by Rose Chen
It’s official, Betsy Devos has taken her seat as the Secretary of Education. Waves of demonstrations, hundreds of letters and the future of education could not convince one more Republican to stand against the unqualified billionaire.
While every one of the president’s nominees have faced opposition of some sort, Devos is the first to break party loyalties over a spot that seemed relatively minor in comparison to other cabinet roles. Aside from her inexperience, ignorance of basic education laws, and stance against teacher unions, the major controversy is her support for voucher programs. Vouchers work by distributing a set amount of money for families to send their kids to whatever school they wanted, whether that be charter, private or public. The idea is to provide a “better education” for kids who are designated to poor zone schools. However, there are a number of consequences to consider.
First and foremost, the cost of vouchers for the whole of lower and middle class children will be tremendous. President Trump proposes to allot $20 billion to Devos’ agenda. The money is hardly enough to execute the program nationwide. Many people would still be unable to afford private schools whose tuition range from $5000 to $10,000 thousand per year. Some schools have their own entrance exams and physicals. It is not uncommon for disabled students to be rejected. Therefore, many students will still be left out of the deal.
The deal is not much of a steal to begin with. In Devos’ home state, Michigan, for instance, the number of charter schools have more than doubled without any signs of academic improvement. In fact, Michigan’s fourth grade reading and math rankings have dropped from 23rd in the country to 41st within fifteen years. New York Times writer, Kate Zernike criticized Devos’ system in Detroit, as “creating competition but replicating failure”. Instead of quality education, vouchers led to a rapid growth of failing schools fighting for enrollment with enticements of laptops, ipads, and bonuses etc.
Moreover, because private schools lack the regulation and transparency of public schools, parents seldom know how the school is performing or where tuition money is spent to make wise “school choices”. Institutions with their own churches often run on tuition along with tithe. Having attended a Catholic middle school myself, I am skeptical of the constant fundraisers it held. “Letters would say ‘any amount is appreciated’, but the lowest donation option was always $500,” said Katharine Chen ‘17, who also attended Transfiguration School. “Instead of the promised computer labs, I’ve only seen new classrooms and more students.” All of this funding for unregulated private schools is only funneling money away from public schools, leaving them in the cold.
With Devos’s firm support for voucher programs that do not work, Americans can’t help but worry that she may tear apart the very system that she is entrusted to protect.