How Trump’s Education Nominee Bent Detroit to Her Will on Charter Schools
Few disagreed that schools in Detroit were a mess: a chaotic mix of charters and traditional public schools, the worst-performing in the nation.
So city leaders across the political spectrum agreed on a fix, with legislation to provide oversight and set standards on how to open schools and close bad ones.
But the bill died without even getting a final vote. And the person most influential in killing it is now President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nominee to oversee the nation’s public schools, Betsy DeVos.
Her resistance to the legislation last spring is a window into Ms. DeVos’s philosophy and what she might bring to the fierce and often partisan debate about public education across the country, and in particular, the roles of choice and charter schools.
The bill’s proposals are common in many states and accepted by many supporters of school choice, like a provision to stop failing charter operators from creating new schools. But Ms. DeVos argued that this kind of oversight would create too much bureaucracy and limit choice. A believer in a freer market than even some free market economists would endorse, Ms. DeVos pushed back on any regulation as too much regulation. Charter schools should be allowed to operate as they wish; parents would judge with their feet.
Detroit Public Schools, she argued, should simply be shut down and the system turned over to charters, or the tax dollars given to parents in the form of vouchers to attend private schools.
“She is committed to an ideological stance that is solely about the free market, at the expense of practicality and the basic needs of students in the most destabilized environment in the country,” said Tonya Allen, the president of the Skillman Foundation, a nonprofit that works with Detroit children, and a co-chairwoman of the coalition that produced the report that became the basis for the legislation last spring.
“If she was showing herself present in places and learning from the practitioners, that’s a fine combination,” Ms. Allen said. “But Betsy never showed up in Detroit. She was very eager to impose experimentation on students that she has not spent time with and children that she does not have consequence for.”
Ms. DeVos has a long career as an education philanthropist and lobbyist, but not as an educator. She and her husband, Dick, an heir to the Amway fortune, are considered the most powerful Republicans in Michigan. In the How Trump’s Education Nominee Bent Detroit to Her Will on Charter Schools - The New York Times: