The Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, said something astounding stupid recently. In talking about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), she praised them for being “pioneers when it comes to school choice”, which is a total perversion of how HBCU came to be. They were created to help black students who weren’t allowed to attend white institutions, and the fact that DeVos chose to ignore that fact in order to push her own agenda (she’s a BIG fan of charter schools and school ‘choice’) or that she didn’t know why they were created is horrifying. Which is worse? The latter would mean she’s too ignorant for her position, whereas the former would mean she’s too biased to do her job properly. It might be a combination of both, and any of these options are discouraging.
One of the the other statements DeVos made that bothered me isn’t getting as much play in the media. She was talking about a famous African American philanthropist, Mary McLeod Bethune, who founded Bethune-Cookman University (an HCBU) in 1904 and said, “In 1904, with nothing more than $1.50 in her pocket and a vision and determination in her soul, Mary built a school from scratch to serve African-American children.” In and of itself, the statement is innocuous, but DeVos was touting it in support of school choice, of which she is an aggressive pusher. Yes, it’s great that Bethune did that, but she shouldn’t have had to, which isn’t a point DeVos will acknowledge.
Despite my anger towards DeVos and the continued pushing of charter schools at the expense of public school, this post is more about the toxic mentality of business over public works that permeates this administration than strictly a post bashing charter schools. I will, say, however, that it’s difficult for me to understand why the debate about charter schools vs. public schools still exist. Charter schools don’t have to play by the same rules as do public schools and can choose who they want to accept and who they don’t. That means that the playing field is already uneven, so any results are tainted.
It makes me angry and sad that so many people are pouring so much money into charter schools that may or may not be there in a year, whereas public schools are languishing. I remember having this argument with my brother decades ago, saying if we put as much money and care into public schools as we do into charter schools, all children would be better off. I can usually see many different sides to a story, but in this case, I am 100% pro-public schools.