Betsy DeVos wastes precious time on her choice initiative, ignoring the most serious problems facing our young people in public schools. At a hearing the other day, she pushed many of these problems onto the states.
But I would argue that these difficulties still require thoughtful attention and research from an education secretary who should be engaged.
Instead of working to find solutions to such problems, she’s too busy planning how to destroy public education with her unproven choice ideology.
Children in crisis need help now! They can’t wait. States and Americans look to her, if not for funding, for ideas and even solutions.
Here are 10 pressing issues.
One out of five children in public schools today has mental health difficulties that could be helped with support and early intervention. Schools should be on the frontline when it comes to mental health problems.
Every school should be staffed with enough counselors, school psychologists, and special education teachers who can intervene and assist families and students when mental health issues arise.
But for many, overcrowded schools and classes, and overtaxed teachers who lack sufficient preparation, create a terrible void. Children can flounder without assistance for years.
About 15 million children in this country live in poverty. That means 21 percent of children grow up in families with incomes below the federal poverty line.
DeVos believes school choice will help children do better in school, and she uses poverty involving a student to make her case. Picking students from poor schools that lack what they need to be good schools is unfair.
And charters don’t serve children who need the most help. Students with discipline problems or special needs are often rejected from these schools.
The problems involving poverty and education run deep. They also overlap with healthcare, housing, and the economy. How is Betsy DeVos working on other issues involving poverty? What does she really know about the poor?
The amended McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths Act, issued through the Every Child Succeeds Act, took effect October 1, 2016. It’s supposed to protect and serve homeless students. However, it relies on partnerships, which is worrisome.
What has Betsy DeVos done to ensure that homeless students in public schools are getting the assistance they need? How many partners are working on this issue with school districts?
Goals found in McKinney-Vento are listed in the above link. Betsy DeVos should give us a report on the progress being made. As educators and citizens we should know what’s being done to assist children without homes.
Many students struggle with reading difficulties, and dyslexia is shuffled under the rug in many school districts. U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., has spoken out about dyslexia, and his campaign has been financially supported by the DeVos family. Cassidy runs a charter school for dyslexia. Even though his school is not doing well, one would think dyslexia, would be front and center when it comes to public schools.
We can only wonder how many third graders are held back, forever to feel like failures, when they really struggle to read due to dyslexia. Have you read any good books on this lately, Betsy?
The connection between school closings in urban areas and gang violence is well-known. In 2013, University of Illinois at Chicago criminology professor John Hagedorn warned that school closings “put many children ‘in the line of fire.’”
When schools close, students wind up going to schools across town. Often the school is overcrowded and students belong to different groups that don’t get along.
Also, when students have behavioral problems in school, most charters will push them out. Where do students go? Did Betsy ask her boss to keep afterschool programs in the budget? Nah.
ELL Students and Immigration
Across America, about 23 percent of students in public schools, especially in urban areas, come from immigrant households. That’s more than doubled in the past 25 years! How can we help public schools assimilate students into classes? How can we help prepare teachers to work with students who come to their classes speaking little English?
Whatever happened to efforts to integrate schools? Research and analysis of federal data show that our schools have become more segregated, not less, over the last 20 years and “choice” is a big part of that. Studies are showing, for example, that black students in charter schools are more likely than their counterparts in traditional public schools to be educated in an intensely segregated setting. How will we ever come together as a nation if we drive our children apart? Here is the excellent CNN report “Devos Has A Lot to Learn About Education and Race” By
Children Treated Like Criminals
In recent weeks there have been several reports of children, including a child with autism, being handcuffed and arrested. Another sad story involves a suicide of a student who got in trouble with the school without parents being notified. I wrote about the loss of parental rights when it comes to a student’s behavior in my book Misguided Education Reform. But the use of resource officers and zero tolerance rules have been a concern for many years. Shouldn’t Betsy DeVos be looking into this punitive regimen?
Betsy DeVos didn’t seem to understand the federal mandate Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but it seems she has yet to hire an administrator for this critical area. California-based EdSource claimed she said special education would be fully-funded. That page seems to have disappeared for now.
There are places around the country which have gotten into trouble for withholding special education services to students. Houston is a prime example, placing a cap on the number of students who could receive special education services.
And what about all those students with special needs rejected from charter and private schools? Ms. DeVos would do well to investigate special education services state-by-state.
It is troubling to see grants and special bonds and funds go to brand new charter schools that will likely be used to warehouse children sitting in front of computers. At the same time many children attend run-down, possibly dangerous school buildings.
Then look online and you will find numerous Go Fund Me projects where parents are requesting money for public school air conditioning. How do students work in the hot weather without air conditioning?
Where’s Betsy DeVos on these issues? There’s much to be done for the sake of America’s students. There’s more to running the public school system than destroying it.