Former Michigan Governor John Engler recently penned an editorial praising Betsy DeVos as a great pick for Secretary of Education. At the very least, his editorial needs a good fact-checking. So here we go.
I often get asked about President-elect Trump’s choice as the next leader of the U.S. Department of Education. In each response, I start by calling Betsy DeVos a highly qualified, creative and promising pick to lead the department.
Betsy DeVos does not have a degree in education, nor does she have any relevant experience in education. She sure doesn’t seem qualified in the academic sense.
Ninety percent of American students rely on the public education system for their schooling. Mrs. DeVos never attended public school, nor did any of her children. Again, somebody who does not understand the environment in which 90 percent of students learn each day does not seem to be qualified for the position.
The key is supporting what works, from rigorous standards to charter schools to transparency across the system.
The charter schools in Michigan favored by Engler and DeVos have not improved educational outcomes. The magic bullet of competition favored by business-friendly conservatives has only succeeded in dragging more Michigan schools down. And there’s plenty of evidence that competition isn’t the answer when it comes to improving schools. Just ask Sweden.
Thankfully, as a businesswoman and entrepreneur, Ms. DeVos has been singularly focused on accountability and results — exactly what our education system needs. She is a particularly strong advocate for increasing accountability of both traditional and charter public schools in Michigan.
Except, she’s not. DeVos has thrown a great deal of money to organizations and legislators that fought against oversight for charters in Michigan. She can claim to be pro-transparency and pro-accountability all she wants, but the reality is that DeVos’ actions show that she wants traditional public schools to play by a different, more stringent set of rules.
For example, she supported a new state law that grades Detroit schools from A to F and shutters the doors of any school that receives an F for three consecutive years. It has been a bitter pill for some, but a necessary prescription for a city system that has been failing students for years.
It’s a bitter pill because closing a school is not “accountability”. It’s punishing the local community, especially when the other choices (charters) in the area have done a poor job.
Of note, CREDO concluded that Michigan was “among the highest performing charter school states.” I am proud that the law that Ms. DeVos championed and that I signed in 1993 is achieving these results.
Test scores have been steadily declining in Michigan. If there are great results worthy of praise, we’re simply not seeing them. Over 20 years since Governor Engler passed Proposal A, and Michigan is ranked near the bottom of the nation in education quality.
To those who have seen the work that Ms. DeVos has led, and the educational successes she has helped achieve, it is clear that there is no one better to lead the Department of Education at this critical time.
[Citation needed]. Again, what successes is Engler talking about? Public money has been funneled into private pockets thanks to DeVos’ policies. In 2011, less than a quarter of Detroit charters were outperforming their public counterparts. Twenty-five percent is a failure no matter how you slice it.
Where’s the accountability for the failed ideas of Betsy DeVos?