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A Response To The Detroit News Editorial Re: Betsy DeVos

The editorial attempts to make an argument in favor of the secretary of education nominee, Betsy DeVos. Here are the problems with it:

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1. Statement A: "Devos could only encourage states to adopt more choice-friendly laws - not enforce it."

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Rebuttal A: While it is true that DeVos can encourage states to make more 'choice-friendly' laws, this statement ignores the power that she will have if she earns this position. As secretary of education, Devos would have the authority to coordinate federal assistance to public education. In her hearing, she could not guarantee that she would continue to fund public schools. Defunding public schools would result in privatized charter schools which are not held to federal standards. This puts all children and educators at risk for exploitation from private companies.

The fact that we are even discussing the possibility of defunding public education from K-12 is appalling and terrifying.

Side bar: In this video, you'll also hear that Devos' family has been privately invested in charter schools for years. And, she has not provided the appropriate paperwork to confirm that she has made the appropriate arrangements to eradicate her conflicts of interest.

2. Statement B: The author tries to counter the "left's idea" that charters are a failure by citing a study by Standford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes that says that charter performance in Detroit are a ‘model’ for other communities.

Rebuttal B: If you read the study, you will see that what it actually found is a <.01% difference between charter schools and public schools. This is not a significant difference in performance. Furthermore, the National Education Policy Center (an independent organization that provides academically sound reviews of selected publications) found that the study could only reasonably conclude that ‘charter school students’ test performance is basically the same as the performance of students enrolled in traditional public schools’. This information comes from here.

Also, if you look at Michigan’s overall public school ratings, you’ll find that Michigan ranks ‘near the bottom for fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading on a national test called ‘Nation’s Report Card’. In fact, the state’s charter schools scored worse on the test than the traditional public schools in the state (according to federal data). This information comes from here.

All this is not to say that charter schools are necessarily a 'failure', however they are certainly cannot be considered superior to the traditional public school model.

3. Statement C: "Charter schools are public schools. They are simply free from union constraints’." While charter schools are technically public schools (i.e. they are given federal funds), they are not "simply free from union constrants". They are also free from regulation by the federal government and their education standards. Instead they are regulated privately.

Rebuttal C: Regardless whether or not charter schools have students who perform higher or lower than public school students, it still stands that when students leave public schools for charter schools, the public schools’ funding is decreased as a result of decreased population, and those schools lose funding. Therefore, charter schools receive more funding from the government, in relation to traditional private schools, but are privately regulated. Due to private regulation many public schools do not provide accommodations and services for special needs students, who are then left with public education that has limited funding.

In addition, the lack of regulation on charter schools means that they: don't have to publish financial reports, don't have to have board members who are accessible to the public, can suspend and expel students without an appeals process, can turn away English learners and disabled students, don't have to offer meals (which makes low-income students less likely to enroll), don't have to have their budget checked against state law by county offices. Many charter schools have been found to have illegal exclusionary criteria for enrollment which again targets English learners and low-income students. This information can be found here.

4. Statement D: “As Weingarten admitted, 90 percent of US students are in traditional public schools. If she really cared about the welfare of students and not the system that is letting down so many of them, then she should willingly partner with Devos to ensure all schools are doing a better job".

Rebuttal D: This statement is misleading. While it is true that 90% of US students are in traditional public schools, the author is implying that not supporting charter schools lets down all of those students. In reality, only 5% of public schools are charter schools. When Devos supports charter schools (and therefore takes funds from other public schools), she is harming the rest of that 90% who attend the remaining 95% non-charter public schools.

5. Statement E: “Given how academic performance in this country has flatlined, despite increased education funding, Weingarten deserves to be worried".

Rebuttal E: This statement is false. Federal funding for K-12 education has been cut by Congress by nearly 20% between 2011-2015. As a result, ‘"Districts were forced to lay off teachers and support staff, increase class sizes, and cut services like tutoring, athletics and before- and after-school programs," the report says. "Some school districts even contemplated limiting their school bus routes."’ This information comes from here.

One might also want to consider the way that academic performance is measured in this country, via standardized testing. These tests are criticized for creating an inaccurate perspective on student and teacher performance.

6. Statement F: “Devos is equally strong an advocate for school accountability.’

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Rebuttal F: During her hearing, Devos refused to agree that she would ‘insist upon equal accountability in any K-12 school or educational program that receives taxpayer funding whether public, public charter or private’.

7. In addition to the Detroit Time's editorial inaccuracies, DeVos can be considered unqualified for a host of other reasons.

1. DeVos, nor anyone in her family, have ever had any experience with the public school system.

2. DeVos, nor anyone in her family, have ever had any experience with the US federal loan system.

3. DeVos has no experience running such a large budget.

4. Despite there being 200+ school shootings since 2013, DeVos does not oppose putting guns in school. Instead, she believes they may be necessary to protect students from bear attacks (zero on record).

5. DeVos is unfamiliar with the federal law protecting students with disabilities, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which has been in effect since 1990.

6. DeVos would not commit to following guidance to address sexual assault on college campuses. She agrees that Trump's statements on the Access Hollywood tapes are akin to sexual assault.

7. DeVos would not commit to enforcing regulations to ensure that colleges prepare students for employment and do not cheat them.

8. DeVos once made a statement that she expected to get a 'return on our investment' ($200 million to the Republican party) to 'win elections'.

9. Forms list DeVos has vice president of her parents foundation which has given money to an anti-LGBTQ organization 'Focus on the Family'. The organization supports conversion therapy for gay youth.

Information collected from here

8. And finally, despite there being plenty of reasons DeVos is unfit for this position, the point is that there exist other individuals who come with fewer concerns than can be raised for DeVos. For starters, maybe, someone who has any experience in the education system. Just an idea.

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