Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos went on 60 Minutes last night and had a not great time answering questions about her vision for the education system.
DeVos’ philosophy towards education is all about school choice. She believes, or claims to believe, that school choice makes all students perform better. On the most basic level, kids choosing where they go to school doesn’t appear malicious, but when put into practice, especially as it relates to public school budgets, many students are completely left behind in the process.
This is the case in DeVos’ home state of Michigan, where the public school system has been ravaged by school choice.
So on 60 Minutes, CBS’ Lesley Stahl obviously asked DeVos about the Michigan public school system, which is one of the worst in the country. It wouldn’t have taken an oracle to figure out that the education secretary would be asked about schools in her home state on 60 Minutes, but DeVos was somehow wildly unprepared for the question.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 12, 2018
In defense of school choice, DeVos pointed to Florida as a glowing example of the benefits of her plan:
“In places where there is a lot of choice that’s been introduced. Florida, for example, studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually, the results get better as well.”
This isn’t the case. But Stahl pressed DeVos about her home state of Michigan, where DeVos has tangibly impacted education policy:
“Your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better is not working in Michigan. Where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here. The public schools here are doing worse than they did.”
To that, Devos offered up this inspiring answer, “I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.”
As for the idea that school choice or the presence of charter schools helps public schools perform better, that link is murky or entirely nonexistent.
The Washington Post gathered data from public school districts with school choice and charter schools and how that impacted students as a whole.
From The Post:
“A 2009 study from the Rand Corp. found ‘little evidence that the presence of charter schools affects the achievement scores of students in nearby traditional public schools either positively or negatively.'”
The Post was quick to point out that there are cases where school choice has been beneficial for all students, unfortunately for DeVos that wasn’t in Florida as she claimed:
“There was an outlier that DeVos should have championed, and it wasn’t Florida: Arizona saw a big increase in charter-school enrollment and big gains in proficiency in the state’s public schools. In three of the four grade-subject combinations, Florida did better than the nation overall. In all four, Michigan did worse.”
It’s bad that the Secretary of Education doesn’t appear to know very much about schools. Between suggesting teachers in Wyoming should be armed with guns because of bears and struggling to answer basic questions at her confirmation hearing, it’s been a rough start for DeVos.
Someone come get Betsy out the paint.