On December 10th, Ingrid Jacques, the deputy editorial page editor for the Detroit News wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Jacques had nothing but praise for Betsy Devos, President – Elect Trump’s pick for secretary of education.
The article begins by saying as it often goes what is bad for the teachers unions is good for the school kids. Mrs. DeVos’ history of supporting charter schools dates back to 1994 when Governor Engler and the DeVos family helped pass the Michigan Charter Law.
Today, more than half the students in Detroit attend charter schools, which are free of union constraints.
Although Michigan – like Oklahoma – has resisted comprehensive reform, in 2011 the Legislature voted to lift the cap on the number of charters which had been set at 150 university-sponsored schools. Michigan today allows the schools to be chartered by a variety of institutions, including public universities, which run most of the schools instead of making school districts the sole authorizer.
Ms. Jacques article goes on to say critics claim that charter schools aren’t held to high standards, but more than 100 charters have been closed in Michigan in the last 20 years, both for academic and financial reasons. Not a single traditional public school in the state has ever been closed because of poor performance.
In a recent Tulsa World article by Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs in Oklahoma City, he reminds us, “The goal of public education is an educated public. It doesn’t matter where the children receive that education. After all, the goal of the public health is a healthy public. But we don’t make everyone go to a Veterans Administration hospital. People on Medicaid or Medicare are welcome to choose Saint Francis or Saint John or any number of private providers.”
Same with public assistance. “People can use their SNAP card at any number of private businesses.” Same with childcare assistance paid by the state of Oklahoma. Children are allowed to attend the day care center of choice.
Mrs. DeVos understands that the current public school delivery model is not producing an educated public.
An innovative and productive public education system can include home schooling, parochial schools, private schools, public charter schools and the traditional public school.
Mrs. DeVos represents a transformational change in education. Mr. Small writes that the Obama administration has waged war on educational reforms and options for the most vulnerable.
All students – and especially minority students – must be allowed to leave failing schools. Here in Tulsa, the failing schools of five years ago are still failing schools today. Why? Because school administrators will not close or merge them with better schools. Their answer is more money – not better options and outcomes.
What district superintendents and school administrators are really saying is minority students are simply not up to improvement and they can’t make wise choices if given alternative learning options.
Charter schools in Detroit have given parents a powerful alternative to the status quo and failed schools. Let’s hope Mrs. DeVos can do the same for parents throughout the country.