Earlier this week, Betsy DeVos was officially confirmed as the next Secretary of Education in a historic tie-breaking vote by Vice President Pence. Republicans everywhere are rejoicing in the glory that another one of President Trump’s nominees has been cleared. I, on the other hand, am not.
I have been one of the most vocal and avid supporters of the Trump Campaign, and now, the Trump Administration but I refuse to be a yes woman to the administration. The accountability of the Trump Administration takes precedence over my support for them. Betsy DeVos is a poor choice for the Secretary of Education and I feel it imperative to explain why.
First and foremost, DeVos is a poor choice to lead the Department of Education because there should be no Department of Education. Under the constitution, there is no legal basis for a Department of Education at the federal level. Ever since 1979, when the department was established, it has been unconstitutional in the eyes of those who fight for the liberty of the American people. To give the federal government power over our schools and our children is the antithesis of what we believe as conservatives and constitutionalists. It is an unnecessary as well as an illegal federal bureaucratic intrusion into local affairs.
The 10th amendment gives control of education, amongst other things, to the state and local governments. In direct violation of that, the federal government is currently unconstitutionally involved in education and has been since the Carter Administration. The first step to solving education is to eliminate the unlawful department altogether.
According to the Department of Education’s website, their purpose is to “establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.” Donald Trump, during his campaign, promised to cut the Department of Education in its entirety. The only good appointment to head the Department of Education is someone who is prepared to work him or herself out of a job.
The appointment of DeVos is a broken promise to the American people. DeVos clearly stated in her confirmation hearings she plans to enforce the mandates from ESSA making it evident she has no intention of eliminating the Department of Education. Betsy DeVos believes strongly in school choice, but school choice is no choice. When it comes to school choice, students receive vouchers, also referred to as opportunity scholarships, which are state-funded scholarships parents can use to send their child to a charter or private school, for rather than public school. Private schools must meet minimum standards established by legislatures in order to accept voucher recipients. This means when the federal money follows the child through vouchers, the liberty is taken from that school, and given right back to the federal government. Most traditional public schools are run by a school board, which is made up of duly elected members from the community. The school board is accountable to the community it serves because locally elected school boards are the voice of the people they serve. Without locally elected school boards, the taxpayers are no longer represented. It is truly taxation without representation.
This is not the case for voucher or charter schools. Charter schools are run by appointed boards and committees that are not accountable to the taxpayers. When parents are unhappy with their public school, they can organize, vote for new leadership or even take a leadership role, themselves. When parents are unhappy with their charter or voucher school, they are essentially silenced. They have no elected representation.
Pundits and profiteers love to spout rhetoric about how well charter schools teach kids. But there is zero evidence to back up that claim. That is a marketing tactic. It’s like when you’re in a bad neighborhood and walk past a dive that claims to have the best cup of coffee in the city. Will you actually get the best cup of coffee? Maybe… But probably not. Surely, some charter schools do exceptionally well. However, most charters and almost all cyber charters do perform below that of their public school counterparts.
We have real problems. Over half of public school students are living below the poverty line. They are already several grade levels behind their non-impoverished peers before they even enter kindergarten. We need to invest our time, energy, and resources into things that combat this – tutoring, counseling, wraparound services, proper nutrition, etc. The predicament is even more complicated by the way schools receive funding. Throughout the country, poor districts get less money than the wealthy and even middle class ones. The students who go to these schools are systematically being cheated out of resources and opportunities. And instead of helping them, we are playing a shell game with charter and voucher schools.
School choice is not supported by grassroots movements, it is supported by billionaires. The idea of school choice a lot like socialism — it sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t work. By granting certain students admission into “better” schools, we are ignoring the bigger problem and it’s a zero sum game. This is very simple to understand. Usually when something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If we really want to ensure every child in this country gets an excellent education, the answer isn’t school choice. Instead, we need to commit to supporting our public school system. We all need to be in this together. Yes, our schools should look at the needs of each child and tailor education to fit appropriately. But that shouldn’t be done in parallel school systems. It should be done under the same umbrella. That way, you can’t defund and defraud one without hurting all. It can’t just be about your child. It has to be about all children. That’s the only choice worth making.
School choice is no choice when the money follows the child.