Reeducation

Dominic Savana, Cactus Editor

The Senate deliberated the appointment of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education over the past three weeks. Never has a nominee for the Secretary of Education been so unqualified to run the American public education system. It is unprecedented, even for President Trump, to pick someone so unqualified. During the three-hour long Senate Health and Education Committee hearing, Mrs. DeVos gave no indication that she was ready for the task of becoming the education secretary other than that she thinks she has ideas. If you’re thinking about giving Mrs. DeVos the benefit of the doubt now that she has squeaked out an appointment, don’t. Her beliefs as to what the landscape of public education, especially higher education, should look like will leave a lasting problem for her successors to fix.
To her credit, Mrs. DeVos seems to sincerely want to improve America’s education system. Mrs. DeVos is a proponent of the charter system and vouchers. Her philosophy stems from a “parents and school choice first” initiative in the education system. In Michigan, she has pushed to grant families more options in education. “Too many parents are denied access to the full range of options” – DeVos.
Perhaps she has a point. Not all children fit into the public education mold, but the cost of following Mrs. DeVos in this endeavor is the damage it does to the public schools and they children they still need to educate. Talking about performance or innovation obfuscates the promise America has made to provide education for all children.
Here Mrs. DeVos’ argument falls flat on its face. If charter schools perform better, why have 122 closed in Michigan due to poor performance? Why weren’t they incentivized to improve their performance? The answer to both questions is money. For-profit charter schools allow executives to make a fortune in a short amount of time, and if the school is struggling, the school just closes its doors, which is a major problem for the children the school is charged to educate.
Conservatives generally believe in scaling back government influence and moving systems to the private sector to increase competition. Mrs. DeVos is not exception. Competition, as most capitalists argue, breeds innovation and improvement. Yet, capitalism does a very poor job in education precisely because of the United States’ promise to educate.
Regulations will be slashed by Mrs. DeVos and the Trump Administration; this much she promised Senator Pat Roberts (R) – KS. Her primary response to nearly half of the questions was, “I believe that matter is best left to the states” – DeVos. Concerning escalating tuition costs, Mrs. DeVos believes that the United States should encourage more young men and women to go to trade school. She side-stepped a question concerning an expansion of early childhood education. On the issue of proficiency vs. growth, Mrs. DeVos would like to focus on competency and mastery. She believes that Title IX needs to be overhauled. She has no experience running loan programs or financial aid, and she has never attended, worked for, or been a part of the community of a public school. Mrs. DeVos even broke rank with Senators Bill Cassidy (R) – LA and Susan Collins (R) – ME as to whether or not the federal government should improve in sections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Most of these facets of the education system may sound confusing. They are. It’s not the responsibility of the citizens to fully understand the complexities of the American education system, but it is the burden of the Secretary of Education.
At the vote, Senators Susan Collins (R) – ME and Lisa Murkowski (R) – AK sided with the Democrats to put the vote 50-50 for the first time in Senate confirmation history. The tie was broken by Vice President Mike Pence February 7, 2017. The students of the United States deserve better than a 50-50 split. Any nominee so contentious clearly has foibles that are not reconcilable with the trajectory of the nation’s education system.