Betsy DeVos has made waves throughout her tenure in the Trump administration (figurative waves, not the literal ones made by her $40 million tax-free yacht). Her beliefs about the role of government and education are shocking, considering she’s the Secretary of Education. But, they are also right in line with the no-regulation, businesses-take-all approach of her authoritarian boss – hence her job. But, just like her boss, her platforms are inherently unhealthy for our country.
Here’s a crash course on DeVos’ political philosophy: she is an ardent advocate of “school choice,” meaning more or less that she thinks public schools are a “dead end.” Perhaps in part due to the fact that she didn’t attend a public school, she thinks public schools are worthless and should be given up on, in favor of unregulated private or charter schools.
Never mind the fact that she is fabulously wealthy, which should automatically disqualify one from making decisions for the public in any healthy or functioning democracy. There is a fundamental problem with her logic. While she is consistent with the economically austere vantage point of the Republican status quo, education and budgeting are not the same thing. Our children, their education, and our future are not a zero-sum game. Our future is not free, and should not be victim of paranoid political philosophies that have fallen victim to apathy and skepticism of anything publicly-related. We as a country should not be afraid to invest in public education; this money is not a loss. It is an investment, not something we can afford to treat with indifference.
Public schools are for everyone. It is a single institution with a defined and well-practiced purpose. While it is healthy to have alternatives like charter schools, creating a mission out of catering to the alternatives and shrugging aside the function of her job title that she is supposed to perform is not a viable approach. There is plenty of room for criticism and improvement in public schools as well, but ignoring those issues while focusing on what she would prefer as an alternative is apathetic and wrong. This approach only does further damage to a system that needs help and is absolutely worth saving.
Another issue manifested in DeVos’ views are the exclusionary and intrusively christian perspectives abundant throughout much of the party. Public schools are secular, not out of bias but lack thereof. Lunatic christians who haven’t succeeded in getting god into public schools see counter-culture efforts, such as homeschooling and charter or private schools, as a viable option to subvert the perceived threat that an education poses to their belief system. Charter schools can also be christian, as was the school DeVos attended. While this is fine for individuals if that’s the approach they want to take with their children, it should not be accepted as a norm or allowed into the mainstream as an acceptable form of education. Nor should government money wind up helping for-profit private school land a profit dispensing misinformation that serves their own agenda.
While competition between public schools and charter schools would be healthy, reasonable expectations and structure need to be placed on the charter school systems; and focusing energy on alternative schools should not be seen as an alternative to fixing public schools.