Betsy DeVos and the twilight of public education
In Detroit, parents of school-age children have plenty of choices, thanks to the nation's largest urban network of charter schools.
What remains in short supply is quality.
In Brightmoor, the only high school left is Detroit Community Schools, a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores and, until recently, a superintendent who earned $130,000 a year despite a dearth of educational experience or credentials.
On the west side, another charter school, Hope Academy, has been serving the community around Grand River and Livernois for 20 years. Its test scores have been among the lowest in the state throughout those two decades; in 2013 the school ranked in the first percentile, the absolute bottom for academic performance. Two years later, its charter was renewed.
Or if you live downtown, you could try Woodward Academy, a charter that has limped along near the bottom of school achievement since 1998, while its operator has been allowed to expand into other communities.
For students enrolled in schools of choice — that is, schools in nearby districts who have opened their doors to children who live outside district boundaries — it's not much better. Kids who depend on Detroit's problematic public transit are too far away from the state's top-performing school districts — and most of those districts don't participate in the schools of choice program, anyway.
This deeply dysfunctional educational landscape — where failure is rewarded with opportunities for expansion and "choice" means the opposite for tens of thousands of children — is no accident. It was created by an ideological lobby that has zealously championed free-market education reform for decades, with little regard for the outcome.
And at the center of that lobby is Betsy DeVos, the west Michigan advocate whose family has contributed millions of dollars to the cause of school choice and unregulated charter expansion throughout Michigan.
President-elect Donald Trump has made a number of controversial cabinet nominations already. But none seems more inappropriate, or more contrary to reason, than his choice of DeVos to lead the Department of Education.
DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader. She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or Betsy DeVos and the twilight of public education: