Public Schools Deserve Support
February 28, 2017
Filed under Opinions
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Betsy Devos began her career as a billionaire lobbyist in Michigan, using her monetary upper hand to sway support toward private and charter schools. With so many qualified people vying for the position of Secretary of Education, it is more than surprising that a woman with no actual supporting credentials was nominated and confirmed for the position. Its as if a mother, expecting one child, was accosted with the responsibility of two polar opposites.
Without any prior clear interaction with the realm of public education, Devos was appointed the primary guardian and champion of both types of systems. Even worse, her rhetoric leads us to believe that she aims to only help the state of private schools—her “favorite child”—while neglecting the state of its more cost-effective counterpart entirely.
Devos, due to her enormous wealth, never attended public schools or sent her children to them. She never had to deal with taking out student loans or being thousands of dollars in debt because of the expensive nature of attaining higher education. She cannot relate to the problems of the average American because she has had little to no interaction with the issues facing the average American on the pedestal on which she sits. Therefore, she fails to recognize a vital proponent of her new role: public education does not deserve to be marginalized in favor of doting on the private sector.
The most prominent proponent that differs between the two systems is cost. Public schools perpetuate a tuition-free alternative to privates. Although they may function under more bureaucratic red tape, public schools give parents the comfort of knowing the government is peering over the school’s shoulder, standardizing curriculum and teachers’ qualifications across the board. Public schools also house programs for students with special needs; the National Center for Education Statistics asserts that in the fall of 2013, public schools served about 95% of people with disabilities between the ages of six and 21. According to publicschoolreview.com, public schools also boast a more ethnically inclusive composition, about 15% more diverse than their private counterparts. All of the above pose as pros, reasons why parents would select public schools over private. However, Devos’s record implies that she has a clear bias which may motivate her to undermine the public school system. In the New York Times article by Katherine Stewart dated Dec. 13, 2016, it states that Devos (as a devout practitioner of the Reformed Christian Church ideology) refers to the reallocation of funds as another way “to advance God’s kingdom,” specifically by aiding religiously-oriented schools.
Public schools have become a reliable, pluralistic and financially practical option for about 90% of Americans and as their numbers increase, the appeal of private school inversely declines. Because public education functions primarily due to government contributions and taxes, Devos’s record of favoritism toward private schools is more than concerning. Millions of Americans cannot afford the luxury of paying annually for private school tuition for their children even with additional government assistance through scholarship tax credit programs suggested by Devos. National Public Radio (NPR) attests that over 70% of these scholarships would be directed toward primarily Christian private schools. These programs, which boast the reallocation of taxes, could deter the educational growth of the majority, in favor of helping the religious and privatized minority prosper.
Furthermore, private schools have numerous wealthy beneficiaries and lack the same impetus for government intervention that is evident in public education. By defunding public education, Devos threatens to hurt the educational growth of the majority of American youth, effectually discriminating against those who do not share a background similar to her own.