On Feb. 2, the Senate officially confirmed Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. For millions of American students, DeVos’ confirmation may jeopardize their education.
President Donald Trump’s education platform supports funneling $20 billion in federal money towards “school choice” vouchers that would assist low-income families to pay for private or charter schools. Maya Harris, a senior policy advisor for 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, finds that school choice would reduce funding in 56,000 public schools, affecting 21 million students across the U.S. Unfortunately, DeVos is likely to solidify such plans, which have proven to be harmful.
In fact, DeVos’ staunch support for for-profit, Christian-based charter schools in Mich. has left the state’s education system riddled with problems. After the implementation of school choice, the Nation’s Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that Mich.’s performance in reading and math were ranked in the bottom percentile. Despite these disastrous results, DeVos proceeded to support this system; Mich. charter schools such as Hope Academy, which ranked in the bottom first percentile in 2013, were renewed two years later. Chalkbeat revealed that 80% of charter schools in Mich., like Hope Academy, are run by private companies and lack oversight, and will continue to run without regulation. Under DeVos’ guidance, a network of underperforming taxpayer-funded schools was allowed to expand, and jeopardize public schools in low-income communities. DeVos’ work in Mich. highlights her unpreparedness to spearhead an entire nation’s education system.
“Betsy DeVos is pouring money into charter schools, which unlike public schools, are not required to meet certain criteria and do not have teacher unions to protect teachers’ interests. This leads to more inexperienced teachers in the classroom and ineffective education,” Jennifer Touchton, English Department, said.
During a senate hearing, DeVos admitted to being unfamiliar or have no experience with important federal education laws regarding managing student loan programs, Pell Grants or public education. Furthermore, DeVos’ lack of understanding of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, which guarantees various rights to students with disabilities, threatens the education of thousands of children. DeVos’ actions in Mich. will likely carry over to America overall. Her narrow vision of expanding for-profit charter schools ignores the needs of the vast majority who attend public schools, and ultimately champions an ineffective form of education.