Trump and DeVos Are Attempting To Destroy Public Education In The United States

Trump and DeVos Are Attempting To Destroy Public Education In The United States
By:   docphil
Created:   3 months ago
Comments:   31

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I spent 35 years working in the American public education system. Those years were spent as a teacher, a psychologist, a school administrator, a district administrator, and a regional administrator. Upon my retirement from the public system, I spent the next 10 years as a Professor at a private university which allowed me to see the other side of track, private schools, home-schoolers, voucher schools, charter schools, etc. If nothing else, I feel that I have some expertise in this area and can objectively comment on our current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

I will begin by saying that I have no objection to private school education, home-schooling, or charter schools. Each has a role in the American educational system and each has turned out students who have gone on to successful careers as adults. I am totally opposed to voucher systems for reasons that I will explain later in this article.

I do want to start, however, with the Secretary of Education. Ms. DeVos is, as are many of President Trump's cabinet level appointees, eminently unqualified to hold the position. Her major experience is as the co-owner of AMWAY, a semi-pyramid scheme with questionable finances. Her major education credentials are her vehement opposition to public education and her almost evangelical devotion to voucher based education. Ms. DeVos does not understand the educational system as it is constructed, nor does she understand the causation for school failures.

Instead, the almost reflexive approach of Ms. DeVos to almost every question concerning school improvement is that we have to have more voucher programs or more home-school programs, or in a rare moment of public school support, more charter schools. She generally qualifies those statements with some endorsement of privatization of those schools in order to make them more efficient. Ms. DeVos has also fallen lock step in line with the President's current position on school safety. Teachers should be allowed to be armed. There should be more armed guards. The age to purchase AR-15s should stay at 18. Now, the reader should remember that Ms. DeVos has yet to visit a single under-performing school nor does it appear that, she has read any of the studies on education in the past fifteen years.

Let's look at some of the facts concerning education. For all the rhetoric, the reality is that over 90% of America's children are receiving their education in public schools. Of those 90%, a great majority of the parents of those children are satisfied with those schools. There are some schools that are failing. That is not being debated. There are also private and parochial schools that are failing. In fact, the statistics on children who utilize vouchers to attend private or parochial schools do worse on their standardized tests than comparable students who remain in the public schools. National testing results {from DeVos' own DOE} show that students in public schools have increased their mean reading scores by over 5% in the past two years and their mean math scores over 19% during the same time period. Students who have attended voucher schools have had scores of 2% increases on reading and 1% increases in math. These are striking differences in scores and about as definitive a demonstration that vouchers don't work that can be shown. It is fairly obvious that neither Ms. DeVos or President Trump has read their own statistics. It is also fairly obvious that the members of congress have not read those reports when they re-approved the District of Columbia voucher program.

Below, you will find a list of the reasons I argue against vouchers and plans that cut funding to public education. Each of these can be found to be fully supported in the professional, peer reviewed literature such as the "Journal of Education", the "Journal of Educational Administration", "Education Today", the "Journal of Special Education", the "Harvard Education Review", etc.

  1. There is limited capacity in private and parochial schools for voucher students. With 90% of students attending public schools, it is estimated that only 5-8% of those students will be able to be educated at private or parochial schools, leaving the other 82-85% of the students behind.
  2. The least likely areas to benefit from voucher programs are rural areas. There are not enough private and parochial schools to allow voucher students.
  3. Voucher schools would be selective in the students they accept. That is, they will take students with the most promise or the least amount of problems, thereby segregating entire classes of students.
  4. Vouchers are primarily used to attend parochial education. The size of vouchers in most localities meets the costs of education in most of those schools. For students in private schools, voucher programs act as partial scholarship programs for families that already can afford tuition.
  5. There is no provision for accountability for schools that receive vouchers. That means that there are no curriculum accountabilities, test accountabilities, teacher credential accountabilities, etc.
  6. There is no mandate for background checks for homeschooled children whose parents might receive a voucher for on-line schooling. This might appear like a minor point, but there are cases of parents with abuse histories or even worse, severe mental health issues harming their own children.
  7. There are definitely separation of church and state issues in the provision of voucher programs. Does a school have to meet non-discrimination laws if they accept voucher money? D
  8. Are special education students protected by due process in voucher schools? Can they be suspended or expelled in violation of public law? Can the government force compliance on private and parochial schools.
  9. How do you insure that voucher programs don't take money our of the already underfunded public school coffers? Where does the money come from? Even though there is an average cost per student in every school district, much of that cost is prorated against group costs. When funding is decreased, supplementary programs like reading specialists, art, music, gifted programs, tutorials, etc. are eliminated because they are not mandated and they rely on that prorated cost.

Vouchers and school privatization has not worked in this country. One only has to look at the results of the largest and longest funded system in the United States in Milwaukee and Racine, Wisconsin. The school boards in those two localities that were rabidly pro-voucher have been overwhelmingly rejected and replaced with anti-voucher advocates. This happened after the test results for both Wisconsin and Racine in their aggregate scores declined precipitously in both math and reading. When the scores of voucher and non-voucher students were disaggregated, it was found that the decline in scores came from the voucher students. The system was a massive failure.

It would be good if Betsy DeVos would do something that is basic for an education secretary. Read the studies. Pour over the data. Make the decisions that benefit students not the cronies who will make money based on the latest education scam.

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Greg Jones
1  Greg Jones    3 months ago

What are your thoughts on Common Core? How do you explain the fact that whites and Asians graduate in higher numbers than blacks and Hispanics? Is it racism?

 
 
DocPhil
1.1  DocPhil  replied to  Greg Jones @1    3 months ago

I have mixed feelings on common core. I firmly believe that there are basic skills that are necessary for every student to have in order to be a minimally successful adult. Those areas provide a basis for curriculum across areas. That, to me, is what common core should be all about. I think that as students grow older, the core curriculum should diverge for students depending on interests, abilities, and future plans. I've always been a believer that one of the greatest problems in our schools has been trying to fit square pegs into round holes. We've had this belief that the student on the way to college and the student on the way to being an auto mechanic and the student who is on the way to becoming an actor should have the same English, math, science, and social science courses throughout high school to meet a common core requirement.

The college bound student probably has a need for more traditional English courses like American and World literature, writing, and vocabulary. The student who is planning to be an auto mechanic may need English courses in interpreting complex directions, technical reading and writing. The potential acting student must have courses in plays and playwriting. If the school gives courses in directing, editing, etc., they should be offered. The same for courses in other disciplines. 

