Potential Appointee Poses Threat to Public School System
January 12, 2017
Filed under Opinions
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The public school system has guaranteed educational opportunities to students since the mid 19th century. It has made equality of opportunity a strong possibility for all Americans.
President-elect Donald Trump’s unconfirmed nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, however, is suggesting that the current system be abolished and students attend privately funded schools.
While it may appear that DeVos is advocating for school choice under the surface, she is truly suggesting that what she considers the corrupt public school system be abolished- and this decision would have disastrous consequences.
It is crucial that a different Secretary of Education be chosen for the position. While our public schools need to be reformed in order to reach the same standards across the country, they are essential to our guarantee of a government-funded education.
According to a Nov. 24 Washington Post article, DeVos is a conservative activist and philanthropist who has put millions of dollars of her own money into school choice programs to attend private schools.
Her plan sounds like it would be ideal. The achievement gap that exists in school districts in the U.S. can be correlated directly to the inconsistency of education across the country. Allowing families to choose a better school for their children, regardless of cost, would allow students to thrive and would decrease the achievement gap.
With cost-friendly, private schools more widely available, the number of students enrolled in public schools would dwindle, and the public education system would collapse.
Funding for these private schools would come from an unreliable source, however. Currently, in the charter school program in DeVos’ home state of Michigan, all tuitions and fees to these schools are being paid for by private philanthropies.
This funding system may work in Michigan, but when applied to 49 more states, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to find a steady source of private funds.
In terms of reversing education inequality and bridging the achievement gap between school districts, this implementation would be catastrophic. Private schools can teach their students the way they wish, with no federal government standards to maintain consistency.
DeVos has repeatedly attacked the Common Core Curriculum, which uses standardized tests in order to measure the quality of education across the country.
While its implementation is flawed, the only way to ensure equality of opportunity is to reinvent Common Core, not eliminate it. The public school system itself is not at fault.
A problem also arises in the five freedoms that are guaranteed to students in a government- funded institution. Guarantees of freedom of religion and the press, in particular, would be at risk in a privately funded system.
For example, the Scopes Monkey Trial, formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, established that when faced with teaching evolution versus religious creation in public schools, evolution would supercede because it is a secular idea, for example.
Private schools would be able to escape this secular requirement, however. If students and their families want a traditional religious education for their children, that is the purpose of private education.
However, public schools are paid for with tax dollars, and should remain secular.
Another example of how private schools could infringe upon public school students’ five freedoms can be seen in their freedom of the press. Currently, in Maryland, students have laws in their favor that allow them to publish information according to the same standards as major newspapers like the Washington Post. As long as news is not libelous, it may be published.
Privately funded schools aren’t guaranteed this freedom. It’s a necessity for students to have an environment available where they feel protected as American citizens to express their opinions and disclose information in writing.
Trump needs to nominate a secretary of education who will preserve our public school system while tweaking the Common Core standards to effectively teach and assess students nationwide. Americans should be able to learn, while also having their guaranteed freedoms preserved.
Our public school systems should not be destroyed, it should only be reformed to make our schools even more equal in standards than they are today.