Betsy DeVos's Accountability Problem
Her supporters are out to disprove the claim that she is anti-oversight, but key legislation she supported tells a different story.
Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has proven to be polarizing.
Teachers, unions, and public-school advocates have argued that DeVos wants to see public education dismantled. They point to the fact that the Michigan billionaire, and the education-advocacy groups she funds, have pushed to funnel public dollars away from traditional public schools and into charter and private schools. DeVos’s proponents, however, argue that adult interests have taken over the education arena and that the nominee supports school choice because the traditional public-education system has failed kids. “Detroit Public Schools are academically and financially bankrupt, and they’ve lost the privilege of educating children in Detroit,” Gary Naeyaert, the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), a charter-advocacy group DeVos bankrolls and helped govern until November, wrote in a 2015 press release describing a plan to “relieve DPS of all teaching responsibilities.”
While previous education secretaries, including the Obama appointees Arne Duncan and John King, have endorsed models such as charter schools, DeVos has been scrutinized for her connection to unfettered charter growth in Detroit, where—over two decades after Michigan’s charter experiment began—the competition enabled by school choice generally hasn’t lived up to the promise of better options.
More than half of Detroit’s school-aged students attend a charter school, but last year fewer than 1 percent of the city’s schools were given an A or B+ grade, according to Excellent Schools Detroit, a clearinghouse for school shoppers in the Motor City. Eighty percent of the state’s charter operators are for-profit, which not only reduces financial accountability, but has also earned Michigan a nickname as the “Wild Wild West” for education. In 1999, researchers from Michigan State University assessed charter-school laws across the nation and concluded that Michigan—along with Arizona and Delaware—had the most permissive charter-school laws in the nation, noting that in the Mitten anyone can start a school, and that there are very few boundaries when it comes to who could Law Supported by DeVos Leaves Loopholes in Oversight - The Atlantic: