By Maria Neathery
Recently, a huge decision in American politics upset educators across the nation. Betsy DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor, was named U.S. Secretary of Education.
DeVos has almost no experience in public education. She was confirmed by the Senate, but only with the help of a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence after weeks of protests and two secessions within her own party.
DeVos is known for devoting her money and time to charter schools and the promotion of vouchers. DeVos is unqualified because of her lack of knowledge with public schools and with laws meant to protect students.
The problem is that she has been completely immersed in one side of the equation, pushing for vouchers, that she has no background in working with public school. This is certainly unsettling since public schools in America today need to be mended, fixed and supported. DeVos’s support for charter schools and vouchers—which allow students to use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private, religious and for-profit schools—indicates a deep disconnect from public education.
From what I can gather, the issue with charter schools is that they transfer over hundreds of millions of dollars a year from public schools. Charter schools are not accountable to their local communities, either. They are approved by the state, mostly over the oppositions of the large majority of local residents—the people who have to pay for them. The local school committees have no authority over these charter schools and no means of help if a charter’s practices have negative impacts on students attending the district’s public schools. Charter schools are seen as “separate and unequal.”
Neither DeVos nor her children attended a public school, which is certainly a personal choice; however, she has no experience related to being educated in a public school.
Additionally, DeVos displayed at best confusion, and at worst a lack of understanding about a key federal law involving students with disabilities. This occurred during her confirmation hearing before a Senate panel that would later vote on whether she should become President Donald Trump’s education secretary. The fact that she was confused about IDEA is notably concerning–since she is leading the department.
According to ABC News, DeVos visited a Washington, D.C. middle school on Feb. 10. She was greeted by a small group of protesters chanting that she didn’t support or represent what they stand for. I’m concerned that schools, people, parents and, most importantly, teachers, will not support her.
I genuinely hope and pray that DeVos will do her best to improve our school systems. Moving forward, it is crucial that we don’t focus entirely on all the bad qualities DeVos brings to the table.
While I definitely do not agree with her tactics, I would never wish the Secretary of Education to fail.
American schools are charged with the task of creating better human beings. They are expected to do so in a relatively consistent way for all young people. We can only hope that American school systems go up from here, no matter who is in charge.
Maria is a sophomore public relations and music business major from Greenwood, Indiana.