DeVos is in Neverland on school reform: Column
Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of Education, is a longtime advocate for charter schools, school vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. She has told Philanthropymagazine her vision of school reform success: “That all parents, regardless of their ZIP code, have had the opportunity to choose the best educational setting for their children.” Hard to argue with such an ideal.
But DeVos has never held public office or worked in public education, and she sent her children to private Christian schools. Her advocacy career suggests it would be hard to find anyone more passionate about steering public dollars away from public schools.
Setting aside concerns about whether part of her motivation could be to use tax dollars to advance religious education, it’s important to ask at least three questions before spending billions of federal dollars on her school choice plan:
- Will these choices be real for the students who need them most?
- How certain are we that such educational options will actually deliver the desired educational enhancement?
- Is her model the most fruitful way to offer educational quality to those who cannot afford such choices?
For school choice to be real, there must be awareness of choices, the financial means to take advantage of one’s chosen school and transportation to reach the school. Many poor children lack an informed caregiver who can understand the options and make the necessary decisions. Will these children be provided choice counseling, transportation and funds for books, uniforms and other needs?
Are we certain that this educational experiment will not harm strong neighborhood public schools that serve those unable to utilize the charter, voucher or tax scholarship options? Or will selective charters and private schools skim away the best students and teachers from their cities’ remaining public schools, leaving them with DeVos is in Neverland on school reform: Column: