Betsy DeVos. No credentials by her name. No reason to be Secretary of Education. SO MANY REASON NOT TO BE CONFIRMED. So let’s dig in.

What’s a public school?

Betsy DeVos did not attend public school nor did her children. Wait, was she a teacher? No. Administrator? Nope. So she can’t provide a good answer for what a public school is like. I actually just did a google search with the terms “devos public school credentials.” This is what I found:

devos-credentials

You will note “Missing” from the Wikipedia article is anything on her credentials. Perfect choice! For someone who has no clue what a public school is like, she sure has a lot of ideas about them (mainly because she doesn’t want children in public schools…).

Why charters aren’t the answer

DeVos is most known for her work on charters and vouchers. Let’s start with charter schools. She has pumped money into groups like the Great Lakes Education Project to steer public dollars to charter schools. Meanwhile, she is heavily criticized by her lack of oversight of such schools. The results of her efforts? Nada. In states like Michigan, where she has pumped in the most money, students are not performing any better (actually, a little worse).

Even in places like Boston with relatively high-regarded charter schools and good oversight, they may boost test scores, but research suggests, little beyond that.

Why vouchers REALLY aren’t the answer

DeVos’ other main policy push in education is school vouchers. Students take some amount of money from the school system to use in the public market to attend another school (mind you, this is not enough for a top-notch, fancy private school but perhaps for a parochial school). If you live in a city, maybe this makes sense to you. If parents see their children in a failing school, they want an out.  Unable to afford a private school, this may seem like a good option when there are actually good private schools within close proximity.

2016-08-07-18-53-57Let’s think about vouchers from the perspective of a family in a rural state. I actually asked my dad, Clark Amadon, lifetime school counselor in the state of Vermont, for his perspective as someone who has worked closely with students and families for over 30 years. Here’s his take: “Let’s take Canaan, Vermont as an example. It’s on the Connecticut River, bordering NH.  If those kids have vouchers the next nearest high school is in NH about a 20 minute drive.  Not too bad.  The next nearest VT high school is just over an hour away.”

Vouchers may not be practical in lots of regions in the country.

Furthermore, “The vaunted promise of vouchers are a cruel joke and a tool to destabilize communities, especially rural ones. Without the local school as an anchor and focal of pride and responsibility, communities whither. But with vouchers, some town’s very nature and identity would be ripped asunder by vouchers.”

This second part I hadn’t fully considered. Towns change when their institutions lose heft and importance. Americans are losing faith in so many of their institutions. Let’s keep public schools.

But do vouchers work? A recent study in Louisiana actually shows lower test scores among those students who opt into the voucher program. Whoops! Imagine those schools that open to take advantage of the public vouchers. Without oversight and standards of quality, they might suck. Then students do worst academically. Go figure!

Why she advocates for these policies (this is the scary part)

Taken together, vouchers and charter schools offer little else than choice. On the free-market, Republican altar, they are praised. In reality, they are rarely effective. Moreover, DeVos’ track record suggests she doesn’t even care if they are all that successful. That’s cool!

So why would she promote these alternatives?

DeVos is on record as wanting to “advance God’s kingdom.” She wants taxpayer money to go to religious schools to promote her religious agenda. That is why she must not be confirmed. Betsy DeVos has no interest in raising the achievement and well-being of our nations’ youth through public education. Quite the contrary — she wants to use public funds to weaken institutions and further her religious mission. That is not the role of the Secretary of Education.

The separation of church and state could obviously be undermined by a pick like DeVos. We cannot risk such a fundamental shift in our educational system and in our communities. Not to sound too dramatic, but, really, we can’t risk it for our children or the country.

So call! Call, call, call!

I’ve outlined the most important reasons to call your senators TODAY about DeVos. There are also numerous sketchy donations to groups opposed to current policies on campus sexual assault (weakening sanctions for the accused). Not to mention she’s a big time Republican fundraiser.

Let’s not mess around on DeVos. Grab the phone and make those calls. And don’t just say you’re opposed. If you are in a rural state, focus on the problems with vouchers. Bring up the lack of evidence in any policies and programs she backed. Make your Senators know that you know what’s up with DeVos. If they know we are watching, they fear re-election, and their vote can be swayed.