The Transylvania Times -

Unqualified

 

January 26, 2017



In the past few weeks, the U.S. Senate has held confirmation hearings for President Trump’s nominees for his Cabinet. Some of them have answered honestly and intelligently and have been confirmed. Others may have provided reasonable answers but their confirmations have been delayed due to past business connections or comments. And then there is Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, who not only has questionable ties to businesses that could profit from her decisions as Education Secretary, but also expressed an almost complete ignorance of the leading educational issues of the day.

DeVos has no experience with traditional public schools. She has not attended a public school nor college and neither have her children. She has never held a teaching or administrative position in a public school. Her only experience with public schools is her support of charter schools, specifically in her home state of Michigan. Unfortunately, the charter schools in Michigan have a poor performance record. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, a supporter of charter schools, correctly pointed out to DeVos that charter schools in Michigan perform worse than traditional schools.

One reason for the charter schools poor performance in Michigan is that they have little accountability. And that is fine with DeVos. She has fought to oppose charter school accountability in Michigan. And she continued that opposition during her confirmation hearing before the Senate when she said charter and private schools that receive taxpayer funding should not be held to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools.

That position was not the only one that should send up red flags to Americans who want good schools and efficient use of government funds. DeVos’s answers or lack thereof also revealed an ignorance of educational issues.

DeVos expressed no understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides the guidelines for how students with special needs and disabilities should be funded and educated. During the hearing she said that states should be allowed to decide if they wish to comply with IDEA, even though it is federal law, but then said federal law had to follow where federal tax dollars are supplied.

She also expressed no knowledge about the current debate on student growth versus student proficiency in measuring educational performance. This debate has been front and center in educational circles for several years. In this state, there has been vigorous debate over this issue. To lack knowledge of this debate as a nominee for Education Secretary is comparable to a Secretary of State nominee not knowing there are differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

Then there was her gaffe about the possibility of guns being allowed in schools. When asked about allowing guns in schools, she said, “ I think probably there (Wyoming), I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.” One has to wonder what kind of person, when asked a question about guns in schools, thinks about grizzly bear attacks in schools, of which there apparently have been none, as opposed to the slaughter of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn.

And then there was her weak answer about enforcing existing laws designed to prevent fraud in regard to for-profit universities. She would not commit to enforcing laws that protect students and taxpayers from scurrilous for-profit university operators who accept federal loans from students but teach them relatively nothing.

Indeed, during her entire hearing, nothing DeVos said indicated that she had a good understanding of public schools or any of the real problems facing education at any level, from kindergarten through college. Based on DeVos’s answers before the Senate, it’s clear that any one of the five members of the Transylvania County Board of Education knows infinitely more about the laws and realities of public education than DeVos. And any one of them would make a far better and more competent Secretary of Education than the unqualified DeVos.

Education is integral to the success of the United States in all areas, from the economy to the military to medicine. The Secretary of Education needs to be someone who understands the challenges in education today and has some sound proposals to overcome those challenges. Betsy DeVos is not that person.

 
 

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