School choice advocates have been applauding Donald Trump for nominating Betsy DeVos, a stalwart supporter of school choice and charter schools, as the Secretary of Education. DeVos and her family have a lobbied for and funded school choice initiatives in Michigan; DeVos’ husband went as far as starting a charter school. And with Trump’s campaign trail vow to defund public schools and increase school choice and charter school funds, DeVos’ most monumental goal is probably to do just that.
Fred Hiatt published an opinion piece in the Huffington Post that suggests how DeVos should go about this task. Hiatt makes three commendable points:
- Any school choice initiative should protect low-income students and families and students with disabilities.
- Test the possible school choice proposal on 1-2 volunteering states.
While I agree with the idea that a change of that magnitude should be tested on a micro-scale (Hiatt suggests that a couple of states should volunteer to act as guinea pigs) before being rolled out countrywide, his idea of protecting low-income and disabled students is limited to ensuring they are adequately funded. The article, and others like it, fail to address how these same vulnerable students would be shielded from bad, ill intentioned, inexperienced, for-profit charter, private, and parochial schools that would no doubt prey on these very families. While one could say that poor test scores would cause parents to send their child to another school, the truth is that the money has already been wasted; the child given a poor education and an unstable learning environment. Damage done. And since non-public schools under a school choice system would not be held to the same auditing requirements as today’s public schools, it would be harder to identify and stem financial abuse. Basically, it’s one of the reasons why I have an issue with charter school system.
My second issue lies with the market-based system school choice advocates. There would no doubt be an increase in schools across the board: public, private, charter, and parochial. Without a set of common core standards that states are not required to adopt, standards will undoubtedly be all over the place.
How would school choice cupporters go about fixing these detrimental flaws in their school choice argument?
It’s not that I am 100% against school choice. I just don’t see how deregulation of tax dollars and weak standards would be beneficial to low-income and disabled students.