Soapbox

What does DeVos really plan for America’s schools?

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, left, talks with her budget director before testifying to the House Appropriations Committee on May 24.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, left, talks with her budget director before testifying to the House Appropriations Committee on May 24. Associated Press

Dear Betsy:

It is time to come clean and tell us what you really intend for our nation’s schools and school children.

Since President Donald Trump named you as his Secretary of Education and since your Senate confirmation hearing, you have appeared in public several times. You have been pleasant, always with a smile on your face and most often with a pleasant answer about how you want to make schools great for all children.

But enough pleasantries. You have also been building a foundation for fundamental change that will impact every child in every school, but you have not laid out your vision.

We know that you want vouchers, but you have not told us how poor parents will be able to use them to the full benefit of their children. You support charter schools, but you have not told us how they will be accountable. You say that parents should be able to move their children out of a troubled or unsafe school, but what do you intend to do with that school and the children who remain in it? And how will you ensure that there is a real, high-quality alternative?

Though you have not provided a vision for education, you have provided a spending blueprint. It proposes $1.4 billion for school choice, including $250 million for vouchers payable to private and religious schools. But how will America’s taxpayers know that our money is being spent wisely – that children are learning 21st century skills, that schools are providing quality programs for all students and that federal funds aren’t simply enriching private schools and for-profit educational corporations.

I don’t want to sound too angry. It’s just that I care about education – not just for kids who have college-educated parents and great local schools, but also for children who struggle every day just to make it to class, who didn’t have breakfast and whose parents start work before dawn.

While all of us didn’t agree with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind or Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, we knew what our differences were. We knew very well where money would be spent and why.

It’s time for you to do the same. It’s time to get to work.

Lisa S. Romero is an assistant professor of education at California State University, Sacramento. She can be contacted at lisa.romero@csus.edu.

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