One of the reasons we fail in high schools is that we force feed irrelevancy to students. We treat them like they are still 8 years old and forget about motivating them to stay in school and work hard. School and learning is enjoyable if it is relatable. It is the job of the schools to develop course content that meets varying needs. Even with this approach, necessary common core goals can be imbedded into the courses.

I think that your question about graduation rates is directly related to what I just said. When we look at rates of graduation for students who plan to go to college as they enter middle school, the graduation rate between children of color, whites, Asians, and Hispanics only has negligible differences. The reality Is that blacks and Hispanics have less realistic college options than the other groups and we try to force them into the same curriculum as those college bound students. There is no sense of connection for them. They aren't going to use Shakespeare or advanced trigonometry, or French on the streets.  If we make connections and develop learning communities of interest, we could change that.

 
 
Old School Marine
1.2  Old School Marine  replied to  Greg Jones @1    3 months ago
What are your thoughts on Common Core?

There is nothing common about Common Core.

 
 
Ozzwald
1.2.1  Ozzwald  replied to  Old School Marine @1.2    3 months ago
There is nothing common about Common Core.

Do you even know what Common Core is?

 
 
Old School Marine
1.2.2  Old School Marine  replied to  Ozzwald @1.2.1    3 months ago
Do you even know what Common Core is?

Absolutely and my comment stands.

 
 
Sean Treacy
2  Sean Treacy    3 months ago

Good argument to get rid of the department of education.

if the secretary of education has the power to destroy public education, the system is irredeemably broken.

 
 
badfish hαηd ⊕ƒ †hε Ωuεεη
2.1  badfish hαηd ⊕ƒ †hε Ωuεεη  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    3 months ago

Imagine the money we could put into the school system if we eliminated the bureaucratic disaster?

 
 
DocPhil
2.1.1  DocPhil  replied to  badfish hαηd ⊕ƒ †hε Ωuεεη @2.1    3 months ago

Even better, imagine the improvement in American education if there was a Department of Education that set at least minimum standards for education and also provided funding to hire the best and brightest coming out of our colleges and universities. Imagine a country where the Department of Education was able to mandate a minimum living wage for some of the most important professionals we have in this nation {those responsible for the next generation} and the teeth to enforce that so we don't have any more incidents like West Virginia. Without a well functioning Department of Education, there would be states whose standards for graduation are so low that 6th graders from other states would have higher literacy scores. There would be states in which students with challenges would be denied a free and appropriate public education. There would be a resurgence of forced segregation. There would be further incursion of church into the operation of public education. These are all aspects of the DOE that are necessary.

 
 
Tessylo
2.2  Tessylo  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    3 months ago

Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build “God’s Kingdom”


Trump’s education secretary pick has spent a lifetime working to end public education as we know it.







It’s Christmastime in Holland, Michigan, and the northerly winds off Lake Macatawa bring a merciless chill to the small city covered in deep snow. The sparkling lights hanging on trees in downtown storefronts illuminate seasonal delicacies from the Netherlands, as well as photos and paintings of windmills and tulips, wooden shoes, and signs that read “Welkom Vrienden” (Welcome, Friends).


More than 150 years ago, Dutch immigrants from a conservative Protestant sect chose western Michigan as the setting for this idealized replica of Holland, in part because of its isolation. They wanted to keep American influences away from their orthodox community. Until recently, Holland restaurants couldn’t sell alcohol on Sundays. Residents are still not allowed to yell or whistle between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. If city officials decide that a fence or a shed signals decay, they can tear it down and mail the owner a bill. Grass clippings longer than eight inches have to be removed and composted, and snow must be shoveled soon after it lands on the streets. Most locals say rules like these help keep Holland prosperous, with low unemployment, little crime, good city services, and Republicans at almost every government post. It’s also where President Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos, grew up.

Sitting in his spacious downtown office suite, Arlyn Lanting is eager to talk about his longtime friend, who entered her Senate committee vote Tuesday on track to become the nation’s top-ranking education official—despite a contentious hearing marked by her stiff, underwhelming responses to pointed questions from Senate Democrats. DeVos, who is married to Amway scion Dick DeVos (Forbes says his father, Richard, is worth more than $5 billion), was seen as a controversial choice because of the family’s history of heavy spending on right-wing causes—at least $200 million since the 1970s to think tanks, media outlets, political committees, and advocacy groups. And then there’s the DeVoses’ long support of vouchers for private, religious schools; conservative Christian groups like the Foundation for Traditional Values, which has pushed to soften the separation of church and state; and organizations like Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which has championed the privatization of the education system.


Tim O’Brien


But Lanting, a tall, 75-year-old businessman, investor, and local philanthropist, is quick to wave off the notion that DeVos has it in for traditional public schools. “Betsy is not against public schools,” he says. “She does believe that teachers in charter and private schools are much more likely to lead the way toward better education—the kind that will actually prepare students for our current times and move us away from standardization and testing. But Dick and Betsy have given money to public schools, too.”

Lanting is a warm and generous host who’s eager to point out his favorite Bible verse, painted right there on his wall: “‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the Truth’ (3 John 4).” He and Betsy DeVos were both raised in the tradition of the Christian Reformed Church—a little-known, conservative Dutch Calvinist denomination whose roots reach back to the city’s founders. They went to the same grade school in the city’s private school system, the Holland Christian Schools, which was established by members of the church. Like many people I met in Holland, Lanting wasn’t a Trump supporter initially—he voted for Ben Carson in the primaries—but he couldn’t bring himself to cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton, whom he calls “a professional spin doctor.” “Trump is much more likely,” Lanting says, “to bring Christ into the world.”

“Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”

For deeply devout people like Lanting and DeVos, education plays a key role in that mission. Since her nomination, DeVos hasn’t had much to say about her faith—or whether she plans to defend the separation of church and state in public schools. (DeVos declined Mother Jones‘ request for an interview, but a Trump transition team spokeswoman replied in an email, “Mrs. DeVos believes in the legal doctrine of the separation of church and state.”) However, in a 2001 interview for The Gathering, a group focused on advancing Christian faith through philanthropy, she and her husband offered a rare public glimpse of their views. Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on giving—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”


Added Dick DeVos: “As we look at many communities in our country, the church has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity…[I]t is certainly our hope that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education.”

Indeed, critics argue the DeVoses are attempting to expand the definition of “school choice”—typically understood as giving parents the ability to pick any traditional public school or charter school in a district—to allow taxpayer money to follow students to any private school via vouchers. Some critics of school choice argue that charters, which are publicly funded but governed by appointed boards and often run by private companies with varying degrees of state oversight, can skim high-performing students from traditional public schools, leaving them with more high-needs kids and less money. But the push for so-called “universal school choice” could take that a step further by eventually leading to a radical redirection of funds from traditional public schools to private schools, many of which are Christian: Trump’s signature education proposal calls for dedicating $20 billion in federal money to help families move away from what he has called our “failing government schools” and instead choose charter, private, or religious schools.

