Donald Trump has named his choice for the Secretary of Education and he went with the billionaire, school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos.
DeVos is also a staunch anti-LGBTQ equality advocate who donated half a million dollars through her charitable foundation to oppose same-sex marriage.
Bigotry aside, she also has terrible ideas for the country’s educational system. DeVos believes firmly in school vouchers. A program that allows parents to divert their tax dollars away from public schools and often helps fund religious institutions. There is a reason why the religious right is so invested in these programs when they arrive at the state level.
I wrote about Louisiana’s voucher program in 2014 for AlterNet:
In 2012 Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal introduced legislation allowing parents to use vouchers to send their children to private schools. These vouchers work something like scholarships where poor students may be taken out of the “failing” public school and placed into a private religious school.
Jindal only placed about 8,000 poor students in the entire state into these private schools and the data from the LEAP testing done each year showed that those students in the private schools scored drastically lower (40% at or slightly above grade level) than the state average (69%).
Worse yet, when these vouchers go to private schools, not only are taxpayer dollars being used to teach that evolution and climate change are myths, they are used to discriminate against students based on their religion or even their sexual orientation.
“Private schools, after all, are prohibited from using race as a factor in admissions. But they’re not prohibited from using religion or sexual orientation,” wrote blogger Lamar White. “And Louisiana’s voucher program is funding schools that actively and purposely discriminate against children who are not members of their sponsoring church. In fact, in some cases, we’re actually being asked to pay more to schools for tuition for students who don’t belong to the school’s sponsoring church than we pay for a student who does. We’re subsidizing a parallel system of schools that discriminates against kids for being gay or being physically or mentally disabled (because private schools are not subject to the same standards with respect to disabled students as public schools are).”She is also a strong advocate for charter schools, which are public schools that are privately run. In Michigan, DeVos fought to ensure that such schools did not have proper oversight and could not be over-regulated.
According to ChalkBeat, the schools in Michigan are some of the worst in the country and it’s due to improper oversight.
The DeVos influence is one reason that Michigan’s charter sector is among the least regulated in the country. Roughly 80 percent of charters in Michigan are run by private companies, far more than in any other state. And state authorities have done little up to now to ensure that charter schools are effectively serving students, eliciting concern from current federal authorities.
“There are a lot of schools that are doing poorly and charter authorizers do not seem to be taking the necessary actions to either improve performance or close those underperforming charters,” current U.S. Secretary of Education John King told Chalkbeat about Michigan last month.
While the fight to Resist Trump grows and is focused on minority groups, education cannot be forgotten. Our country’s children stand to lose a lot under a Trump presidency.