Our public schools are a fundamental part of our democratic society. They are not just a product to be consumed by individuals, but they are also a public good that benefits the quality of our society as a whole.
REMEMBER Michael Brown, former head of Federal Emergency Management Association during Hurricane Katrina who messed up in a big way during a time when expertise in disaster management was greatly needed? His main qualification for his job was that he was commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. Donald Trump is following this same pattern of rewarding those who stood by him rather than basing appointments on experience and expertise.
For example, there are many qualified people, including Republicans, whom he could have picked for Secretary of Education. Instead he chose Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos, a woman who never attended public school, never worked in a public school or school system in any capacity, never sent her children to a public school and never earned an academic degree related to education.
While it is true that she is the chair of the board of a foundation (American Federation for Children) that is funded with her family’s Amway money and has provided funds related to education, this foundation has been mainly focused on trying to further the privatization of public education, not on strengthening it.
DeVos also heads a political-action group, “All Children Matter,” which seeks to elect politicians who support her privatization agenda.
One of the main aspects of DeVos’ beliefs about education is to use public-tax money for vouchers that would enable students to attend unregulated private schools, including religious schools.
The research on the effects of voucher programs in Milwaukee and elsewhere clearly shows that these programs do not offer a better alternative to public schools for the families that use them, and they undermine the ability of public-school systems to educate the students who remain.
The appointment of DeVos as Secretary of Education will mean a disaster for efforts to strengthen public schools in the U.S., and it will harm many more children and families than were harmed by incompetence and greed in New Orleans in 2005.
DeVos is thoroughly unqualified for the job of Secretary of Education. Her appointment should be strongly challenged given her total lack of qualification for the position. President-elect Trump has a right to appoint someone as Secretary of Education who supports the policies that he wants to enact. However, if he wants someone to lead the department, who supports further privatizing public schools, then he should have picked someone who has even the slightest knowledge of the field of education.
There are other similarly bad nominations by Trump that need to be challenged, but this one should be near the top of the list. Our public schools are a fundamental part of our democratic society. They are not just a product to be consumed by individuals, but they are also a public good that benefits the quality of our society as a whole.
I hope that U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, takes the lead in forcefully challenging the nomination of DeVos as Secretary of Education.