Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Why I cannot support the Education Secretary nominee

As a public school district superintendent, I cannot in good conscious support the nomination of Mrs. Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. After hearing her responses to the Senate HELP Committee this week combined with my reading of dozens of articles and blog posts that were both supportive and against her confirmation, here is a summary list of the primary reasons I cannot support her nomination:
  • She has no professional experience working directly in or with public schools unlike the two recent and most other Education Secretaries, yet she would be responsible for ensuring high standards and oversight of federal dollars designed to the learning of poor, indigent and disabled students.
  • She as well as a majority of the committee members gave no indication they have read and comprehend the mountains of research on the effects of poverty, limited English proficiency, and disability on learning, as well as the negative impacts of choice, charters and vouchers.
  • She comes across as unwilling or incapable of spearheading any effort to lift low-performing public schools through adequate and equitable funding, along with the lessening of federal and state mandates that hamper innovation and creativity in schools.
  • She supports market-based reform and competition which after several decades has had very little success.
  • She would not commit to restricting guns from school campuses.
  • She was unable to adequately explain the difference between achievement growth and proficiency, two of the biggest areas in reform debate over the past decade or more.
  • She appeared to not understand that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is federal law.
  • She came across as noncommittal on a number of issues critical to education reform and improvement of public education.
  • She refused several times when asked to commit to holding charter and voucher schools to the same standards as traditional public schools.
  • She is willing to spend public tax dollars on for-profit, corporate charters and private schools but appeared uninterested in applying the same logic to providing for tuition-free college for all.
  • When asked, she avoided elaborating on what she would do as Secretary to address Title IX and campus sexual assault.
  • She has not yet been cleared of any conflicts of interest from the ethics commission nor has she fully disclosed her finances to the public.
  • The Senate HELP chair appeared to do everything he could to shield Mrs. DeVos from further public questioning, artificially limiting each member of the committee to only one round of five-minute questioning, despite many attempts by minority members to have a second round or another hearing to ensure the public had a full opportunity to vet her nomination.
It appears likely that Mrs. DeVos will be voted out of the Committee and will receive Senate confirmation, but with the slimmest of margins. If so, I can only hope that she will have and take many opportunities to visit successful and struggling traditional public schools, opening her eyes to the many possibilities for strengthening our public education system instead of enriching corporations that are taking advantage of the political environment.

Local News interview 1.18.17: