A recent 60 Minutes interview featuring Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revealed just how unfit the Secretary is for the position. DeVos, interviewed by Lesley Stahl, failed to answer several questions, including ones regarding schools within her home state of Michigan. For instance, when asked whether Michigan’s schools have improved due to charter schools, DeVos was unable to answer. She also admitted that she has not visited underperforming schools. The ignorance and complete lack of preparation displayed by DeVos during her interview is simply unacceptable for an Education Secretary.
Numerous scholars have also expressed disappointment with DeVos; Claire Smrekar, a professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, told The Atlantic that DeVos’s interview “demonstrates…an appalling lack of understanding of some public fundamental principles and practices related to public education. America’s students deserve much better than this. Public education is one of the most important issues that we face today, and proper leadership is required to navigate America through the difficult problem of improving schools. The fact that the Trump administration nominated someone so unqualified for this job indicates that they do not care about improving public education; they only care about undermining public schools in favor of charter/private schools.
Secretary DeVos’s main idea for improving education in the United States is to use public funds on charter and private schools instead of using funds to improve public education. A Washington Post article from early Thursday morning reveals that DeVos wanted to cut funding for programs that help kids in need and programs that help low income students reach college in order to procure $1 billion to fund charter, magnet and private schools. This is misguided because public schools are the cornerstone of American education; everyone has access to them, and purposefully keeping funds from them in order to favor institutions which only wealthier students are able to attend means that students from low income families are especially harmed. Thankfully, Congress rejected DeVos’s budget plan and instead chose to support increasing funding to her department by $3.9 billion.
Senator Patty Murray commented on DeVos’s ideas, saying “After more than a year on the job, I would have hoped Secretary DeVos would have learned by now that her extreme ideas to privatize our nation’s public schools and dismantle the Department of Education do not have support among parents or in Congress”; it is hopeful that Congress came together to reject DeVos’s radical ideas on education and that they still have faith in America’s public school system. Privatizing schools in America is not the solution to providing quality education to everyone; education should remain public and free for all students. Education is a right, not a privilege, and low income students should not be at a disadvantage. The fact that DeVos wanted to end programs that help low income students achieve their college goals in favor of using public funds for charter/private schools that are for wealthier students is inexcusable, and against the American Dream. All students in America should have an equal opportunity to achieve success, and education is crucial to that.
Charter schools are not even necessarily better than their public counterparts. In DeVos’s home state of Michigan, for example (which has more charter schools than any other state), charter schools underperform, with English scores from students between third and eighth grades dropping. If the state with the highest number of charter schools has schools that underperform, then perhaps they are not all that different from public schools after all. If this is the case, ripping funding away from public schools is not justified. Thus, keeping education a public institution is necessary. If Betsy DeVos really wants to help American students, she must realize this.
Ben Crnic is a contributor for the The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.