Betsy DeVos is one of the most polarizing figures in American politics. Whether you love her ideas or wish she would resign, DeVos has done something that no other US Education Secretary has been able to do. She has given students the option to decline going to a failing school and opt for a higher education at a private school or magnet program instead.
This is the basis of educational choice. While many have pigeon-holed it as a scheme to take public funding and give it to private schools, DeVos has tried to explain that philanthropy has actually been the funding behind the movement. Philanthropists like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sam Walton have rallied behind DeVos as she continues to campaign for states to move towards an educational choice school system.
Educational reform in America is not a new topic. It has been a battle since the 1980s when a report revealed by the Reagan Administration showed that America’s schools were in a state of disrepair. This led to standardized testing, which only seemed to bring down failing schools even more. Now there are failing schools everywhere in the public school system, which is an issue that can’t be fixed that easily.
DeVos says that in time, public schools can change, but for now, it has to be about getting students in better schools and offering a better curriculum. DeVos says that this only possible through educational choice. In fact, this option isn’t just for those who want to go to public schools, it’s also for those who want to go to magnet programs at other public schools, virtual schools, homeschooling, charter schools, and private schools.
In a recent interview with “60 Minutes,” Leslie Stahl asked Betsy DeVos what she thought was successful about the new programs. It was difficult to answer. The programs haven’t been in effect for that long. DeVos has only been in office for about two years, and it has been slow trying to get states on board with the educational plan. However, she points to Florida as the most successful. Florida now has the most educational choice options and provides tuition-based scholarship programs for students who qualify. This means that more students are going to school where they want to go instead of being stuck in a school zone that is failing.
While many opponents say that DeVos doesn’t have a background in education, DeVos does have a background in educational reform. She also draws inspiration from her mother who was a public school teacher, and she has continued to talk to the media, opponents, public school teachers, and students in support of educational choice, despite the opposition.
While the US Education Secretary has a long road to climb, it’s made better by the fact that she can see the improvement for students, and she knows that she is working towards their goals more than those of the administration.
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