(Feb. 7, 2017) Today, in a mostly partisan effort (minus two semi-conscientious Republican Senators from Alaska and Maine) and an historic, forced tie-breaking vote by the vice president, the U.S. Senate confirmed billionaire campaign contributor and public education foe Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of Education under President Snowflake. DeVos is polarizing not so much for her conservative leanings as for her utterly unqualified rise to power.
Let me be clear. I am not automatically opposed to an outsider getting a shot at reforming an education system that has been battered by both republican and democratic ambitions that seemed to always put education in the back of the back seat. I believe that our focus has shifted away from scholastic excellence and academic mastery as well as teaching young people how to achieve success in an ever changing world. I believe that we also have incredibly uneven educational options that don’t always serve the needs of the pupils. But I don’t believe that education is an industry any more than I think a chocolate cake is a nutritious breakfast.
Betsy is a proponent of “school choice,” publicly funded charter schools and school vouchers that allocate tax dollars for private school tuition. All that probably sounds good to a family sending kids to schools with metal detectors, outdated books, overpaid administrators, or asbestos filled classrooms. Sure, those are the extremes, but if you listen to DeVos and company, this, or worse, is the state of all of America’s public schools and the only way to “fix” them is to abandon the system altogether and get our kids back to God.
But for the more culturally aware, “school choice” began as a beard for the anti-integration crowd, a facade to cover latent or overt racism, a way to get their precious white kids the best education without having to educate the underclasses on their dime.
There are plenty of charter schools that cater to everyone, including minorities and the poor, right? Well the rate of their success hasn’t always proven to be that much different than traditional public schools, better in some cases, in others they perform even worse.
And let’s not even get started on the questionable constitutionality of the vouchers for religious schools programs.
The solutions don’t lie in starving public schools of tax dollars in favor of vouchers or charters or magnets and it doesn’t lie in turning over the schools to private industry- at least not if the goal is to actually educate our future citizens and reclaim a chance to lead again in innovation, science, and technology.
If the goal is to have better schools with better accountability for all students, Betsy’s pet programs have some ‘splaining to do.
(photo by Snopes.com)
We need to depoliticize education which means looking at in a new light. But Betsy DeVos isn’t the right person to lead that charge. So for now, states and counties will have to build a wall of their own, around their districts, and to lead each other into the future without the benefit of the federal government.