Betsy Devos, a right wing billionaire from Michigan who has no experience as an educator or even as a parent of public school children, may very well be our new secretary of education. Her platform? Increasing unregulated, for-profit charters and school voucher programs to send America’s children to private christian schools. AKA: Destroying public education.
Let’s get a few things straight.
Unregulated, for-profit charters should be illegal. They take taxpayer money, provide sub-par education, cherry pick kids leaving the hardest cases for public schools and make money for people who are already rich. How is this ok with anyone?
Children are not commodities.
Quality public education is a right and a service- not a for-profit opportunity.
Teachers are public servants, who work very hard for very little. Without the security provided by unions and retirement benefits teaching is a completely unsustainable career. Hence the insane turnover at charter schools.
There is no evidence that charter schools are better than public schools. There is definitely no evidence that dubious for-profit charters and online schools are better than public schools. But there is evidence that adequately funded public schools and unionized teachers DO provide quality education.
The federal government has no business funding private, unregulated christian schools.
In Michigan, Devos’ home state, public schools have been so neglected that buildings are rotting, students are drinking poisoned water and teachers are making do without any supplies at all. Meanwhile, Betsy Devos gets to be the new Ed Secretary.
But this is nothing new. Amidst all the outrage about Devos’ appointment there is a group of people, mostly teachers and parents, who have been fighting these very same battles for years. John King and Arne Duncan also steered education policy around billionaire interests and the false promise of “choice” all while sending their own children to progressive private schools. Unqualified, often right-wing billionaires- the Waltons, Gates and Devos families among them- have been calling the shots in education for a very long time and teachers and parents have been sounding the alarm for just as long. We have been protesting school closures, organizing strikes, opting out of test and punish and voting to keep caps on charter schools around the country while Republicans and Democrats alike champion the decimation of public schools and organized labor.
Maybe it’s time for everyone on the left and above all- for educators- whether you work in a public, private or charter school, to wake up and realize that privatization is at best ineffective and at worst perpetuating the plutocracy we are rapidly becoming. It’s time to think critically about an unregulated “reform” movement funded by hedge fund managers, tech billionaires and fundamentalist christian “philanthropists” like Devos. It’s time for a unified Democratic platform that stands up for public schools and public school teachers.
Teachers and leaders like Carol Burris and Diane Ravitch have been speaking out for years. It’s time to listen.