Although the DeVoses have rarely commented on how their religious views affect their philanthropy and political activism, their spending speaks volumes. Mother Jones has analyzed the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation’s tax filings from 2000 to 2014, as well as the 2001 to 2014 filings from her parents’ charitable organization, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. (Betsy DeVos was listed as a vice president of the Prince Foundation during those years, though she claimed at her confirmation hearing that this was “a clerical error.”) During that period, the DeVoses spent nearly $100 million in philanthropic giving, and the Princes spent $70 million. While Dick and Betsy DeVos have donated large amounts to hospitals, health research, and arts organizations, these records show an overwhelming emphasis on funding Christian schools, evangelical missions, and conservative, free-market think tanks like the Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center that want to shrink the public sector in every sphere, including education.

The couple’s philanthropic record makes clear that they view choice and competition as the best mechanisms to improve America’s education system. Overall, their foundation gave $5.2 million from 1999 to 2014 to charter schools. Some $4.8 million went to a small charter high school they founded, the West Michigan Aviation Academy. (Flying is one of Dick’s passions.) Their next biggest beneficiary, New Urban Learning—an operator that dropped its charter school after teachers began to unionize—received $350,000.

But the DeVoses’ foundation giving shows the couple’s clearest preference is for Christian private schools. In a 2013 interview with Philanthropy magazine, Betsy DeVos said that while charters are “a very valid choice,” they “take a while to start up and get operating. Meanwhile, there are very good non-public schools, hanging on by a shoestring, that can begin taking students today.” From 1999 to 2014, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave out $2.39 million to the Grand Rapids Christian High School Association, $652,000 to the Ada Christian School, and $458,000 to Holland Christian Schools. All told, their foundation contributed $8.6 million to private religious schools—a reflection of the DeVoses’ lifelong dedication to building “God’s kingdom” through education.





Most people I meet in Holland tell me that it’s hard to understand the DeVos and Prince families without learning about the history of Dutch Americans in western Michigan. In the mid-1800s, a group of mostly poor farmers known as the “Seceders” rebelled against the Dutch government when it tried to modernize the state Calvinist church, including by changing the songbooks used during worship and ending discriminatory laws against Catholics and Jews. In 1846, an intensely devout Calvinist clergyman named A.C. van Raalte led several hundred settlers from the Netherlands to the United States.


While the Seceders accounted for just 2 percent of the Dutch population at the time, they made up nearly half the country’s immigrants to the United States before 1850. Those who ended up in western Michigan overcame hunger and disease to clear thickly wooded, swampy land and endured much colder winters and deeper snow than in their native Netherlands. In the city of Holland, they re-created their Dutch villages. And just like back home, their church was essentially their government, influencing almost every part of farmers’ lives.

Eleven years after the first Seceders came to Holland, one-third of the Dutch community broke off from the Reformed Church in America and created the Christian Reformed Church. What really solidified this split were disagreements over education, according to James D. Bratt, a professor emeritus at Calvin College and the author of Dutch Calvinism in Modern America. Members who stayed in the Reformed Church in America supported public schools; Christian Reformed Church members believed education was solely the responsibility of families—and explicitly not the government—­and sent their kids to religious schools. Many church members became staunch opponents of unions by the time New Deal-era legislation protected the right to strike and allowed for collective bargaining, which they viewed as socialist intrusions that diminished the authority of the church and contributed to bigger government.

Betsy and Dick DeVos have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations seeking to privatize education and blur the separation of church and state.

Along with opening Holland Christian Schools, the church and its faithful established Calvin College in nearby Grand Rapids. Betsy DeVos, 59, is an alum of both and was raised during the 1960s and 1970s in the Christian Reformed tradition. (Her brother, Erik Prince, is the founder of Blackwater, the private security contractor accused of overbilling and human rights abuses during the Iraq War, and he now advises Trump on intelligence and defense, according to the Intercept.) During those years, that often meant growing up in a home that forbade dancing, movies, drinking, working on Sundays, or even participating in the city’s May tulip festival. Holland Christian Schools’ ban on teaching evolution wasn’t lifted until 1991, according to Larry ten Harmsel, the author of Dutch in Michigan.


When the 1960s cultural revolution rocked the nation, many members of the Christian Reformed Church—including Betsy DeVos’ parents, who would become one of the richest couples in Michigan thanks to Edgar Prince’s automotive parts company—allied themselves with the evangelical movement. The Princes would go on to contribute to some of the country’s most powerful far-right religious groups, like the Family Research Council. Betsy and Dick DeVos, who are now members of the Mars Hill Bible Church, a well-known mega-church outside Grand Rapids, eventually focused on funding education reform groups and think tanks that push for vouchers, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations seeking to privatize education and blur the separation of church and state. These include:

 Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty: Betsy DeVos once served on the board of this Grand Rapids-based think tank, which endorses a blend of religious conservatism and unrestrained capitalism. It is headed by a Catholic priest, Robert Sirico, who has argued that welfare programs should be replaced by religious charities. In a paper titled “America’s Public Schools: Crisis and Cure,” a former Acton advisory board member named Ronald Nash wrote, “No real progress towards improving American education can occur as long as 90 percent of American children are being taught in government schools that ignore moral and religious beliefs.” In November, Acton came under fire for an essay on its website whose original title was “Bring Back Child Labor.” (The title was quickly changed.) The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation contributed $1.28 million from 2000 to 2014, and the Prince Foundation donated at least $550,000.

• The Foundation for Traditional Values: Led by James Muffett, the organization is the education arm of Citizens for Traditional Values, a political action group whose mission is to preserve “the influence of faith and family as the great foundation of American freedom embodied in our Judeo-Christian heritage.” On the websitededicated to Muffett’s seminars, a page devoted to a lecture titled “The Greatest Story Never Told” states, “There was a time when schoolchildren were taught the truth about the Christian influence in our foundations—but no longer.” The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation contributed $232,390 from 1999 to 2010.

