Is it possible that the only reason anyone has ever listened to Betsy DeVos is that she is a billionaire? I can’t imagine and certainly don’t know of any solid reason to listen to her about education. Her qualifications as Secretary of Education are almost wholly a function of her political activity in giving money to advance conservative politics in Michigan and her advocacy of education in Christian schools. I can’t identify any way she has substantially contributed to the accumulation of the DeVos family fortune or to the fortune accumulated by her (Prince) family. With material help of inherited DeVos money, Trump won Michigan’s electoral votes in 2016, assuring his winning the Presidency. .
Today EdWeek has published online an article about DeVos’ pronouncement that it is only teacher unions that stand in the way of educational choice. DeVos is a frequent cheerleader for the voucher programs in any or all of their various guises. At the Heritage Foundation during National School Choice Week, she blamed teacher unions for blocking renewal of the voucher-based scholarship in Washington DC.
Not surprisingly the National Ccoalition for Public Education fired back; “Repeated studies conducted by the federal government have clearly demonstrated that students in D.C.’s voucher program perform worse academically than their peers in public school. And government investigations have repeatedly shown that the program suffers from serious accountability problems.” NCPE has since 1978 has adamantly opposed the funneling of public money to support religions private schools as well as secular private schools.
Of course vouchers are only one of many ways to divert public money to private schools. Other means include tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, and portability. Portability is essentially a type of voucher which enables Title I money to follow a student who transfers from a public school to a private one. When adopted in 1965, Title I intended to ensure that schools serving larger populations of students in poverty got a little better shot at providing good education. Portability of Title I funding to local districts is regarded as a stepping-stone toward vouchers.
DeVos has pushed Congress for appropriations supporting school choice through the use of vouchers. When both Republicans and Democrats rejected a bill containng $1 billion for voucher uses in private schools, a version scaled down to $250 million was also rejected. Now, teacher unions may have lobbied Congress to vote “no,” but the joint rejection by Republicans and Democrats is hard to blame solely on unions. Is it possible that a few Republicans believe that vouchers are just a dumb idea?