Betsy DeVos rarely makes a statement without referring to her idea of Education Freedom. She is, of course, referring to school vouchers.
But as education secretary she has been more about denying students true education freedom. DeVos stands for the opposite of educational freedom! As she travels around the country promoting her agenda, here’s a review of the ways she has denied children real educational freedom.
Public Schools and the Military
Betsy DeVos praises the military. She visited an air force base recently highlighting Education Freedom.
She tweeted: I often hear from parents serving in the military that access to good schools for their kids is a top concern when deciding to reenlist or take their next assignment.
Did she mention that President Trump will be removing $450 million in funds some of which is meant for building public schools on military bases? Instead he will spend the funds on a border wall.
CBS reported, Funds for the construction of schools at military bases and facilities will be transferred to finance the construction of border barriers, including a $62,634,000 grant for a middle school at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and a $56,048,000 grant for an elementary school for children of U.S. troops stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Did we see Betsy DeVos pushing back and demanding that the money be spent on the schools for their children?
What kind of education freedom is it when even those in the military don’t have access to well-funded public schools?
School Safety, or Not?
Betsy DeVos led a safety commission after Parkland. They were careful not to mention guns. Aside from that omission, what innovations did she and her select panel come up with?
Did they discuss smaller class sizes for teachers to better get to know students? No.
What seems to have evolved from the safety commission includes teachers carrying guns, more police officers carrying guns, and frightening children with scary drills. There’s also a push for more student surveillance.
Ask the children and parents how they feel about education freedom when it comes to safety.
Special Education and FAPE Protections
No matter where you live, chances are special education services aren’t what they should be, yet special education is what children are supposed to have legally available to them through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
School district administrators seem to be intentionally trying to deny children their legal right to academic support. IDEA should cover students with reading and learning disabilities.
For years Texas went without providing special education services to children by initiating an unlawful cap. They got caught, but school districts can deny children services in other ways.
Betsy DeVos rarely mentions students with disabilities, especially initiating a discussion about better funding and implementation of IDEA. Parents can’t rely on her to encourage and monitor how states and school districts administer special education.
She promotes vouchers to private schools that are selective, or parochial schools without adequate instructional services, or substandard charter schools, or online programs that are known to fail. None of these options are monitored or proven to be ideal for students with disabilities.
Children with learning needs are not free if they don’t receive the assistance they require to learn. The federal government has jurisdiction over special education services. If parents don’t like the lack of services, look at Betsy DeVos and her Department of Education.
As Sen. Bernie Sanders noted on Twitter “Betsy DeVos may not agree, but we believe young people should leave school excited about the future—not saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt.”
Whether you agree with his plan to remove all such debt or not, you can’t argue that incurring such debt in in order to obtain an education is not freedom. It’s restrictive. Many students will forgo college because they cannot afford to go.
DeVos has been accused of “brazenly” refusing to hand over information that would expose the loan servicers that exploit borrowers. She’s not protecting students who have been hurt by such corruption. She’s not trying to help them be free of debt. She’s on the side of the borrowers! The AFT is suing her.
Betsy DeVos is starting her 2019 education tour by visiting a Lutheran school that receives public money. DeVos pledges $5 billion for student scholarships to private, parochial, and charter schools that often lack transparency.
Vouchers pull funds from public schools. Public schools are supposed to serve all children. Many voucher schools are selective. Parents who obtain funding in the form of a voucher may wind up placing their child in a substandard charter, private, or parochial school.
Public schools are supposed to be free to all children.
Separation of Church and State is also supposed to protect everyone’s right to freedom of religious beliefs. Public schools are supposed to open their doors to children of all faiths. Why is DeVos able to streamline funds for public schools to religious schools?
College and Career
Betsy Devos recently claimed on Twitter When we break down the silos between industry and education, we can narrow the skills gap and give students access to a relevant and exciting education that prepares them for life-sustaining careers.
Parents worry that the career talk, which starts in elementary school, is steering students into positions that will meet the needs of industry, without focusing on a student’s interests and abilities.
Schools should consider the job market and help high school students better understand their employment and career opportunities. Vocational counselors should provide students, especially in high school, with a realistic understanding society’s employment needs.
But it’s troubling that students are being pushed to be ready for positions that serve industry, when there’s no guarantee they’ll get a job, and for which they may have little interest.
Schools should be about helping young people find and develop their career interests first.
Children at the Border
A person who’s the leader of public schools in this country must be deeply committed to children. All children. How can Betsy DeVos stomach the sight of young children whose families desire the freedom of which DeVos boasts, who wind up in horrible border conditions? Where are any signs of compassion?
When Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., argued that the children at the border with disabilities deserved assistance under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and that under the law children at the border deserved protection. His request was rejected.
Johnny Collett, Betsy’s assistant secretary in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, replied that the Education Department’s “longstanding position” is that there is no obligation “on states and school districts to conduct child find and provide special education and related services to children with disabilities in the custody of federal agencies.”
Where is their moral compass?
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
~ Mark 10:13-16
So, the next time Betsy DeVos mentions Education Freedom, think about what she really means.