Betsy DeVos: Uneducated in Education
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Betsy DeVos has never attended a public school, nor have any of her children. She went to a Christian private school, paid for by her billionaire father, and is now in charge of public education in America.
How did she get her appointment to Secretary of Education? During her confirmation hearings, after questioning from Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), DeVos admitted that it was “possible” that her family had donated $200 million to the Republican Party. She bought her way into control of the education of American students, and now threatens the futures of the students of America.
DeVos has long been a supporter of school choice programs, namely vouchers. Private school vouchers are a way to allow families to take taxpayer funds and use them to pay for the school of their choice. DeVos believes that this allows parents to choose a better education for their children, and in doing so, will create competition to improve all schools.
But the scores of students who participate in state-level voucher programs disprove this rhetoric. In a 2016 study of Louisiana’s voucher program, students that enrolled in a voucher program fell nearly 50 percent in math achievement and over 15 percent in reading. Instead of focusing on moving students to schools where they will often fail, DeVos should focus on improving the public schools we already have.
However, her decades-long support of these programs dispels any hope that educators may have for a different system. When the voucher program is implemented, every student who leaves public schools and gives their money to a business will have taken that money from the majority of students in this country. Schools like Community High School will not have those funds replaced, and will struggle as a result. The potential of every student will be smited by the choice so many parents – oblivious to the setbacks of millions of underprivileged children – will soon be able to make.
The students in American public schools may soon face another challenge. Over 20 million kids are sustained through the rigors of school with free lunch every day. For many of these economically challenged children and teens, this may be one of their only meals of the day.
DeVos seems to find this struggle humorous. She, like Trump, has expressed her dislike for the free lunch programs. At the Conservative Political Action Conference, she joked about this serious issue, saying “I pride myself in being…perhaps the first person to tell Bernie Sanders to his face that there is no such thing as a free lunch.”
She may be right. To the government, the lunch may cost $1.50, but to a student in need, it is priceless. The nourishment to get them through the school day is essential, and her joke is staggeringly unamusing and disrespectful to those who benefit from this program.
Holland Christian High School, which DeVos attended, is entirely private as it, and all other religious schools, should be. That is, if we aim to ensure that the words of our founders are implemented. The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
DeVos wants to do just that. In open defiance of these words that constitute part of our American creed, DeVos has, for decades, fought for the allowance of vouchers to be used at religious schools such as the one whose name resides on her diploma.
She has previously said that she wants to use taxpayer dollars to “advance God’s Kingdom.” Consider that statement. Through a veil of privilege, willful ignorance and inner self-righteousness, she has decided that the best use of money coming from people of all religious backgrounds and cultural beliefs is in the support of religious schools. That means that atheist parents may pay for Creationist education, or that Muslim parents could have their money funneled into a school which preaches anti-Islamic hatred.
This is not fair to any American. The separation of church and state was in part created to keep people from fighting holy wars, whether politically or literally. DeVos’s statements show that she prefers to disregard the will of the Constitution and use her power to force the money, previously destined for public schools, out of the hands of taxpayers and into the hands of religious educators.
Furthermore, one can reasonably assume that when she says “God’s Kingdom,” she does not mean the kingdom of the Muslim or Jewish God, or of the many Hindu Gods. DeVos wants the furtherance of the power of the Christian God over the people of America. There is nothing wrong with this in its most basic form, but the use of taxpayer dollars to manipulate young, easily changed minds is an abomination.
Trump’s swipe at the rights of transgender students has not gone unsupported by DeVos. She called Obama’s bill to protect students’ rights to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity an “overreach” of power, and has made no remark against his repeal. She has said that she supports gay rights in the past, but apparently her support is not strong enough for her to actually support these students.
Community High School has always been one of the most accepting schools towards anyone, including and especially those members of the LGBTQ+ community. The Queer Straight Alliance is a club that represents this support, and the gender neutral bathroom shows the school’s willingness to go above and beyond Obama’s legislation. Its mascot, the rainbow zebra, is emblematic of this appreciation for diversity. Although our small community will likely remain strong and refuse unconstitutional practices such as refusing the use of a bathroom to a vulnerable teenager, the same cannot be said of all schools in America.
So there must come a time when this school will take a stand against the injustices of DeVos and Trump. As students participating in the public school system, it is no less than their duty to show this oligarch, who is only in government because of her money and her family, the good that can come from a well-run establishment of public education. Students must stand up for what is right. Their voices may not matter to DeVos, but they are the only thing they have. Students, as the ones who are most affected by these detrimental policies, have a responsibility to fight.