Friday, December 16, 2016

The New Yorker: Betsy Devos and the Plan to Break Public Schools

Republicans believe that if the business world were free to operate without regulation, we would have ater freedom of choice, including education. 

They believe a free market approach to education gives parents control over their education dollar.

They say that school officials will strive to meet parents’ demands that their children receive a quality education.

Therefore, there is a drive to end public education through some sort of privatization. The first initiative taken to meet their goals is charter schools in which entrepreneurs receive government funding to create their own for-profit schools.

Anyone, however, who believes the marketplace will meet a parent’s demands and be accountable to them over profit motives and the need to be accountable to stockholders are being just plain dumb.

However, “Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, is a vocal proponent of charter schools, voucher programs, and virtual education—but not of public schools.

“. . . through her past actions, and her previously published statements, it is clear that DeVos, like the President-elect [Donald Trump] who has chosen her, is comfortable applying the logic of the marketplace to schoolyard precincts. She has repeatedly questioned the value of those very precincts’ physical existence: in the Philanthropy interview, DeVos remarked that, “in the Internet age, the tendency to equate ‘education’ with ‘specific school buildings’ is going to be greatly diminished.”

“Missing in the ideological embrace of choice for choice’s sake is any suggestion of the public school as a public good—as a centering locus for a community and as a shared pillar of the commonweal, in which all citizens have an investment. If, in recent years, a principal focus of federal educational policy has been upon academic standards in public education—how to measure success, and what to do with the results—DeVos’s nomination suggests that in a Trump Administration the more fundamental premises that underlie our institutions of public education will be brought into question. In one interview, recently highlighted by Diane Ravitch on her blog, DeVos spoke in favor of “charter schools, online schools, virtual schools, blended learning, any combination thereof—and, frankly, any combination, or any kind of choice that hasn’t yet been thought of.” A preemptive embrace of choices that haven’t yet been thought of might serve as an apt characterization of Trump’s entire, chaotic cabinet-selection process. But whether it is the approach that will best serve current and prospective American school students is another question entirely.”