The big news today is, of course, the appointment of Betsy DeVos to Secretary of Education. And apparently this is the end of public education as we know it AND that should make us: sad, mad, outraged, and void of all hope.
I honestly don't care if she is Secretary of Ed or not. If she had been rejected I would not have cared.
However, I do have questions of those who feel so emphatically that DeVos is just one of the atrocious choices made by an administration that is less than three weeks old.
What was education like before The Secretary of Education became a cabinet level position? If I am reading the history correctly, President Carter made it a cabinet level position in 1979. I am guessing in an attempt to ensure that poorer states and districts had opportunities that government could provide? This is an admirable attempt to try to provide equity in opportunity.
Has it succeeded?
One of the top concerns of those opposing DeVos is her support of Charter Schools. The belief as well as truth is that Charter Schools take money away from public schools. So I've done some research.
The first Charter school was opened in the 1990's under President Clinton as a way of expanding public education. President Bush allowed it to be an alternative for parents in failing districts. In this article
not only does it state that President Obama and his Secretary Arne Duncan were in favor of Charter schools, they also tied the expansion of Charter Schools to their Race to the Top replacement of No Child Left Behind established by President Bush.
and the links within, demonstrate how states who did not allow the expansion of Charter Schools would be penalized on the rubric determining federal dollars that would be distributed by the Department of Ed. to those attempting to obtain Race to the Top dollars. Did everyone march in the streets to protest Charter Schools at that time?
The other main criticism is her lack of experience in public education.
In the above article, they go through each Secretary of Education and their experience level.
The first, Shirley Hufstedler, was a lawyer and a judge. She served under Jimmy Carter.
The second-- Terrell H. Bell-- was a teacher and superintendent and is credited with the report A Nation at Risk. The article says many believe it was at this time the persistent bashing of public education began. He left in Regan's second term because Reagan still meant to dismantle the department of Education.
William J Bennett who served under Reagan didn't have any K-12 experience but did have some at the college level.
The same is true of Lauro F Cavazos who served under Bush 41 and taught at the college level with a medical background.
Ted Sanders did have a K-12 background and served interim under Bush 41.
Then Bush 41 appointed Lamar Alexander, a politician who had made education reform a cornerstone of his Govenership in Tennessee but had no personal experience.
Clinton had Richard Riley who had also been a Governor ( in South Carolina) and had made Education Reform part of his platform.
Roderick Paige, who served under Bush 43, did have a K-12 background. But Margaret Spellings did not-- and she is credited in helping draft No Child Left Behind. She was, however, the first mother of school aged children to serve as Secretary of Education.
Obama had Arne Duncan who had been in charge of the Chicago Public Schools and had experience in other administrative rolls pertaining to education. He helped draft the Race to the Top initiative.
Obama also had John B King as an interim Secretary and Mr. King had taught High School.
So, Mrs. DeVos is not the only Secretary to not have classroom experience in a K-12 setting or for some, in any setting. I could argue some of those who had experience made things worse.
And if you think locally, when was the last time your Superintendent or Curriculum Director were in a classroom? The further from experience they get the more "expert" they feel they are. Perhaps Mrs. DeVos, because she doesn't have experience, will be more willing to listen to those of us in the trenches.
Educators seem to be digging in to defend an education system that is broken. If it worked parents wouldn't be trying to escape it. To say it isn't fair to the poor kids or the inner city kids or the fill in the blank kids, is not an accurate assessment. THOSE kids deserve the opportunity to escape as well. And if I am being completely honest, I am glad our youngest is a junior. If the changes going on now, where we are, had started when the boys were in elementary, we would be looking for a different district. I can care about the kids in our care, in our community, in our state, in our country, in the world even, but if it comes down to a choice between what is best for my child or ensuring my kid is lockstep and on par with every other child -- even if that means swimming in a sea of mediocrity, I'm sorry -- my kid comes first.
We can all name what is wrong with public education. Many are--in all forms of social media. How many are doing more than just angrily lamenting all with which we disagree? I wish all the educators who called congress about saying No to DeVos would call their representatives about reforming education in their states and districts.
Because when your really get down to it, it is the states that interpret what the federal government says and the districts who interpret what the state says and the principals who interpret what the district says. We can't fix it by trying to control one person in Washington.
How many are willing to get together with your colleagues and march to the principal's office and demand support? How many are willing to get together with your district and storm the superintendents office and tell them how you wish to be represented to the state? What change that really matters to you and can really make a difference in your classroom and maybe even to your personal health and emotional well being are you willing to fight for in your school?