What Betsy DeVos Means When She Says ‘Public Schools’
Betsy DeVos once called public schools a “dead end,” but now that she’s U.S. Secretary of Education, she’s suddenly all for them.
At least that’s what she claims now.
During her nomination process, numerous reporters noted DeVos’s obvious bias against public schools. As education journalist Valerie Strauss reported on her blog at the Washington Post, DeVos “made some controversial statements” about public schools, “calling the traditional public education system a ‘dead end.’” Strauss noted DeVos had once said, “government truly sucks.”
But now she claims to be all for public schools, at least according to reports on her recent speech to a conference of big city school leaders. “I’ve said this before, and it bears repeating,” Education Week reports, “I support great public schools.”
Has DeVos had a sudden change of heart? That’s doubtful.
First, recall her first visit to a public school shortly after taking office. After her brief tour of Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington, DC, DeVos castigated teachers for being in “receive mode … waiting to be told what they have to do.”
So what does her claim of a new-found fondness for “great public schools” really mean?
What Does Devos Mean By ‘Great Public School?’
First set aside the squishy modifier “great.”
There is widespread disagreement on what a “great” school is and how you can tell a school deserves that modifier.
Many states that were coerced into imposing school rating systems to supposedly determine, in an objective way, the quality of schools are in the process of dumping those rating systems. Recently, Michigan, DeVos’s home state, got rid of its rating system.
So what does DeVos mean by “public school?”
It turns out that’s becoming a squishy term too, at least if school choice advocates have their way.
Are Private Schools Public?
As NC Policy Watch, a left-leaning group in North Carolina, reports, the Tar Heel state has been targeted by school choice pressure groups to re-define what it means to be a public school.