• Focus on the Family: Both the DeVoses and the Princes have been key supporters of Focus on the Family, which was founded by the influential evangelical leader James Dobson. In a 2002 radio broadcast, Dobson suggested that parents in some states pull their kids out of public schools, calling the curriculum “godless and immoral” and arguing that Christian teachers should also leave public schools: “I couldn’t be in an organization that’s supporting that kind of anti-Christian nonsense.” Dobson has also distributed a set of history lessons claiming that “separating Christianity from government is virtually impossible and would result in unthinkable damage to the nation and its people.” The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave $275,000 to Focus on the Family from 1999 to 2001 but hasn’t donated since; it gave an additional $30,760 to related groups in Michigan from 1999 to 2010. The Prince Foundation donated $5.2 million to Focus on the Family and $275,000 to its Michigan affiliate from 2001 to 2013. (It also gave $6.2 million to the Dobson-founded Family Research Council, a former division of Focus on the Family that became an independent nonprofit in 1992. The FRC has fought against same-sex marriage and anti-bullying programs—and is listed as an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)


Additionally, the DeVoses have given millions of dollars to the Willow Creek Association, a group for church leaders “who hold to a historic, orthodox understanding of biblical Christianity” in more than 90 countries. WCA made headlines in 2011 when Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz canceled an appearance at an event sponsored by the association after a Change.org petition called it anti-gay (a claim WCA vehemently denied). And both the DeVoses and the Princes have been major benefactors of the Haggai Institute, an Atlanta-area organization that trains professionals abroad to become Christian missionaries in their home countries because, as the director of its Brazilian bureau explained to Christianity Today in 2013, foreign governments don’t mind “allowing their people to be part of leadership training, whereas they would never allow their people to be in an evangelistic seminar.”

Meanwhile, the DeVos clan is perhaps best known for hard-nosed political activism against organized labor. In 2007, coming off Dick DeVos’ unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in their home state of Michigan, the DeVoses focused their advocacy and philanthropy on controversial right-to-work legislation that would outlaw contracts requiring all employees in unionized workplaces to pay dues for union representation. Back in 2007, such a proposal in a union-heavy state like Michigan was considered a “right-wing fantasy,” but thanks to the DeVoses’ funding and insider knowledge—Betsy was once the state GOP chair—the bill became law by 2012.

Right-to-work laws, now on the books in 27 states, have been a major blow to the labor movement—including teachers’ unions, the most powerful lobby for traditional public schools and against charter schools (whose instructors often aren’t unionized). But that hasn’t kept Betsy DeVos from trying to further weaken unions. In January 2016, when Detroit educators demanded a forensic audit of their district’s murky finances and protested classrooms plagued by mold, roaches, and rodents, they used sick days to make their point—Michigan’s public-sector workers have long been barred from striking. A month later, DeVos wrote a Detroit News op-ed arguing that teachers shouldn’t be allowed to stage sick-outs, either.






President-elect Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos at a January rally in Grand Rapids. Michigan Paul Sancya/AP


Which brings us back to the blurring lines among “school choice,” charter schools, and vouchers. Betsy DeVos has spent at least two decades pushing taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools to the center of the Republican Party’s education agenda, thanks in large part to Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy.


Mackinac Center for Public Policy


In the mid-’90s, Mackinac leadership suggested a long-term strategy on how to make unpopular voucher policies more palatable for mainstream America. Its then-senior vice president, Joseph Overton, developed what became known as the Overton Window, a theory of how a policy that’s initially considered extreme might over time be normalized through gradual shifts in public opinion. Education policies were placed on a liberal-conservative continuum, with the far left representing “Compulsory indoctrination in government schools” and the far right representing “No government schools.”

Charter schools, then, became a Trojan horse for voucher advocates: Once public school supporters got used to the idea of charters, activists would attempt to nudge public opinion closer to supporting tax credits to pay for private schools. In Michigan, Detroit has been at the heart of the charter push, which began when Gov. John Engler signed charter schools into law in 1993. Three years later, then-Detroit Metro Times reporter Curt Guyette showed how the Prince Foundation, as well as the foundation run by Dick DeVos’ parents, funded a carefully orchestrated campaign to label Detroit’s public schools as failing—and pushed for charters and “universal educational choice” as a better alternative. Betsy DeVos has since written about the need to “retire” and “replace” Detroit’s public school system and pressed for expanding charter schools and vouchers.

Trump’s education proposal calls for $20 billion to help families leave “failing government schools” for charter, private, or religious schools.

In 2000, she and her husband helped underwrite a ballot initiative to introduce vouchers in Michigan. Though the couple poured millions of dollars into the effort, 69 percent of voters rejected it. The following year, Betsy DeVos focused on a new strategy: Instead of appealing directly to voters, she created a political action committee, the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), to channel funding toward nonprofits and legislators pushing school reform policies. By 2002, GLEP had more money than Michigan’s biggest teachers’ union, the United Auto Workers, or any Democratic-affiliated PAC in the state, according to Politico.

Michigan now serves as one of the most prominent examples of what aggressive, DeVos-style school choice policies look like on the ground, especially when it comes to expanding charters. About 80 percent of the state’s charter schools are run by for-profit companies—a much higher share than anywhere else in the country—with little oversight from the state. In 2011, DeVos fought against legislation to stop low-performing charter schools from expanding, and later she and her husband funded legislators who opposed a proposal to add new oversight for Detroit’s charters.


Detroit, in particular, provides a cautionary tale of what happens when the ideology of market-driven “school choice” trumps the focus on student outcomes. The city’s schools—where 83 percent of students are black and 74 percent are poor—have been in steady decline since charter schools started proliferating: Public school test scores in math and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have remained the worst among large cities since 2009. In June, the New York Timespublished a scathing investigation of the city’s school district, which has the second-biggest share of students in charters in America. (New Orleans is No. 1.) Reporter Kate Zernike concluded that lax oversight by the state and insufficiently regulated growth—including too many agencies that are allowed to open new charter schools—contributed to a chaotic system marked by “lots of choice, with no good choice.”

A 2015 study from Michigan State University’s Education Policy Center found that a high percentage of charter schools also had a devastating impact on the finances of poor Michigan school districts like Detroit. Researchers reported that, under the state’s school choice and finance laws, it was hard for districts to keep traditional public schools afloat when charters reached 20 percent or more of enrollment. While per-student public funding follows kids to charters or other districts, traditional public schools still have fixed costs to cover, like building expenses and faculty salaries. Charter growth also increased the share of special-needs students left behind in traditional public schools, and the extra costs for educating such students weren’t adequately reimbursed by the state.

Charter schools and school choice are now accepted by nearly two-thirds of Americans, but almost 70 percent still oppose using public funding for private schools. With most states under wholly Republican leadership, though, and big-name charter advocates like former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee now in support of sending public dollars to religious schools, the stage is set for a new effort to both lift state caps on charter schools (22 states have some kind of cap limiting the number of charters) and expand vouchers (14 states and the District of Columbia have active programs).

It’s hard to tell how many more charter advocates will support (or simply overlook) the inclusion of vouchers for private schools in choice policies, but one thing is clear: The prospects for an aggressive policy push for “universal choice”—including funding more religious schools with taxpayer money—have never been better.


On my last day in Holland, a retired public school teacher named Cathy Boote gives me a tour of the city she has called home for 37 years. Dressed in a black cashmere sweater and a white winter jacket, Boote is a self-described moderate Republican who was raised a Calvinist and went to public schools before later teaching art in a nearby district. In her close to four decades of working in public schools, she saw how the decline of the automotive industry and the hollowing out of the middle class affected poor and working-class kids she taught. “When parents have to work longer hours and more jobs and get paid less, there is more stress at home,” Boote reflected. “That means less time to read and do homework, and more time spent watching TV and online rather than learning.”

“Betsy’s father, Edgar Prince, is considered the patron saint of Holland,” Boote says as our truck rolls over heated asphalt—a unique underground grid of tubes that circulates hot water beneath a small section of the city’s downtown and melts snowflakes just as they touch down. It was Prince who helped bring this innovative system here, suggesting the heated streets in 1988 and forking over $250,000 to cover nearly a quarter of the cost. Like Boote, most Hollanders I talked to credit Prince’s vision for the city’s transformation into a tourist destination.

“Most people here feel that you build your own family. You don’t need a union to build a competing family.”

Prince’s mix of business acumen and his desire to protect “our people” put him on the trajectory that made him one of the wealthiest men in Michigan. In 1965, he left his job as chief engineer at Buss Machine Works after workers decided to unionize. He opened his own company that eventually specialized in auto-parts manufacturing and became one of the biggest employers in Holland. When Prince Corp. was sold for $1.35 billion in 1997, two years after his death, some 4,500 former employees received a combined $80 million in bonuses. “Most people here feel that you build your own family. You don’t need a union to build a competing family,” Boote explains, adjusting her glasses. “You treat your employees well and they don’t need to complain. Complaining, protesting, is bad. You work hard and you don’t complain.”

Boote’s truck takes a sharp turn into the predominantly Latino section of town, with large Victorian cottages, fenceless yards, and mature trees. Most kids in this neighborhood go to public schools. In the two decades since school choice was implemented in Michigan, white student enrollment in Holland’s public schools has plummeted 60 percent, with a nearby charter school becoming their top destination, according to an investigation by the Ann Arbor-based Bridge Magazine. Latino students are now the face of the system, and 70 percent of all its students are poor, more than double the district’s poverty rate when school choice began. Bridge Magazine found a similar pattern across Michigan: White parents tended to use the choice system to move their kids into even whiter districts, while black parents gravitated to charter schools made up mostly of students of color. Meanwhile, the Holland Christian Schools are predominantly white.

We leave downtown and drive along Lake Macatawa for about three miles before parking in front of a huge, castlelike mansion. This is Betsy and Dick DeVos’ summer home—a three-story, 22,000-square-foot estate that has eight dishwashers, 10 bathrooms, and 13 porches.

As we look out at the stone-and-shingle house, Boote reflects on how most people around here—her family, Betsy DeVos’ family—grew up hearing about their proud Dutch immigrant ancestors who overcame deep poverty. DeVos went on to attend a small, elite, mostly white private religious school and a college with similar demographics. She married into a rich dynasty.

“‘Look at us. God has given to us. I can fix this. All you have to do is be like me.’ You can understand how you might think that way, if you grew up here,” Boote says later, as we take one final glance at the mansion over its tall, iron gate. “If you come from the small, sheltered, privileged environment of Holland, you are most likely going to have a very limited worldview—including how to fix education.”

This article has been updated and expanded since it was first published. Research contributed by Jennifer Vélez and Matt Tinoco.


 
 
Tessylo
2.3  Tessylo  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    3 months ago
'if the secretary of education has the power to destroy public education, the system is irredeemably broken.'

What nonsense.

She is trying to destroy public education with  money that should be going into public education going into private and religious schools (where that money should NOT BE GOING!)

 
 
JBB
2.3.1  JBB  replied to  Tessylo @2.3    3 months ago

America's Greatness was built on the foundation of public education. Devos is the anti-thesis of Greatness...

 
 
MUVA
3  MUVA    3 months ago

Now we know who to blame about 35 years ago the education system started going in the tank.

 
 
Dean Moriarty
4  Dean Moriarty    3 months ago

Around here private and charter is the way to go. Everyone that can afford it sends their kids to either the Vail Christian Academy or the Stone Creek Charter School. There is only one public school people try to get their kids into that's the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy. Even the public school teachers try to send their kids to the charter school. As one of my friends who used to teach in the public schools said the public schools are more like daycare for the immigrants. The teachers don't speak Spanish and the kids don't speak English. The public school system is a disaster and I'm glad DeVos is where she's at trying to make things better. 

 
 
DocPhil
4.1  DocPhil  replied to  Dean Moriarty @4    3 months ago

Look.....I have no problem with parents sending their children to the school of their choice. That is their right. It is not their right, however, to take public dollars for the education of their children in private schools. There are many reasons for that.......separation of church and state.......accountability of public dollars...... oversight of curriculum........bias in availability of spots........inconsistent testing scores.....etc. Public tax money should go to public schools and public charter schools......It isn't that solutions aren't out there for our failing schools.....They are and we see the successful approaches every day....I mentioned just a few of them earlier...... In addition, we have to control class size, have bilingual teachers where necessary, accept and teach toward differences in learning styles, develop stronger ties with colleges and universities as well as cooperative programs with business and industry.

The problem with DeVos is that she is ignorant and biased against the very department she is supposed to be running. She only sees education as a way to funnel a significant amount of money to her private crony friends. The interview this weekend was a nightmare. Any semi-literate sixth grader could have answered the questions posed to her with more specificity and clarity. There has never been a DOE secretary who has been as unqualified as she is.

 
 
Tessylo
4.1.1  Tessylo  replied to  DocPhil @4.1    3 months ago
'That is their right. It is not their right, however, to take public dollars for the education of their children in private schools. There are many reasons for that.......separation of church and state.......accountability of public dollars...... oversight of curriculum........bias in availability of spots........inconsistent testing scores.....etc. Public tax money should go to public schools and public charter schools....'

THANK YOU!  Exactly what I've been trying to say.  

 
 
Old School Marine
5  Old School Marine    3 months ago

The American Educational System was destroyed long before Trump and DeVoss came on the scene.

Anyone ever heard of CSCOPE?

 
 
Jasper2529
5.1  Jasper2529  replied to  Old School Marine @5    3 months ago

It started out on a positive note for new teachers, but veteran teachers didn't like it.

http://www.lubbockonline.com/education/2010-08-15/new-curriculum-system-cscope-bring-big-changes-schools-lubbock-across-state

I don't know which is worse ... CSCOPE or Common Core.

 
 
Old School Marine
5.1.1  Old School Marine  replied to  Jasper2529 @5.1    3 months ago
I don't know which is worse ... CSCOPE or Common Core.

CSCOPE was, in my opinion, far worse than Common Core.  I interviewed Janice Van Cleve, founder of the Texas CSCOPE Review, about 3 years ago while I was still running a huge newstalker up in Montana.  This curriculum was absolutely horrific across the board.  If you were to listen to this interview your jaw would hit the floor, parents actually being prohibited from even seeing lesson plans for their own children and more.

Here is a link to Janice's website:

http://www.txcscopereview.com

 
 
PJ
6  PJ    3 months ago

Our educational system has not maintained it's relevance to the times.  We do not pay teachers and instructors what we should in order to attract and maintain good educators.  The arts have been gutted and we no longer offer vocational classes like we used to.   

We are behind practically everyone else in the world because we have failed to invest in our future....our kids.

Our kids are one dimensional.  

Betsy DeVos will have little impact on our educational system because it's already in the pits.  Of course her tenure will add to the deficit of recovery but we already had a long way to go to fix the problem.  

 
 
JohnRussell
7  JohnRussell    3 months ago

"...in a 2001 interview for The Gathering, a group focused on advancing Christian faith through philanthropy, she and her husband offered a rare public glimpse of their views. Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on giving—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”


Added Dick DeVos: “As we look at many communities in our country, the church has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity…[I]t is certainly our hope that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education.”

Indeed, critics argue the DeVoses are attempting to expand the definition of “school choice”—typically understood as giving parents the ability to pick any traditional public school or charter school in a district—to allow taxpayer money to follow students to any private school via vouchers. Some critics of school choice argue that charters, which are publicly funded but governed by appointed boards and often run by private companies with varying degrees of state oversight, can skim high-performing students from traditional public schools, leaving them with more high-needs kids and less money. But the push for so-called “universal school choice” could take that a step further by eventually leading to a radical redirection of funds from traditional public schools to private schools, many of which are Christian: Trump’s signature education proposal calls for dedicating $20 billion in federal money to help families move away from what he has called our “failing government schools” and instead choose charter, private, or religious schools."

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/betsy-devos-christian-schools-vouchers-charter-education-secretary/

 
 
JohnRussell
8  JohnRussell    3 months ago

Betsy De Vos would like nothing more than for the public school system to fail, and those funds be used to pay for religious schools for America's children. And I'm sure that she means fundamentalist Christian schools. 

 
 
Dismayed Patriot
8.1  Dismayed Patriot  replied to  JohnRussell @8    3 months ago
And I'm sure that she means fundamentalist Christian schools.

She certainly doesn't want those tax dollars going to Muslim schools.

 
 
Randy
9  Randy    3 months ago

When I was younger I grew up in Michigan and the views of Betsy and Richard De Vos have been well known for a lot of years, but no thinking person ever had the nightmare that they would ever be in the position to put it into action. They honestly want to divert all of the money dedicated for public education to Christian School education. Period. That's it. That is all they want and all they will work toward until they get it and as long as they have the power to do it that is all they will settle for. They would prefer that the type of Christian church school be a fundamentalist church school that interprets the Bible literally, meaning that it teaches Creationism and that everything the the Bible says is to be taken as truth as it is written, with no exceptions. However they would still be willing to see the money go to more "liberal" Christian church schools, as long as none of it goes to any non-Christian schools.

Anyone in Michigan or is from there who has paid attention to the local news for the last 40 or 50 years knows exactly what they want and that is it.

 
 
96WS6
9.1  96WS6  replied to  Randy @9    3 months ago

I sill live here.  Although I think public funds should not be going to religious schools, in much of the state the facts are the charter schools are better.  My oldest daughter went to a charter that did not cost any money to send her to and was much better than the public school in our district we lived in at the time and it was not a religious school.  (google "flextech")

In Detroit the school system is in such bad shape and given the history of constant corruption, i'm not sure it SHOULD be saved.   Despite being in the highest percentile of funds per student for decades they have been in the bottom percentile as far as education quality for decades and it is due to corruption that is documented and happens over and over.  I am not sure if charter schools are the answer but i AM sure the problem is not that the Detroit schools don't get enough money.  Over $14K per student is crazy high, and it was that high when the enrollment numbers were still good.   Take a look at these links and tell me how do you fix this?  It's been going on too long for more of the same.  Maybe Detroit should be a charter experiment?  I don't have the answer, I just know it's not more of the same.

https://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/20546

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2016/10/05/11th-detroit-principal-gets-15-months-prison-corruption/91601262/

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2016/05/07/corruption-schemes-ran-deep-dps/83932126/

 
 
freepress
10  freepress    3 months ago

Michigan and Ohio are big failures. The ECOT scandal in Ohio where the owner basically ran a total scam and lied about attendance. There is an ongoing dispute over how many millions need to be repaid to the state.

DeVos admitted she failed to even once visit a troubled school in Michigan and is nothing more than a cheerleader for rich folks to get a tax break on sending their children to their private school of choice.

If rich people have the money to send their kids to private schools, then great but getting other tax breaks for it or getting state or government money toward that is just a greedy despicable move to give to the rich.

This push for putting children into "pay to play" and "for profit schools", is just a way for rich scammers to cheat the system. With no oversight on the type of learning and education these schools indulge in, who knows what kids will suffer under their profit making schemes?

DeVos is an advocate of Trump University and we saw how that played out on adults.

 
 
luther28
11  luther28    3 months ago

Not that they are not doing their best( Mr. Trump and Ms. DeVos) to bring it to new lows, our educational system has been dysfunctional in one form or another for the past 30 years or so. The modern day answer has been to throw fistfuls of money at it (which seems to be the solution for all woes these days), but to no avail.

How about this, begin by putting the teachers back in charge of teaching and actually holding students (along with their parents) responsible for their academic performance (or lack of it). For some time the psycho babble regarding education has been quite deafening and has yielded little to no results at best. Perhaps it is time to take a step back (to a time when education actually educated folks), in order to take a step forward and go back to what worked in the fifties and sixties tweaking it as we go along. Or if one finds a lack of progression in that train of thought, take what works in other Countries and apply it to our own situation.

The public education system used to work, make it work again for everyone.

 
 
Jack_TX
12  Jack_TX    3 months ago
If nothing else, I feel that I have some expertise in this area and can objectively comment on our current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

You may have expertise, and you are clearly able to comment intelligently.  Objectivity is another matter entirely, and your history suggests you are over-promising on this front.  So does the title of your article, BTW.

Personally, I have a somewhat mild opposition to school vouchers. I don't think they'll actually matter, and we'll have to listen to months or years of animated, hyper-emotional ranting about how they are either the salvation or the death of American education, depending on which wingnuts are speaking.

A few ideas for you to consider:

  1. There is no reason that vouchers could not be limited for use exclusively at accredited schools. 
  2. There is no reason that accreditation could not include mandatory participation in and minimum scores on standardized testing.
  3. There is no reason to think that vouchers will result in some sort of mass migration.  As you note, capacity is very limited everywhere.
  4. There is no reason to presume private schools will not raise tuition by the amount of the voucher, thus making the feared migration more unlikely.
  5. Background checks for parents whose kids attend school online is the single most insane idea I've read in months.  We're not worried about you staying home with your 3 year old, but if your 16 year old son wants to go to high school online....we need your fingerprints?  Oh good grief.
  6. Funding is a potential issue, but not necessarily an insurmountable one.  A school that loses the funding from a child on a voucher also doesn't have the expense of educating that child.  Whether or not those offset will depend on the size of the voucher.

At the end of the day, they probably won't make much difference either way. 

Claims that DeVos is trying to destroy education in America presume she possesses the necessary competence level to do so and imply that it hasn't been fundamentally destroyed for decades already.  There is little evidence to suggest either of those is true.

 
 
DocPhil
12.1  DocPhil  replied to  Jack_TX @12    3 months ago

Thank you for a thoughtful response to my article. Allow me to attempt to respond to your ideas, based on research in the field and my observations over my career.

1.  You are correct in saying that vouchers can be restricted to accredited schools. The question is where are the accreditations coming from? That is not meant to sound flippant but there are multiple accrediting agencies {e.g. the Archdiocese, the Association for Private Schools, The Association of Homeschoolers, etc.}. Each of those agencies have their own accrediting standards and they are widely diverse. Some require teachers to have certification, some don't. Some require teachers to hold degrees in their area of teaching, some don't. The question becomes which school accreditation agencies do you recognize, and does selective recognition violate the separation of public vs. private education?

2.   The same logic has to be applied to your second point. As soon as you require participation in standardized testing, is the government overstepping their bounds and, in fact, making the private or parochial school an arm of the state. Part of the reason for having private and religious schools is to provide curriculum that is different or not allowed in the public school. I use religious education as the most glaring example. Catholic schools teach Catechism, Muslim schools teach Koran, Jewish Schools teach Torah. The time taken for this instruction comes from other subjects and changes the nature of curriculum and pervades all aspects of the curriculum. What if the curriculum of the private/religious school teaches intelligent design or debunks the theory of evolution. They may still be accredited but may be in opposition to standardized testing.

3.   This is one of the main arguments against vouchers. Who gets in and who doesn't. Is entrance randomly selected or is there selective choosing of those students who meet that school's requirements. If that is the case, the voucher system becomes prejudicial. Would it be legal for students who already attend the private or parochial school be eligible to receive vouchers. Would those schools prefer to give vouchers to those who already attend?

4.   The issue of raising tuition when vouchers are initiated is a problem that many states have had to deal with {e.g. Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida}. Exclusive private schools have done just that. Even when they don't raise tuition rates, the voucher amount is rarely enough to allow poor parents the ability to send their children to upper level private schools. The vouchers generally help cover parochial school education or low level private schools, including fly by night enterprises.

5.   The background check issue does appear to be ludicrous, and it is for over 99% of parents. There have been court cases, however, in some locations, by both liberal and conservative judges, that have ruled that anyone involved in the education of children has to have and pass a background check. Even as a parent, grand-parent, ex-administrator, ex-teacher, ex-professor, I have had to have a new background check done when I volunteered to go into a school to provide a read-to program to kindergartners, because my prior check had expired.  I thought it was silly, but it is the law.

6.   The funding issue is a huge one. Think about this for a moment. Most school districts spend approximately $9000 a year on the education of a child. Most vouchers provide stipends of approximately 4-5000 per year per student. The additional 4-5000 a year doesn't stay in the student's home public school, but is held back by the state. Now multiply this by 100 students in a 5000 student district. You have 4-5 million dollars in budget going to the voucher school and another 4--5 million dollars being held by the state. The local district is out 9 million. That money comes out of the general operating budget of the district and generally means that supplementary services, music, art, remedial reading, physical education, etc. are cut. You can't cut teachers because not enough children are getting vouchers {an average of 1.5 students a class}. The private schools get a boon and the public schools get a shaft. It is a fiscal system that is designed to harm the public schools.

Finally, as a parent, would you be happy with your school district if you wanted your child to get a voucher and you weren't chosen? Would it be fair? What if the vouchers only went to schools with 85% minority representation and your school had 82%? Should the highest performing school in your district be eligible for vouchers? Should children already in private or parochial schools be eligible for vouchers? The questions are endless and the problems in the system certainly outweigh the benefits. There is not a single peer reviewed study that shows voucher students performing at a significantly higher level than non-voucher students. In fact, the opposite is supported in the data. Those students who  attend voucher programs have slightly smaller gains in reading and significantly smaller gains in math than matched groups of students who remain in public schools.

As to my views on the President and Secretary DeVos, look at the article that Tessylo reposted in response 2.2 earlier in the discussion. It gives a damning indictment of DeVos and her family's hostility to public education over the decades.

 
 
Jack_TX
13  Jack_TX    3 months ago
The question is where are the accreditations coming from? That is not meant to sound flippant but there are multiple accrediting agencies

Not flippant at all, and certainly a fair point.  (I was a professional educator and served on accreditation audit teams, so I am definitely familiar with the differences.) But the overarching point remains that the type and nature of accreditation can be spelled out in the law.

As soon as you require participation in standardized testing, is the government overstepping their bounds and, in fact, making the private or parochial school an arm of the state.

Why?  It doesn't work that way with Pell Grants or GSLs for college kids.  You can't just hang a sign on your garage that says "Ed's College - Pell Grants Accepted Here".  There are rules.  Why would use of government grants (which is what this amounts to) be governed differently on the k-12 level?

I use religious education as the most glaring example. Catholic schools teach Catechism, Muslim schools teach Koran, Jewish Schools teach Torah. The time taken for this instruction comes from other subjects and changes the nature of curriculum and pervades all aspects of the curriculum.

