The problem with DeVos' education agenda
ewly confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, has used her considerable wealth to promote charter school expansion in her home state for more than two decades. According to Politico, she and her husband have made over $2 million dollars in campaign contributions to support candidates who favor school choice and charter schools.
While promoting charters, she has failed to acknowledge that as their numbers have grown in her home state (there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of charter schools there since 2011), Michigan has seen a drop in its national academic ranking. In a report last year by Education Trust-Midwest on Rebuilding Michigan's Broken Public Education System, the study's authors wrote, "the state's K-12 system is among the weakest in the nation and getting worse. In a little more than decade, Michigan has gone from a fairly average state in reading and math achievement to one of the bottom ten states."
A 2014 investigation by the Detroit Free Press found that students in the city's traditional schools, on average, "perform slightly better on standardized tests even when poverty levels are taken into account." The report concluded that the laws regulating charters are among the least stringent in the nation "allowing board members, school founders and employees to steer lucrative deals to themselves."
The proliferation of charter schools nationwide, 2,000 new ones in the past five years, has created what has been called a "Wild West" educational environment where there is little regulation or accountability. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform addressed this concern in a 2014 study that found "Chartering has become a growth industry, and in many cases, rapid expansion has replaced innovation and excellence as goals… State laws, regulations, and oversight have not kept up with this changing dynamic."
(Maryland was one of the last states to allow charters in 2003. Of the 53 in the state, 33 are in Baltimore City. According to a report for the State Department of Education by the Schaefer Center for Public Policy, charter schools here have not experienced the financial and administrative problems from mismanagement or misappropriation of funds that have made headlines in some other states.)
Another of Ms. DeVos' priorities is to allow public dollars to be used to pay private school tuition. Students receive a "voucher" to attend a school of their choice. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have adopted some form of a voucher program. Unfortunately for students, these programs are not having the desired effect.
Kevin Carey, director of education policy for New America, a non-partisan think tank, wrote in the New York Times last month, "a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who have received them." In Indiana, for example, voucher students who transferred to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement in mathematics and saw no improvement in reading. Researchers found similar results in Louisiana and Ohio.
The Maryland General Assembly put $5 million in last year's budget to fund the governor'The problem with DeVos' education agenda - Baltimore Sun: