Pickaway News Journal

Mon, May 1, 2017

HERE'S WHAT I THINK: Secretary of Education

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As the new presidential administration got underway, there was much controversy over many of President Trump's selections for his cabinet, among them, Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

Since entering the national conversation, DeVos, of Michigan, has been described as a Republican donor and philanthropist. On her own Web site, www.betsydevos.com, she's called "an innovator, a disruptor and an advocate."

While she may think of herself as an advocate for education, she has a rather narrow view of the benefits of public education. She is, according to a statement from the Ohio School Boards Association, "well-known for her long-standing advocacy of school choice and voucher programs. She has lobbied for decades to expand charter schools and taxpayer-funded vouchers for private and religious schools."

Supporting a view one believes in is commendable. But if one is expected to represent a group, it helps if that person can appreciate other views. It seems to me that anyone serving as the Secretary of Education should have been a student of public education.

That is not the case.

DeVos attended a private high school and college. She has no direct experience with public education but as Education secretary, she would be making decisions that affect millions of students in public education.

In a Jan. 24 U.S. News & World Report column, Nat Malkos writes, "DeVos' strident advocacy for choice isn't out of the mainstream, but it is unprecedented for a secretary of education."

I have been reading a lot of articles about DeVos, and I think this sentiment in a letter from Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., reflects my feelings best: "Over 90 percent of our nation's children attend public schools. But Mrs. DeVos has said that public schools are a 'dead end' and that 'government really sucks' when it comes to education. This statement betrays the commitment of thousands of public school teachers who work hard every day in our public schools... I could support a nominee who is for expanded options and improvement for all schools, public and private, but I cannot support a nominee who has a reflexive and ideological bias against public schools."

DeVos' nomination passed the Senate committee vote 12-11 Tuesday. The full Senate began voting on her nomination Friday morning.

Ty Ankrom is superintendent of the Pickaway County Educational Service Center. He can be reached at ty.ankrom@pickawayesc.org.

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