You've spent enough time in public education to understand how much student time is utterly wasted for the sake of crowd control.  Kids in junior college learn more in 15 hrs/week of classroom instruction than HS kids learn in 40.  Now, either some miracle of brain development happens between their 18th and 19th birthday, or we didn't need all that time to begin with.

What if the curriculum of the private/religious school teaches intelligent design or debunks the theory of evolution. 

What if it does?  Again, colleges teach all manner of religion, controversy or general nonsense and get paid with federal funds to do it.  We cannot let the objection to such a program be..."kids might learn things that xyz group doesn't agree with".

They may still be accredited but may be in opposition to standardized testing.

I wouldn't let them become or stay accredited if their test scores were too low.  I'm in a minority on this topic, I realize. 

This is one of the main arguments against vouchers. Who gets in and who doesn't.

Yes.  But that's something that could be written into the law.

The issue of raising tuition when vouchers are initiated is a problem that many states have had to deal with {e.g. Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida}. Exclusive private schools have done just that. Even when they don't raise tuition rates, the voucher amount is rarely enough to allow poor parents the ability to send their children to upper level private schools. The vouchers generally help cover parochial school education or low level private schools, including fly by night enterprises.

Which brings us to the state of modern legislation....   It is my belief that MOST legislation put forth over the last 10 years has served no purpose beyond making some sect of people "feel better" about a situation that troubles them.  This would be no different, which is why I'm only moderately opposed.  You're going to have lots of people with vouchers and no place to spend them.

I have had to have a new background check done when I volunteered to go into a school to provide a read-to program to kindergartners, because my prior check had expired.

To be around other people's children....yes.  Your own children are a different matter entirely.

Now multiply this by 100 students in a 5000 student district. You have 4-5 million dollars

100 students....times 5000 dollars per student....is $500k.  Unless I'm missing something.

Looking at it from a different perspective, public schools are like any other entity, in that they have both fixed and variable costs.  Fixed costs include things like payments on the bonds and upkeep of the facilities.  North Dallas High School is built to hold 1500 kids.  You still have to maintain it, heat it, and cool it even if only 500 kids attend.   Variable costs include things like personnel and consumables.  You need fewer teachers for 500 kids than you do for 1500.  You need fewer reams of paper, fewer basketballs, and fewer bottles of toner.   

So vouchers would need to be set in such a way that school districts would not default on their existing obligations.  Understand....no voucher system would ever be approved otherwise....because if school districts start defaulting on bonds some very, very, very rich and powerful people will step in to protect their interests.  Those people don't give a shit about vouchers, but they care very much about the $50 billion bond portfolio they manage.

Finally, as a parent, would you be happy with your school district if you wanted your child to get a voucher and you weren't chosen? Would it be fair?

I'm a terrible choice for that question. I'm just too pragmatic to expect anything to be "fair", and I'm old enough to realize that everybody's definition of "fair" is wildly different from everybody else's definition.  Could vouchers be awarded "fairly"?  Undoubtedly.  Will we get everyone to agree on what that looks like?  Not a chance.

The questions are endless and the problems in the system certainly outweigh the benefits.

Meh.  Maybe.  But this was true for the ACA, it's true for the Trumpian Wall, Dodd Frank, the ACA repeals, and an assault weapons ban and thousands of other legislative efforts.

As to my views on the President and Secretary DeVos

I don't defend either.  I simply state that the fears many of my liberal leaning friends have about the ability of either to do significant damage to this country are significantly overblown. 

 
 
DocPhil
13.1  DocPhil  replied to  Jack_TX @13    3 months ago

Thanks for my math correction.....not sure how I made such an elementary mistake.

I couldn't agree with you more on the issue of wasted time......Much of that has to do with time spent working to keep students who are either misplaced or bored misbehaving in the classroom. I've seen too many teachers in schools all over the country fall into that trap. To be honest, it is one of the failures of the current public school system {imho}. We have made a decision in many school districts that one size fits all.....the students who are active learners being taught in the same classroom as children who are highly disruptive...... I am a firm believer that one size doesn't fit all. Not every child has the same learning style or ability, nor is every child going to be interested or willing to be an active learner in every class.  We give teachers an overwhelming job.....Make the classroom work for everyone or you will be considered a failure.  P.L. 94-142 had it right in it's initial iteration for special education students. Every student was entitled to a "free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate for that student". We should have extended that philosophy to every student. If we worked at creating learning communities that were appropriate for differing groups of students and met all of their individual needs, we wouldn't be in this voucher debate. Our schools would be meeting the needs of young people. 

That can't happen when we believe that every student should be college bound. It can't happen when our educational system is set up not to value all kinds of work and when we encourage parents to helicopter over their children to be certain that they get 800s across their SAT's and all As on every report card. We have to get back to encouraging students who want to be plumbers, or electricians, or auto mechanics, or long distance drivers to pursue those career choices. They should be celebrated not demeaned. If we don't get back to a realistic view of work and the education necessary to get students prepared for that work, we will be arguing about failing schools and digressions like vouchers for the next 50 years. 

Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur who believes that all work has value and that there are real solutions to our educational problems out there. We just have to take our heads out of the sand and use a little bit of the most uncommon ability in the world......common sense.

 
 
Jack_TX
13.1.1  Jack_TX  replied to  DocPhil @13.1    3 months ago
If we worked at creating learning communities that were appropriate for differing groups of students and met all of their individual needs, we wouldn't be in this voucher debate. Our schools would be meeting the needs of young people.

To expand upon that thought....

I find it thoroughly frustrating to look at the number of situations where we have people identifying problems and then coming up with "solutions" that clearly have no hope of working....like vouchers.

  • A wall will not begin to stop illegal immigration.
  • An assault weapons ban will not begin to stop gun violence.
  • Arming teachers does not begin to make a school safer.
  • Socialized health insurance will not begin to make healthcare better or less expensive.
  • Vouchers will not improve education for anybody.
  • Cutting taxes will not stimulate job growth.
  • Raising taxes will not change income or wealth inequality.

Yet we are besieged by simpletons who seem unable to process the concept that their particular "solution" may not actually be the best idea in the history of humanity.... and that agreement or disagreement with their idiocy is not actually a valid measure of whether a person is good or evil.

I half expect these morons to respond "God wills it" like they're headed off on a religious crusade.

/rant

If we don't get back to a realistic view of work and the education necessary to get students prepared for that work, we will be arguing about failing schools and digressions like vouchers for the next 50 years. 

You are absolutely right.  And you know as well as I that none of those necessary things are likely to happen, so here's hoping to see you for round 56,847 of this discussion in 50 years time.

 
 

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