As a elementary education major and future teacher, I get a lot of questions about what I think the future holds for me with all the controversy surrounding the education field at the moment. Controversy has followed the President’s pick for the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, long before it was announced that she would be taking the role. Though she has dedicated a lot of money and effort to philanthropy and charitable causes, she has faced intense criticism for her support of the school voucher system, most notably in Detroit, Michigan.
Some people may be wondering why her support of the voucher system is important, or what vouchers even are. Vouchers allow students to attend private schools by using public school funding. At first it seems like an interesting concept, allowing students to choose what school they want to go to, but the issue is that public schools then lose that funding. Once the public schools lose a large portion of their funding, they will be forced to shut down. This leads to the issue that many students do not live in an area where there are high quality private schools, or cannot afford the transportation costs to get to and from school each day without public school (free) transportation. This system may lead to a wide variety of schools for some students and yet leave others with no choice at all.
Some of her other notable works have been to redesign the Detroit, Michigan charter school system in such a way that even though a school is low-performing and students and teachers are not meeting standards, it can continue to enroll students without oversight. This has led to severe drops in math and reading scores, the two most basic subject students need in order to succeed in life. Teachers and schools need to be held accountable for the success of their students, and the system she designed fails the students by allowing the deterioration of school performance to go unchecked.
Our educational system is broken, passing along students that are seriously struggling rather than helping them. Our public schools need more funding, but no one can decide what programs need it the most. For those of us who were lucky enough to spend the majority of our schooling in Seventh-day Adventist education, we have had (with some exceptions) an exceptional education. Our parents made sacrifices to put us through school, but there are a lot of families out there that truly cannot afford to send their children through a private school education. Everyone deserves quality education, but that doesn’t mean switching over to privatized schooling. It means sending quality teachers where they are needed.
As a future teacher, I do not have faith in Betsy DeVos. She has gone so far to push her agenda of voucher or “choice” schools as to state that HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) were created as pioneers of the voucher system, rather than a direct result of systematic racism and Jim Crow laws. Her restructuring of charter schools and lack of action when scores plummeted demonstrated a lack of care for the student success. Our Secretary of Education is either ignorant or simply doesn’t care about the real issues students face.