No one has polarized the education reform argument more than US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. After her appointment by Donald Trump, many in education protested and accused DeVos of wanting to fund private education. Is that really the case? There are some facts missing.
From a very early age, Betsy DeVos was drawn to education. As a teacher, her mother was an inspiration and showed her how there were no choices for some children who were stuck going to schools that didn’t meet their interests or capabilities. Under Donald Trump’s platform, school choice finally had a voice. DeVos has always been an advocate for educational choice and had tried to pass legislation in Michigan to get more options for educational choice throughout her political career.
DeVos has been a school choice advocate in Michigan since before November 2000, when she and her husband Dick DeVos supported a ballot initiative that supposed Michigan students living in a failing student district to at go a non-public school of their choice. The idea was to graduate at least two-thirds of the children and provide $3,000 in scholarships to parents who wanted to send their children to private choice schools.
However, the legislation failed to pass and DeVos looked elsewhere. As she has frequently stated in interviews, school choice provides options for parents who know that their children aren’t getting a good education in the public school system.
Education reform isn’t a new topic. Ever since the 1980s and the Reagan Administration’s report on American schools, education leaders have been trying to resolve the issues that plague the public school system. Standardized testing seemed to be the answer, and throughout the 1990s and 2000s, it continues to show improvement in reading and math. However, those numbers are statistically low on a global scale.
DeVos supports reforms like tax credits, vouchers, and education savings accounts because they have been shown to help students go to a school where they can get the education that they deserve. People are now moving towards this idea because the public opinion has changed on the American school system in general. To be fair, it hasn’t been successful.
However, DeVos is also a supporter of charter schools and has tried unsuccessfully to move public funding into private schools before with her legislation in Michigan. DeVos supports all non-public school alternatives, which means that charter schools are also among the choices for students. She believes that students need to have more options than just public schools, including virtual schools, magnet schools, homeschooling, and charter schools.
DeVos is not the only one who supports this idea. Her campaign has been funded by some of the top names in technology, including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame and Bill Gates. However, both Democrats and Republicans worry that she will not have enough oversight in the long run and will support too much deregulation for American education.
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