The New Path of Education
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Betsy DeVos was sworn in as Education Secretary on Feb. 7, 2017, and with her comes many arguments on whether she is the right person for the job and how her decisions will impact our schools.
DeVos has been an advocate for private charter schools through her donations and involvement in developing private charter schools in Detroit, which some people see as a failure due to the school’s poor performances.
With her new position of power, how can she impact schools at a federal level? “The Secretary is responsible for the overall direction, supervision and coordination of all activities of the Department and is the principal adviser to the President on Federal policies, programs and activities related to education in the United States,” according to the US Department of Education.
Some opposing parties have taken her views on private charter schools as a reason for her to cut public school funding. “I think public charter schools could be an important part of our country’s educational future, [but] the private – oftentimes for profit – charter schools that Ms. DeVos has advocated for trouble me,” said Kelly Baquero, history teacher at Vista del Lago.
“I have nothing against the public school system,” DeVos said during her confirmation hearing. Although, there is still uncertainty on whether she would cut public school funding. If this occurs, some programs that students enjoy could be stopped due to lack of funds.
There has been much controversy surrounding DeVos and the criticisms from Democratic senators on whether she is the right person for the job. DeVos is the head of the Department of Education which is responsible for maintaining policies related to education and improve the American education system.
“During her confirmation hearing she was asked if she would commit to not work to privatize public schools or cut money from public education. She declined to answer,” said Baquero.
DeVos has worked in Detroit to create many private charters schools. Since they are private schools, they do not shut down if they do poorly, which was the case in Detroit. Public schools, on the other hand are shut down by the government if they are failing to sufficiently educate their students. “In Brightmoor, the only high school left is Detroit Community Schools, a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores and, until recently, a superintendent who earned $130,000 a year despite a dearth of educational experience or credentials,” said Stephen Henderson, an editor for the Detroit Free Press. This is not the only one. Many other Detroit schools are facing this problem as well.
In addition to public school funding, there is also some controversy on DeVos’ view on LGBTQ rights. With our own Vista del Lago high school having a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club, some people are concerned about how LGBTQ students will be affected.
“Sixty-eight percent of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT from their elected leaders,” said the Human Rights Campaign.
“Her history on gay rights is another area of concern. Unfortunately, it would be in her authority as Secretary of Education to roll back protections for LGBTQ students,” said Baquero. Although she did relent at first to sign off on the rules that protected federal transgender bathroom rights that the Obama administration put up, she ended up signing due to the pressure from her colleagues.
“There is a big difference between favoring something and making it reality. The U.S. education system is as vast as it is complex. Control is held at the federal and state levels,” said Jonathan Johnson, one of the assistant principals at Vista.
Devos has been a significant donor to both private charter schools and the Republican Party. During her confirmation hearing, Sen. Sanders asked if she has donated 200,000 or more dollars to the Republican Party. “It’s possible,” DeVos replied. It was later determined that DeVos has contributed over 950,000 dollars to Republican campaigns since 1980.
“Really, my hope would be that Ms. DeVos learns more about the system and makes decisions that benefit the greatest number of people. I hope she reaches out to people in communities large and small and seeks to understand what their needs are. Her job certainly is not easy. I hope she approaches her job with humility and serves the greater good,”said Johnson