By Amy Rudolph
Elm Staff Writer
The nomination of Betsy DeVos for the position of Secretary of the Department of Education created one of the most ferocious debates in American politics. DeVos was appointed secretary after Vice President Pence broke the 50/50 tie. In a republican controlled house, the 50/50 split shows that even fellow Republicans do not support her nomination and appointment.
The senate hearings before the vote called many of DeVos’s controversial views into question. DeVos is a staunch advocate for schoo choice and school vouchers that would allow a great variety of schools for students to choose from. This choice school idea is a proponent towards more charter based schools. 6.6 percent of public schools in the U.S. are charter schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
In some cases, charter schools provide students with job training or more subject focused education than traditional public school. Charter schools are government funded, but operate independently of the public school system.
While charter schools do give administrators more freedom, it causes concern about the fact that there is little bureaucratic oversight. DeVos, and many like her, have had a part in the increase in charter schools in the late 2000’s, early 2010’s. DeVos’s favoritism towards charter schools, and rips necessary funding from public schools and leaves them to survive on the bare minimum that towns can scrape together from property taxes. Public schools were already suffering financially before Trump’s presidency, but the future is beginning to look even bleaker.
As a government official, DeVos needs to stay objective and not favor one system over another. DeVos is also biaed, as she has installed many charter schools in Detroit, MI in the past, and she demonstrates this bias in her plans to further defund public schools.
With public schools under attack due to the view that they are somehow beneath charter or private schools, many supporters jumped at the opportunity to boast about the fact that they were a product of the public school system.
The hashtag #ProductofPublic was started on social media to illustrate the qualities and attributes that one can gain from a public institution.
I am a proud #ProductofPublic. My public school system was one of the top performing in the state of Rhode Island, and one year was ranked #1, tied with a prestigious private school.
Going to a public school reinforces the town’s community and fosters better relations with citizens. Students and families do not have to worry about paying for textbooks, uniforms, and tuition, something that many cannot afford.
While my public school performed well and provided me with a comprehensive education, it had many physical problems due to lack of funding. We had old textbooks, used desks that fell apart if you turned too quickly, library books that hadn’t been checked out since 1960, school lunches that looked worse than vending machine food, and a leaky roof that predates many of the freshmen.
If the money was there, these would all be quick fixes. I live in an affluent community and we had those problems. The reality for students in the heart of the inner city is even harsher. Many inner city public schools don’t have any textbooks, are understaffed, have broken windows, no heat or hot water and classrooms that could never accommodate the amount of students who go there.
For many children, public school is their only option. If her plan to provide more government stipends to students wishing to go to charter schools is realized, it will take massive amounts of funding away from the public schools that desperately need it.
If the Department of Education focused on improving our public schools and provided them with more money to increase programming, there would be no need for charter schools in the first place. Public schools would be better equipped and better staffed with educators who could use their ideas to make education better for so many more students. All schools could have the same programs as charter schools, if they just had the resources. Students would not have to leave their school system and friends to meet new people and adapt to a foreign environment. This would help level the playing field for students across America, no matter their financial or social status. In investing in our children, we invest in our future as a country.
I am proud to be a product of public and I want more people to be able to say that. DeVos and the Department of Ed ucation need to look at the potential America’s public school students already have.