Glenda Ritz on Mike Pence, Betsy DeVos and Indiana’s School Choice Program
by Glenda Ritz, former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction
We did not hear much about education during the presidential campaign. But one thing that Donald Trump made clear in the months leading up to his election was that he would spend billions of dollars on vouchers for private schools rather than investing in public education.
On Jan. 17, Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, a longtime champion of “school choice” policies and voucher programs, faces the Senate during her confirmation hearing. She will be one step closer to making Trump’s school choice agenda a reality.
While “school choice” might make for a good sound bite, the details of school choice and voucher programs are far less appealing. Trump’s plan will gut our public education system in an attempt to privatize and deregulate the education of millions of American children. I’ve already witnessed it in Indiana.
Over the last four years, I have seen firsthand how the school choice ideology hurts our public schools and our students. As Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction during Mike Pence’s tenure as governor, I spent my term fighting for public education. While my goal was to build a high-quality, equitable public education system, Pence sought to privatize education whenever and wherever possible under the auspices of “school choice.”
Indiana’s school choice program started under a prior governor as a small pilot, tailored to poor families that did not believe public schools were providing their children with an adequate education. Gov. Pence, however, escalated this program into a de facto entitlement for middle-upper-class families, pulling millions of dollars from our poorest schools so that these more affluent families could subsidize a private school education for their kids. Betsy DeVos wants to expand these voucher programs to as many states as possible.
Pence likes to claim that Indiana has the largest voucher program in the country. What he does not like to admit is that in five years of this program, Indiana’s taxpayers have sent more than $345 million to religious schools with little to no state oversight or regulation. These taxpayer dollars would have otherwise funded public education in our state.
Even worse, these private schools are now admitting that most of their voucher students would have gone to private schools anyway. After all, it is the private schools that are doing the real choosing, picking their favorite students while leaving out others. More than half of Indiana’s Glenda Ritz on Mike Pence, Betsy DeVos and Indiana's School Choice Program - Network For Public Education: