Betsy DeVos has no public school experience.
She has never worked in a public school. She has never been a public school teacher. She has never served on a public school board. And she never attended a public school.
And yet she was confirmed Tuesday as the nation’s next Secretary of Education.
The vote in the Senate was 50-50 on party lines save two Republicans. Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote. It was the first time that a vice president has been called to the U.S. Capitol to break a tie on a cabinet nomination.
Should her lack of public school experience disqualify her from the job to lead the nation’s public school system?
Donna Brazile, interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, said U.S. Senators who voted for DeVos may be targeted by their constituents who “will cast their votes next year to kick them out of office for selling out their state’s public schoolchildren.”
DeVos is clearly not qualified to oversee an agency with about 4,500 employees and a budget of about $70 billion. It’s an agency that manages millions of public school students, many of whom are African-American and other students of color who, in some cases, have already been marginalized by a flawed education system.
Consider this: According to The National Education Association, Black boys in America’s public schools are more likely than their peers to be placed in special education classes, labeled mentally retarded, suspended from school, or drop out completely.
What is DeVos’ education plan for Black boys?
A billionaire from Michigan, DeVos is a staunch supporter of charter schools and school choice, arguing that parents should have the ability to choose the best schools for their children. She supports for-profit charter schools and the use of public money to subsidize tuition at private schools.
What’s troubling is that DeVos doesn’t seem to understand the struggles of public school students or the financial hardships some families face. She is completely out of touch with public school students, parents and teachers and she would be a disaster for students who need bold leadership and compassion.
DeVos offers neither.
More than 300 Democratic lawmakers opposed her confirmation and her critics say her philosophy on education destabilizes the public school system.
Take Detroit, for example, my hometown.
Detroit is the lowest performing big city in the country, but over the last 15 years, the entire state of Michigan has failed in student performance.
Thirty-eight schools in Michigan are in jeopardy of being shut down by the State due to low academic performance – and 26 of those schools are in Detroit. Nearly half of charter schools in Detroit are ranked in the bottom of American schools, according to the Education Trust Midwest. Twenty percent were given a “D” or “F” grade.
DeVos was raised in Holland, Michigan, about a 3-hour drive from Detroit. Holland is 80 percent white and African-Americans make up about 4 percent of the population.
Does DeVos understand the changing racial demographics outside of Holland? Has DeVos visited any Detroit public schools recently to study first-hand the challenges facing inner-city students and teachers?
Today, Detroit and state school administrators are trying to decide if poor-performing schools in Detroit should be closed, a devastating decision that will impact thousands of public school students.
Does DeVos have a comprehensive plan to revitalize Detroit’s public school system other than promoting charter schools and private schools?
So when I hear Republicans argue that DeVos can effectively serve our nation’s public school students even though she doesn’t have a clue about how public schools operate, I cringe.
Our children deserve better.
What do you think?