For all the talk in public education about “choice” there’s another choice that’s often overlooked: who should control public schools?
Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick to run the Department of Education, certainly has an opinion. Despite never having taught in, managed, or attended a public school, DeVos believes that public school children should be in private hands.
“We must open up the [public] education industry—and let’s not kid ourselves that it isn’t an industry—we must open it up to entrepreneurs and innovators,” the billionaire recently said.
She’s a staunch advocate for unregulated charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. She also promotes vouchers that send children to private and religious schools with taxpayer dollars. And she supports for-profit online schools managed by companies like K12 Inc., launched by a former Goldman Sachs banker.
DeVos has spent decades dismantling the public education system, which she’s called a “closed market,” a “dead end,” and a government-run “monopoly.”
She helped pass Michigan’s first charter school bill, which paved the way for for-profit companies to manage almost two-thirds of the state’s charter schools. While private profits have soared, test scores have lagged and lower-income students have been effectively segregated into poorer-performing schools.
Her organization, American Federation for Children, has spent millions across the country lobbying for voucher programs that allow schools to skirt legal obligations to publicly disclose data or serve all children, including those with significant disabilities.
DeVos talks up “school choice” but her real choice is clear. She resents public schools because of what makes them public: transparency, oversight and democratic accountability.
Instead she wants more charter and private schools funded by vouchers run by private groups unaccountable to parents and the public that pay the bills.
All children deserve great, stable schools. They don’t need more “choice.” They need more support: clean and safe schools, social services if they need them and great teachers.
Who do we trust to make that happen? Communities, teachers and education professionals — or billionaires like Betsy DeVos and Wall Street investors?
Call your Senators and tell them to oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.