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What’s wrong with school choice?

January 17, 2017

Trump Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos will now have her turn on the rack, er, at her confirmation session this week.

Already, the left is trumpeting that she and her husband gave $20-some million to conservative PACS and it is true, their foundation did make political contributions to Republican or conservative PACS.

Under the section of the IRS code that describes their foundation, that’s allowed. Left-leaning family foundations make contributions and support left-leaning causes as well.

They are not so open or noisy about the  reported $32.7 to $35 million (24% of all of their granted funds) the DeVos Family Foundation has given to education.

Mrs. DeVos is being portrayed as an enemy of the public school system, and thus by extension, minorities.

This is quite in line with the stereotypical racial and gender-based attacks on both Senator Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson. It seems the left has only one sound track to play and they hope it will become the song we can’t get out of our heads.

It’s a pretty safe bet that 99% of all the people in the United States were educated by the public school system for the first dozen years of their academic lives.

Private schools have always been the choice of the very rich or the very well-connected. That’s not what the DeVos Family Foundation supports.

Instead their support has largely gone to school vouchers and charter schools, which are still publicly funded to some extent.  Even a study critical of the outcomes in charter schools admits that students in those schools average three months more instruction in a year than their public school counterparts.

Public schools also tend to have a spotty record of success in turning out graduates that are proficient in the three R’s.

That’s not to say there aren’t outstanding public school systems. There are. But what should we do when the neighborhood school becomes no more than a warehouse for people to send their kids to in the morning?

Dooming a child to struggle in unsafe, substandard schools would seem to be far more discriminatory than providing alternatives.

Mrs. DeVos and her husband are known to be in favor of school vouchers, i.e. school choice, which doesn’t necessarily mean charter schools. The goal is to give low-income students in very poorly managed schools more chances at a better quality education.

As Education Secretary, she would have a chance to double down on that philosophy, and that is driving the NEA (National Education Association) and the teachers’ unions nuts.

There is an obvious answer to the problem the unions have with Mrs. DeVos, and that is to make the public schools actual institutions of learning, rather than warehouses or centers for political indoctrination.

Again, the question becomes  if what we have isn’t working, why not try something else?

We already average nearly $12,000 PER STUDENT on education annually. Money doesn’t seem to be the answer.

More money without better outcomes is something parents and the public at large is simply no longer willing to support.

It will be interesting to see how Mrs. DeVos fares in her confirmation hearing. If her ability is commensurate to her vision, she will do well.


From → op-ed

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