Yesterday DeVos was grilled in the Senate on her knowledge of the current education system, and where she sees education going under her regime. I won’t rehash her answers, but I highly suggest reading the Washington Post summary of her “6 astonishing responses” to questions here. However, I will discuss Michigan education (since I live in Michigan and have been privy to this great states WTF education system, and Betsy DeVos is from Michigan having touted it as part of her experience to be the Secretary of Education) and vouchers (since my children have been impacted by vouchers in a school they attended).
If you are new to The Shitastrophy, welcome I’m going to give you some background on my children and our situation. My son has Autism and ADHD. We live on the Michigan/Indiana state line and currently my children attend private school in Indiana. We live in a failing school district, and even though Michigan has “School of Choice”, my son can not attend any school but the POS district we live in. WHY you may ask? Well…grab a chair…this may take a moment.
When my son was in kindergarten we applied to the neighboring (Blue Ribbon) school district for him to attend. He was denied because he has special needs. Yup, you read that right. The neighboring school district has the authority to pick and choose who they allow into their “School of Choice” school system. Not much of a choice when you look at it that way is it? The problem was that the funding for his special education classes would not transfer with his tax dollars to the Blue Ribbon school so he was denied. I took this up to the Superintendent of schools in the district and he upheld the ruling, my son was not permitted into the neighboring Blue Ribbon school system because he required additional services. It appears school of choice is not really a choice for the family, but for the school.
Now my son would have received better services at the neighboring district, but Michigan does not mandate that special education services funds change districts with the student. Apparently the school of choice is only for those kids that require nothing additional. You better pray your little one attending a “School of Choice” school doesn’t get flagged anywhere in their 12 year scholastic career, because it’ll be time for little Timmy or Susie to pack a bag because they’re outta there.
So we pay taxes into a failing district, but my child does not attend this school system due to major bullying issues (which he experienced when we attempted to send him there in kindergarten) and educational issues. When we met with his public school’s kindergarten teachers to discuss his lack of progress in kindergarten, regardless of having a high IQ (we had him privately tested, so no cost to the school and offered to share this with them, they declined) we were informed, “Since he is not failing we can not have him evaluated. Once he fails kindergarten we can evaluate him for assistance.” When we questioned this mindset saying, “So you want him to fail kindergarten BEFORE you do anything to help him?” We were informed, “Yes.”
My husband and I made the move to pull him from the public school and send him to a small Catholic school in Indiana. He received the assistance he needed, due to the small class size and wonderful teachers, and moved onto first grade. When he was in second grade Indiana passed the voucher law, enabling students from failing schools to take their federal tax dollars and attend private schools. This resulted in his small private school class size to bloom from just 20 kids to double. The problem was that these incoming children were woefully unprepared to attend a school with a higher education caliber than they had come from. As a result the school became overwhelmed, teachers were stretched, my son was no longer receiving the assistance he had been receiving, and he was being bullied again by the new students that had come into the school with the voucher program. We made the decision to move him to a Montessori school at the end of second grade, a school that receives no federal funding and was better equipped to handle his needs due to small class size and teachers who are able to spend the one-on-one attention needed to help him progress.
We have lived the “School of Choice” and voucher hell that incoming Betsy DeVos advocates. But it’s not all the roses DeVos portrays. I have personally learned vouchers without support and assistance to the schools receiving the students, and the students themselves, does no good. You can not just spread the money around, without addressing the core problem – the public schools are failing their students and allowing a select number of students to move to new schools does not fix the hole in the dam. Those students that moved to the private schools lost transportation (allowing only students whose parents could drive them, or lived within walking distance to attend), lost subsidized lunches, after school programs, and special education services. I worked the lunch room at my children’s Catholic school and I can tell you everyday there were numerous students who did not have a lunch because they could not afford one. Allowing the redistribution of their tax dollars to private schools did not solve the problems for children attending from failing schools. There were still limitations in those being able to attend private schools (proximity, subsidized lunches, free after school programs, ability to afford an uniform), as well as the children who could attend but were unable to keep up with the new workload (many private schools have a limited special education department, if one at all).
What billionaire Betsy DeVos wants you to believe is that the answer is “School of Choice” and vouchers, but the reality is that those kids who need anything extra will still be left in their current failing districts with little choice or opportunity to seek a better education. How is this “access to an equal educational opportunity no matter what their race, ethnic background, religion, or sex, or whether they are rich or poor, citizen or non-citizen, as well as protect students against discrimination in education based on sexual orientation or disability, including pregnancy and HIV status” that the federal law guarantees and the ACLU fights to ensure all children receive?
The Supreme Court deems the “right to an equal educational opportunity as one of the most valuable rights you have”. However under the proposed changes to the United States education system by Betsy DeVos we will not be ‘Making America Great Again’, but instead making American children worse off than they are under the current education system, and that’s saying something.