With the recent appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education just barely squeaking by on the Senate floor, it is clear many Americans are skeptical of the sweeping education reforms DeVos has vowed to champion.
School choice is a good idea in theory. Failing schools close, and students of those schools are sent to better public schools, charter schools or given private school vouchers. People like DeVos have heralded charter schools as the simple solution to our failing education system for years, even though charter schools often perform worse than traditional public schools but are shut down at a much lower rate.
It’s no wonder DeVos does not support holding charter schools to the same federal accountability standards as traditional public schools. Eighty percent of the charter schools in the Detroit Charter School System she is largely credited with creating had academic achievement below the state average in reading and math.
School choice only helps children who live in already privileged communities. Closing down a failing public school that serves primarily low-income students often shifts their option from a failing public school to a failing charter school. Working parents and single parents often don’t have the time to research the many different schools their child has access to. Without the means to ensure their children go to the best charter school, “school choice” is not left to the family but to a lottery. Randomization is no way to ensure every child’s needs are met by their school. Private school vouchers often help only a tiny percentage of students, if they are offered at all.
School choice may also affect rural communities DeVos has clearly given very little thought to. Local public schools often serve as anchors in rural communities, frequently doubling as the only sports programs and food assistance programs in the area.
School choice is not even beneficial in theory for many rural areas. New charter schools often drain resources from a community’s education budget, and can be impossibly far away for many students. There simply are not enough students in many rural areas to justify a large education “market.” In addition, forcing school systems to pay for students’ busing to the school of their choice could be financially catastrophic.
The threat to Wisconsin public schools from this new administration only adds to the list of reasons why Wisconsinites need to re-elect Tony Evers for state superintendent in April.
Evers is a progressive champion of education who will continue to fight to ensure every child has the option to go to a good neighborhood public school. Evers believes treating education like a market is no way to ensure every student has a fair shot at a good future. He will continue to invest in students and ensure funding for education is distributed equitably among communities across Wisconsin. Investing in students, for Evers, means investing in local neighborhood schools to ensure children always have a place to learn that is committed to the community and the specific needs of the children who live in it.
With the attacks on public education coming just weeks into the new administration, it is clear Wisconsin needs a progressive champion overseeing its schools now more than ever.