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The Washington Post has a new national education writer, Laura Meckler. She published anyesterday about the big-time failure of Betsy DeVos to accomplish anything in D.C. as Secretary of Education.
Despite Republican control of Congress (for now), her budget proposals have fallen flat. She arrived with Trump’s promise to transfer $20 Billion from other federal programs to create a federal school choice program for charters, vouchers, and online schools. That went nowhere. She has repeatedly proposed a $1 Billion plan for school choice. Congress rejected it.
Her only victory was to get a big increase in charter school funding, now up to $450 Million. This despite the GAO report in 2016 warning of waste, fraud, and abuse in the charter industry.
DeVos has helped to galvanize the opposition to school choice and to energize supporters of public schools, who now recognize that charters and vouchers take money away from public schools, a traditional community institution whose doors are open to all.
She is such a toxic figure, her contempt for public schools is so evident, her arrogance and snobbishness so transparent, that she has alienated even some Republicans. Many rural Republicans treasure their local public schools. As Meckler shows, conservatives are divided over the DeVos effort to create a federal school choice plan. Libertarians fear (rightly) that federal funds will be accompanied by federal regulations.
From our point of view, as supporters of public education, DeVos has been the gift that keeps on giving. She remains deeply uninformed about education policy. Her solution to everything is School Choice. She is a champion of charters, stripping away their thin progressive veneer. She wants to roll back civil rights protections for everyone but accused rapists. She has removed protections for students defrauded by for-profit “colleges,” while stopping federal efforts to regulate the institutions that defraud students.
In short, if you care about public schools and civil rights and the ability of students to get a good education, she is a disaster on all fronts.
The fact that she became a national figure at the very time that Research converged on the negative effects of vouchers was fortuitous. Similarly, the growing national recognition that the charter industry is rife with waste, fraud, and abuse undermines her cause.
Now our goal must be to convince members of Congress, especially Democrats, to stop acting as the biggest funder of charter schools, whose aggressive expansion hurts public schools, you know, the schools that enroll 85% of America’s students.