Betsy DeVos visits The Hill. OMG!

I’m sure all those surrounding Betsy DeVos as well as aides to Donald Trump spent a good part of the last few days assuring her she did a great job during her confirmation hearing as a candidate to be the next Secretary of Education.

Fact is, she didn’t do a great job.

Her performance, by just about any measure, was abysmal.

DeVos was unprepared for questioning and flubbed up even on the most basic topics.

One topic which should have received more attention was School Choice. School Choice and school vouchers are DeVos’s pet educational ideas.

It’s strange. She testified she would be a strong supporter of public education, yet the DeVos formula for School Choice and the school voucher plan mean less money for public education.

That’s all there is to it.

I have said it before, and I will say it again…

The DeVos style educational “reforms” – touted by the Mackinac Center – mean less money for basic education programs, and especially to rural and inner-city school districts.

Betsy DeVos has been, and remains, a huge advocate for School Choice.

She’s not alone. Everyone from Gov. Rick Snyder to the Heritage Foundation and an interesting range of characters from Civil Rights activists to the hyper-conservative Koch brothers promote the cause of School Choice.

One might think if School Choice has such full-spectrum, broad-based support, it simply must be a good thing.

Not really – and especially not for parents, kids and communities that simply don’t have that many choices. For many, if not most, parents in Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties, School Choice is a bad choice.

Proponents of the School Choice program, such as DeVos and Snyder, claim they simply want to ensure effective education options for every child.

It’s important that people understand School Choice is not necessarily the same as the School of Choice programs already up and running in this area.

Look. If parents want their kids to go to Evart, Reed City or Big Rapids school districts, Crossroads, St. Mary’s, Trinity Lutheran, Daystar Academy or McBain NMC, they already have that option.

There already is a choice.

But that’s not what the DeVos and other proponents of School Choice are suggesting.

To cut to brass tacks, School Choice is a cover for an old shell game – school vouchers. Let’s be honest, School Choice is great way to ruin public education, create an educational elite and most important for some (pay attention, please), break the teachers’ unions both at a state and national level.

Osceola, Mecosta and Lake county residents need to pay attention. School Choice will bring about the marginalization of students in rural communities who have little or no opportunity to tap into the highly vaunted options suggested in School Choice doctrine. What may be good for kids in East Grand Rapids will simply not be available or within reach to virtually any parents, families or students in rural districts.

Kids in rural counties and inner cities will be not only left behind, but they will be short-changed in ever-more-regularly depleted school districts. At the same time, some kids in Michigan, wealthy kids in wealthy school districts, will go from good, to better, to the best as a result of increased funding taken from rural and inner-city poor districts.

The program of school vouchers, which is the keystone program to School Choice, will simply channel public funding away from public schools and allow already economically capable parents to more easily pay for private school educations.

Is effectively tapping into voucher programs and School Choice a reality in inner cities, rural school districts or for ethnic parents?

No.

Even if a parent in Mecosta or Osceola County could in some way access a school such as Cranbrook Academy or Detroit Country Day; even if they could get there (or even to some school closer at hand); they would most probably never be able to make up the cost difference. How much will a $7,000 voucher help an inner-city or rural family hoping to see their student enrolled in a $23,000 per year school? Not much.

Many families in Osceola, Mecosta or Lake counties can’t even afford the money or time to get their students to Big Rapids, so … tough luck?

DeVos and the Mackinac Center team enthusiastically support a system of differential education – a tier system.

Poor kids, rural kids, ethnic kids, kids whose parents can’t “choose” will be left way behind – on the lower tier. In lower tier schools, not only will kids continue to struggle in an under-funded system, but their teachers will be blamed, blamed again and blamed some more.

School Choice and the voucher program means less money for public education. That’s all there is to it. When there is less funding for public schools, rural and poor communities simply eat another dose of gruel. School Choice promotes the dismantling of public education, no matter how you paint this picture.

School Choice is a bluff, one that will benefit the wealthy and do nothing, NOTHING for poor and rural communities.

Say what you will.

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Posted by Jim Crees

Jim is the editor in chief of the Pioneer, Herald Review and Lake County Star. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8360 or by e-mail at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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