In one of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s most troubling responses of both days of testimony, she responded to an inquiry by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) about this nation’s crumbling school infrastructure. It comes about 1:09:45 into the tape (below) from the PBS News Hour.
It’s important to remember that she has always said that public schools were “in the mix” when it came to Educational Freedom and Educational Savings Accounts. Her statement here indicates that is not what she truly believes.
Sen. Reed states, One emergency I believe at least are crumbling schools throughout the country, elementary and secondary.
He goes on to tell how he and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) have a bill called Rebuild America’s Schools Act to invest, he says, I hope, 100 billion dollars in school infrastructure. I don’t think there’s anyone on this committee who has not visited a school in their state that doesn’t need significant repairs and also updating for technology available now for teachers and young people. And there will be savings with better heating and cooling systems. I would hope you will support this effort. I think it is important and I’d like to get your reaction to helping out with this school infrastructure issue.
Betsy DeVos, without missing a beat, replies, Well I think it’s an interesting proposal. A very costly one at that. I think what I would actually advocate for is giving more students and more parents more freedom and choices to find the right fit for their child’s education. I think we are going to make more progress and have more gains in student achievement if students are able to find schools and education environments that work specifically for them.
Instead of repairing, remodeling, or rebuilding public schools, DeVos is going to let public schools crumble. Students will be forced to attend other schools, or no school at all. She apparently sees no need in updating this nation’s school infrastructure.
Why? Many have been yelling about bad school facilities for years! One only needs to look at Detroit Public Schools in DeVos’s home state to understand the meaning of Sen. Reed’s words.
Charter Schools Facilities Initiatives indicates many charter schools are being planned or built next to the crumbling public schools Sen. Reed wants to fix. Some of those charters call themselves “public schools” which they are not. And many will be like Summit or Rocketship Charters that are online schools.
This likely confirms fears that DeVos and Company have something big in mind when it comes to letting public school facilities die.
In 2017, Blogger Wrench in the Gears wrote the post “Decaying Buildings and the Rise of Digital Education.” It’s filled with links to reports and groups that demonstrate clearly that getting rid of public school facilities is “the endgame.” Also stated, None of this is happening by chance. It is part of a much larger program to shift control of public education away from communities to financiers and technocrats.
If you’re a teacher, administrator, student, or parent, you recognize how important a school facility is to learning. You know that overcrowded classrooms are unpleasant, that too warm or cold classroom temperatures will affect test scores. Many public schools are old, built badly, or located in dangerous locations!
How that school facility looks and feels to students and those who work there is a huge part of helping public education and students thrive. We have always rallied around public schools, our football and basketball teams, our support of bands and choirs, and much more. We drive by these facilities with pride. They are our schools! We own them.
School facilities should bring children together to socialize and to learn tolerance and understanding. They’re vital to this country’s future. Letting them decay is a disgrace and terrible for the world to see. It shows that we’re not serious about investing in what’s best for all our children.
Sen. Reed, who interviewed DeVos in a respectful manner, seemed taken aback by her answer. That’s an interesting concept. But we still have an obligation to provide public schools in every community and many of those schools are absolutely unsatisfactory. In fact, many of those schools sometimes pose a danger to the health and safety of the student. The reality too is that choice is not imminent for families due to transportation and because of many factors.
He ended by saying, Our fundamental commitment is to public schools which I hope we honor. I would hope you would encourage us to invest in their reconstruction.