, Harlem preacher Pastor Michael Walrond of First Corinthians Baptist Church said, “Paul Ryan’s appearance in Harlem today is nothing more than a photo op meant to distract us from the GOP’s agenda … As he meets Harlem students today, he should take heart what will happen to these children if their families lose lifesaving healthcare, and witness the real-world impact of decisions that ripple far beyond the halls of Congress.”

One can only hope that there will be a student like the little girl who told off that Trump impersonator to relay the will of the people to Ryan himself.