Mark Meets World: DeVos is not the best flavor of education reform

Mark Feuerborn

Betsy Devos, a former chairwoman of the pro-school choice group American Federation for Children, has been appointed as the United States Secretary of Education following a narrow swing-vote in the Senate, Feb. 7.

The vote was split 50-50, as every Democrat in the Senate and two Republicans voted against DeVos. It took Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie to cast the vote in her favor.

In a poll by the Baltimore Sun of 407 participants, 76 percent expressed concern that DeVos will damage public education in America. DeVos has yet to refute this concern, as she is a staunch advocate for private charter schools.

However, what hits particularly close to home for Ichabods – as we await our Board of Regents’ vote on the guns-on-campus policy – Is DeVos’ claim she will support Trump’s plan to ban gun-free schools during her Senate confirmation hearing. Our school’s vote may not matter after all on that issue.

The problem perceived with DeVos is that her new position entails working to benefit the country’s education system, public and private. This is something DeVos seems she doesn’t want to work toward. Education in America does need reform, but not in a fashion that exclusively benefits charters.

We may see a growing gap between those in the public system and those in charter schools. This could be seen as the beginning of an elite, lucky few students based on parental income.

However, if we look at DeVos’ work when she was the Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan, this elite few may not be that lucky after all.

Michigan has the country’s largest network of charter schools. Focusing in on the only high school left in Brightmoor – a charter called Detroit Community Schools – the superintendent earned an annual salary of $130,000, while in 20 years in operation, only two of its students have earned college-ready scores as determined by the ACT.

Only time will tell what DeVos has in store. Even then, following her appointment, a bill was proposed by a GOP representative to abolish the Department of Education. The government’s playing field for public education sits like an unpredictable time-bomb, for now.