President Donald Trump has nominated billionaire Betsy DeVos to be our next Secretary of Education. DeVos has admittedly never attended public school; neither have her children or grandchildren. She strongly favors publicly funded school choice: "magnet, virtual, charter, home, religious, or any combination thereof.”
In her home state of Michigan, DeVos has won her battle; the state now boasts the highest number of charter schools in the nation, even though test results have shown most Michigan charter schools have not performed better than the state's public schools. A Detroit Free Press investigation concluded, “[T]he most accurate assessment is that charter schools have simply created a second, privately managed failing system.”
DeVos has spent millions of dollars - at least $1.45 million in 2016 - to defeat state legislation that would have required more charter school oversight in Michigan. To restate: Charters use public dollars, but without public accountability. According to the Detroit Free Press, “Michigan spends $1 billion on charter schools but fails to hold them accountable.”
In addition, there is a disconcerting lack of regard for how the creation of charter schools negatively impacts students attending their neighborhood public schools. In her Senate testimony, DeVos did not explain how she would safeguard the education of children attending truly public schools when charters siphon away limited public funds from school districts. A perfect example of this problem is taking place in the Ross Valley School District, where the establishment of the Ross Valley Charter threatens to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from RVSD and disrupt the students and teachers at our district’s shining star, White Hill Middle School. The RV Charter will negatively impact about 2000 district students for the benefit of the approximately 5-7% of the total in-district population who plan to attend the RV Charter.
Despite the damage the RV Charter is inflicting upon all of the Ross Valley School District children, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) approved a loan to the charter to fund litigation against our own district. The CCSA determined that litigation against the school district would further “the promotion and protection of the charter school movement in the State of California.” The very same CCSA wrote in November of 2016, the “California Charter Schools Association congratulates Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools, on her appointment as Secretary of Education.”
DeVos’ testimony regarding her commitment to meeting the educational needs of individual children and to providing school choice for parents may look appealing, but it overlooks the greater good. In an ideal world, every child would have an education perfectly designed for him or her, but our public education system does not have the resources to turn this dream into reality. As long as charter school advocates continue to force privatized public schools upon our educational system, children in truly public schools will suffer. DeVos’ privatized education model is not right for our country, and it’s not right for our community.