Betsy DeVos isn't listening to parents
Betsy DeVos, our new secretary of Education, claims that she wants the federal government to become more responsive to the will of the American people. As she argued at her Senate confirmation hearing: “[I]t’s time to shift the debate” about school reform “from what the system thinks is best for kids to what moms and dads want, expect and deserve.” The solution for what ails public education won’t be found in Washington, D.C., she added. “The answer is local control and listening to parents, students and teachers."
Fair enough. So when it comes to public education, what do the American people want?
Judging by her support for President Trump’s budget proposal, DeVos thinks that most Americans want the Department of Education to spend a lot more money to promote school choice programs (a $1.4 billion increase, including more than $400 million for public and private school tuition vouchers) and to spend a lot less money on just about everything else. Overall, the budget would slash the department’s funding by $9 billion and, in the process, do away with programs that support teacher development, after school services, literacy instruction, college access for low-income students and more.
But is that really what Americans want? Since 1969, PDK International has conducted an annual poll of the public’s attitudes toward the public schools. The methodology is rigorous, the questions are vetted by a politically diverse group of advisers, the data are robust and the results suggest that DeVos hasn’t been listening very carefully.
Consider school choice, which DeVos has placed at the top of her policy agenda. Our poll reveals that, in general, Americans like the idea of choice in public education. On the specifics, though, DeVos’s positions are out of tune with majority opinion, particularly when it comes to school vouchers. Most respondents tell us that they disapprove of using public funds to support voucher programs. Since 1993, we have asked Americans 20 times whether they support allowing parents to choose a private school at public expense, and every time a majority has said “No.”
DeVos is equally tone deaf when it comes to charter schooling, which is her other Betsy DeVos isn't listening to parents: Column: