[Vision2020] His View: Betsy DeVos: The worst choice for education secretary

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Thu Dec 8 02:01:38 PST 2016

Courtesy of today's (December 8, 2016) Moscow-Pullman Daily News with thanks to Nick Gier.


His View: Betsy DeVos: The worst choice for education secretary
By Nick Gier

"Largely as a result of the DeVos' lobbying, Michigan tolerates more low-performing charter schools than just about any other state."

-Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press

Billionaire Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of education, is the principal financial supporter of Detroit's unregulated charter schools. Tulane University's Douglas Harris calls her efforts there "the biggest school reform disaster in the country."

According to a recent state survey, "eight in 10 of Michigan's charters have academic achievement below the state average in reading and math." These schools - 80 percent managed by for-profit companies - take $1 billion annually from Michigan's education budget. Traditional public schools can be shut down for poor performance, but, thanks to legislation DeVos introduced, charters do not have to answer for dismal results.

Charter schools in New Orleans, Chicago and Washington, D.C., are doing much better (Moscow's are superb). Writing for the Washington Post (Sept. 20), Richard Whitmire reported D.C. charters "were allowed enough flexibility to succeed and enough accountability to weed out the worst schools."

All of Michigan's charters continue to operate regardless of performance, but 20 in D.C. have been closed over the past five years. Under-performing traditional schools have been shut as well. Nonprofit companies D.C. Prep and Knowledge is Power administer the most successful D.C. charters, which make up 40 percent of the district's schools.

Surveys of charter schools during the past 20 years have shown that, just as with public schools, there are those that excel and those that fail. The lowest performing charters are found in Ohio and Nevada. As education expert Diane Ravitch reports, "From 2010 to 2015, more than 1,200 charters closed due to academic or financial difficulties." That number is a full 30 percent of the nation's 4,000 charter schools.

Overall, the effects of the charter school revolution have been negative. An Economic Policy Institute study shows the existence of charter schools has increased inequality in our schools. In general the charters have increased "segregation among school children by economic status, race, language and disabilities."

DeVos, who sends her children to a Christian school, is also a strong supporter of vouchers, which would shift even more public school funds to private schools. Studies have been done on the effects of vouchers in Louisiana and Ohio, and Louisiana showed a decline in student achievement of eight to 16 percentile points.

In a major study of public vs. private school performance, Christopher and Sarah Lubiensky, who also have sent their children to public, charter and Christian schools, revealed their conclusions in the title of their 2014 book, "The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools."

The Lubienskys were motivated to do their comprehension study when one of them discovered students in public schools do better in mathematics. They also found, contrary to common opinion, public schools generally were more innovative while many private schools suffered from curricular stagnation.

DeVos' plan to privatize education through vouchers is bound to fail, because, fortunately, our public schools are controlled by 16,000 local school boards. Less than 9 percent of the $600 billion spent on K-12 education comes from the federal government. Kevin Carey of the New York Times (Nov. 23) reminds DeVos that "there are no existing federal funds that can easily be turned into vouchers large enough to pay for private school tuition" across the nation.

I conclude with this prediction from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers: "In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America."

I urge readers to write to their senators and demand they not confirm DeVos. The last thing we need for our children is a secretary of private education.


Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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