Letter: ‘Vote no on Betsy Devos as secretary of education’

To the editor:

Donald Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos to serve as secretary of education. This is a direct threat to public schools.

DeVos has an avowed agenda to dismantle public education and turn it over to private companies to run private schools. Her family has worked hard to implement vouchers and promote non-public schools in her home state of Michigan. She has made her agenda clear.

She supports the rapid expansion of charter schools and online schools with minimal regulation — without the same accountability and transparency of our public schools. Despite unsatisfactory results, DeVos remains deliberately indifferent to the failure of these schools to serve the needs of communities.

In Brown County, we already suffer from funding losses caused by changes in the funding formulas that favor urban schools over rural schools, impacting class size, teacher compensation and resources available to schools and our kids. Vouchers further reduce critical funding to public schools.

Here are some of the top reasons why school vouchers are bad for education:

Vouchers use tax dollars for private schools without requiring the same accountability as public schools. Private schools can take taxpayer money and still deny admission to any student they choose, unlike public schools. Private schools can and do discriminate against students based on many things such as religion, disability, economic background, academic record and more. In addition to rejecting students, private schools often do not have the same testing requirements as public schools — you know the standardized testing that takes away time from classroom instruction and costs states millions of dollars to administer? Shouldn’t public funds pay only for public schools that are open to all children and accountable to the people? Wouldn’t we rather see our tax dollars support schools in our community?

Vouchers do not improve opportunities for children from low-income families. Payments often do not cover the entire cost of tuition and fees for private schools. Only families with the money to cover the entire cost can use the vouchers. Vouchers actually hurt low-income families by undermining the public schools they rely on.

Vouchers cost! In addition to taking money directly away from public schools for unaccountable private school use, voucher programs cost the state money to administer. Schools do not have the ability to significantly reduce overall operating costs without impacting the quality of education. In Brown County, we recently voted to raise taxes to ensure adequate funding for our schools, as we continue to lose public funding through vouchers diverting tax dollars to private schools.

Vouchers distract from the real issues of education. Vouchers become an excuse for politicians to dodge the real issues such as adequate funding for public schools, class size, teacher training and curriculum reform. Most public schools do a great job and struggling schools need support, not abandonment. Nearly 90 percent of children attend public schools. Shouldn’t we focus on fully funding the public school system to support the majority of our kids? Does it make sense to siphon public money off to private companies?

As secretary of education, Betsy DeVos could have the federal government behind her previously self-funded mission to implement vouchers and promote non-public schools. Neither she, nor her children have any personal exposure to a free and appropriate public education. References for more info nea.org/home/19133.htm; au.org.

Please call your senators to ask them to vote “no” on the confirmation of Betsy De Vos. Let them know you want a secretary of education who will help ensure the strength and vitality of free public education for all.

Hearings are scheduled for Jan. 17, voting Jan. 19.

Contacts: Todd Young, 202-224-5623; Joe Donnelly, 202-224-5011.

Shari Frank, Brown County

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