Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is making an aggressive push to de-regulate the public school system and to give the states more responsibility when it comes to America’s education system.
During Obama’s era and the last few years., DeVos and the Trump administration believe that the federal government’s “footprint” was too present.
“We really believe that states are the best laboratories of democracy on many fronts and we are in the middle of moving to implement the ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which really dissolves power back to the states and gives them a lot more flexibility around meeting the needs of students in their unique states and with their unique situations,” said Devos to The Associated Press. “And we think that there has been an overreach in many cases on the part of the federal government in really intruding on states’ issues and states’ areas of responsibility, as well as trying to engineer things from the federal level in a way that is not helpful to students overall.”
Since being appointed the education secretary, DeVos has been on a mission to carry out Trump’s education agenda.
“Our nation’s commitment is to provide a quality education to every child to serve the public, common good. Accordingly, we must shift the paradigm to think of education funding as investments made in individual children, not in institutions or buildings,” said DeVos in March.
Democrats and unions are up in arms because this means federal funding will be cut and some of it transferred elsewhere to more private institutions.
DeVos budget plan would cut $9 billion from the department in 2018, this includes the $2.3 billion in teacher training grants and $1.2 billion for after school programs. $1.4 billion would be relocated to new private and public school choice opportunities.
“Ninety percent of kids go to public schools. 10 percent go to private schools,” said Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association. “If you take resources away than it hurts public school kids. They have less.”
DeVos was one of Trump’s most controversial appointments and was heavily criticized for her lack of education experience in public schools. Although the billionaire businesswoman continues to be a victim of criticism, she is charging full steam ahead.
“There’s no question she got off to a less than smooth start, but I think in the last few weeks and months she’s beginning to find her sea legs and as a result she’s had a fair amount of success given the tremendous opposition she’s been facing from the education establishments,” said Ed Patru, a vice president at the DCI Group, a D.C. public affairs firm. “She’s laying the groundwork for federal school choice, she’s reorienting the Office of Civil Rights towards due process and civil engagement and when it comes to spending priorities, she put forth a budget proposal that brings the department back to a much more focused mission.”
DeVos aims to promote higher education with her initiatives.
“Look, we are concerned and we are, we want to make sure that students have the best chance for a bright future. That involves, first of all, being much more aware of the full range of options and pathways of higher education. So, that’s a principle that you’re going to hear the president and me and others in the administration talk more broadly about,” said DeVos to The Associated Press. “We have not done a good job at encouraging students to look at all their options when pursuing post-high school education. Career and technical education has been sort of diminished and dismissed over many years. That is an area we believe has bright promise for many students and needs to be elevated and honored in a way that really is, notes the opportunities there.”
Unions may not support these education changes, but DeVos has the best interest of parents in mind and wants them to have options when it comes to school systems. She wants education programs to be held accountable.
“I think it’s important for parents to have information about how their students are doing, how they’re achieving, how they’re progressing. And that kind of transparency and accountability I think is really the best approach to holding schools accountable broadly. It starts with holding themselves accountable to communication of relevant and important information to students and parents about how they are doing. And we know from, that when parents choose and they are unhappy with whatever the school setting is they will choose something different. And that’s the beauty of having choices,” said Devos to The Associated Press.
Author’s note: DeVos is pushing along Trump’s agenda and plans to meet with the president soon. It’s not surprising that public schools and unions are rejecting these plans, but it holds education systems more accountable. Parents should have more choices when it comes to where they send their children to school. Unfortunately, the House rejected DeVos’ plans for a $250 million private voucher program and a $1 billion in public school choice. These funds would help parents select the best option for their children, instead of being forced to default to the public school in their area.