"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Future of Public Education Nationally and Locally

Betsy DeVos, President -elect Trump's nominee for US Secretary of Eduction, was questioned yesterday in Washington by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
After watching and reading some of the interactions, it is clear to me that she is  one of the least qualified people ever nominated to lead the US Department of Education.

  • She would not answer the question yes or no, as to whether charter schools should be held to the same standards of accountability as public schools . She repeated numerous times " I support accountability" but would not state that charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as are traditional public schools. That is important, as she has been the driving force in the Michigan charter school experiment, which has a questionable record in many areas. Michigan permits practices barred by some other states, such as for-profit charter operators, virtual charter schools and multiple charter-authorizing bodies. Fraud and waste has also been a problem. What direction if confirmed will she take for schools across America and how will they be held accountable? 
  •  She didn't know the difference between measuring a child's test scores based on "growth" vs. judging them based on "proficiency." Growth is individual progress, whereas proficiency is achieving some set of standards.A basic concept in education.
  • She wouldn't commit to keeping federal funding intact for traditional public schools.
  • She was not aware that the IDEA ( Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) was federal law and not a choice for the states to enforce. (IDEA ensures students with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), just like all other children. Schools are required to provide special education in the least restrictive environment. That means schools must teach students with disabilities in general education classroom whenever possible.)
  • Neither she nor her husband or children ever took out student loans. She has no personal experience with student loans or PELL Grants. (The total outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. is $1.2 trillion, that's the second-highest level of consumer debt behind only mortgages. Most of that is loans held by the federal government.
  • Neither she nor her husband or children ever attended public school. 
  • She has no experience or training whatsoever as an educator.
Why was she nominated then? Perhaps the maybe $200 million she and her family have donated over the years to Republicans and some of which most recently, to the Trump's campaign. More likely though is the ideology of school choice of which Betsy DeVos has been very vocal.

Speaking of " unqualified", Gov. Sununu nominated Frank Edelblut as NH Education Commissioner  who  has no legitimate qualifications to hold that office: RSA 21-N:3C ,"The commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be qualified to hold their positions by reason of education and experience." 
He sold his accounting consulting practice in 2009. He holds no degrees in education, and has a Masters degree in Theological Studies. He and his wife have home schooled their children. He is a  proponent for school choice, and supports using property tax dollars, to pay student tuition at private schools. 
Current commissioner, Dr. Virginia Barry has over 30 years of experience in education as a teacher, leader, tenured university professor, and provost and vice president for academic affairs. Shouldn't that be the type of candidate  selected to lead this department? 
Instead, as with the choice of Betsy DeVos, dangerously unprepared ideologues could be in charge of education policy nationally and now locally.


Anonymous said...

What is the best way to destroy something, from within.

Cabinet picks all seem to understand that philosophy.

Anonymous said...

First, the concept of American public education should transcend far above partisan politics and political greivences. The administration and actions should be left to those that truly care for the lives of current and future generations of learners.

As an educator, I am taken aback by the seemingly haphazard appointees that are being appointed to senior level administrative posts, both at the local and federal level. I fully appreciate and recognize the support that our community and School Board offers for our district and hope that this support remains intact during the potentially turbulent next four years.