Despite a huge public outpouring of concern and protests consisting of tens of thousands of phone calls that lit up the Capitol switchboard — making it the busiest in history — more than one million emails, and countless rallies across the country, Betsy DeVos is now our education secretary.
We now turn our focus and collective energy of the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools, to ensuring that the new secretary recognizes that her proper role is to support a free and appropriate public education for all students in public schools. Her goal should be to make high-quality public schools available to all students, regardless of ZIP code and not, as Ms. DeVos currently states, to offer more choice.
Public school educators will work with her to improve public schools, but will not stand idly by if she tries to shut them down. We will continue to value the diversity and inclusiveness that make our public school systems great and work tirelessly to bring the highest quality education to all students, no matter what challenges we face.
As a nation, we can’t afford a repeat of her record in Michigan where she has worked for decades to privatize public education, including developing programs and supporting legislation that requires using public funds to pay for private school tuition through vouchers and similar programs. A Washington Post story notes the state has a “deeply dysfunctional educational landscape” that is short on quality. The results there have been devastating — an expansion of charter schools with reading and math test scores that are below the state average and limited choices for the students who need them most.
Our country needs great public schools for all students. Shifting resources away from, and then eventually closing, public schools is a disservice to the community and the foundation that our nation is built upon. Right now, citizens have access to nearly every spending record of their public schools: be weary of any shift of funding into “the darkness” where there is no accountability for spending, nor opportunity for the public to review how their tax dollars are being spent.
We are actively engaged in what’s going on in Washington and ask for your support to ensure that public schools continue to be the bedrock of our democracy. We’ve only just begun this fight — join us to make a difference for today’s and tomorrow’s generations of Americans.
Linda J. Weaver represents the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools. The above op-ed was published in an abbreviated form in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Feb. 17 Letters to the Editor section.