By Jay Sullivan, Ph.D.
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | Joyce Rankin’s editorial on what DeVos deserves is full of half-truths and distorted facts.
The word deserves means to merit, be qualified for or have a claim. (Dictionary.com) DeVos has never attended a public school, she has not studied education, she has worked to dismantle funding for public education, supported voucher programs. None of her children or grandchildren have attended a public school. Therefore, she has no knowledge of what it is like to have a child educated in the Meeker School District. Yet the implication is that our public school is a failure because it is a public school. As Dr. Dorsett points out, we are Accredited with Distinction placing us in the top rank in Colorado. Supporting DeVos would siphon money away from our schools where we have to fight for every scrap. So what merit do we find supporting someone who would take from us the future of our children? This is not a fix for what ails education, it is nothing less than a destructive force.
There is no merit, honor or morality in destroying a system that does far more good than bad. Support for DeVos is the equivalent of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Where is the common sense in such an approach?
Rankin seems to argue that students in charter schools in Michigan do better than their public school counterparts. Michigan is DeVos home state. The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released research on educational outcomes across the United States. In the film “Waiting for Superman,” discussing that research, the “Superman” narrator tells the audience that “one in five” charter schools is excellent. The actual finding from the study is that of the charters researched, 17 percent (which is really one in six) had better results than the comparison student results attributed to conventional public schools, while 37 percent did worse. So the assertion that students attending charter schools do better than public schools is patently false.
As for the argument that DeVos is President Trump’s pick for wholesale change. This is a fundamentally irrational argument. It assumes that radical change is better than the status quo. So go ahead and chase the tiger. Grab him by the tail. You will have about half a second to experience how bad a decision that was. Change for the sake of change is inherently harmful. Even the most rudimentary logic dictates that we choose an ideal to pursue in any endeavor. Understand that working toward that goal with others will be challenging and then put the effort into a better America.
Rankin’s argument about the devolution of federal power is only a dilution solution. It depends on taking money away from federally funded programs and give those dollars to private schools, religious institutions and others with private agendas. This weakens the overall system of education. New endeavors are expensive and consuming resources that established schools need. One alternative solution is to concentrate financial support where it will do the most good.
The Washington Post (What’s the worst that could happen with Betsy DeVos as education secretary? By Valerie Strauss, Nov. 27, 2016) cites possible outcomes of DeVos anti education agenda:
– DeVos zeroes out the $15 billion currently allocated to Title I, These funds are primarily for poor students.
– A sharp loss in the funding that states historically have provided to school districts.
– School quality takes a back seat to marketing, as the only measure of success is a school’s ability to attract students who bring public dollars with them.
– States have no consistent mechanisms for holding private schools, charter schools, and homeschooling families accountable for student performance, and American achievement spirals downward.
– Lacking a stable teaching force, even those private and charter schools aspiring to help their teachers develop professionally are stymied.
This is not the American education system I want. How about you?
EDITOR’S NOTE: On Tuesday, Feb. 7, Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate to confirm Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Pence’s vote marked the first time a vice president’s tiebreaking vote has been needed to confirm a Cabinet secretary, and the first time in nine years that a vice presidential vote has been used to break any tie.