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The Orion

Devos needs an education

Photo credit: Chase Falk

As a billionaire by heir who has never attended nor worked in public education and has not put her own children in the public school system, the woman tapped to be the next secretary of education is unqualified to serve students at any grade level.

There are many issues that students should be aware of about Betsy DeVos and the future of the education system nationwide.

DeVos has no clear plan of how to address the increased price of higher education or how to help reduce student debt. Nowhere on her personal website is there a policy plan for anything she intends to do as secretary of education. And by proof of her confirmation, it is unclear exactly what she intends to do with her new job title.

She stated she could not “prematurely commit” to upholding the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, a law that supports victims of sexual assault on college campuses when reporting the incident according to Sen. Bob Casey.

The law requires campuses to uphold an obligation to help the victim report the incident to law enforcement, which to some is “too broad.”

DeVos said she would work with Casey to clearly define the law and to make sure the law’s intent is actually carried out in a way that recognizes the rights of the victims and those of the who are accused.

DeVos should understand the department of education is not only about funding, testing, resources and loans, but about the social aspect of universities. She has a responsibility to serve each student and protect their rights to an education, one that should not be hindered because of assault.

According to Casey during her hearing, she has made $25,000 in contributions to a group who supports a bill that would change the standard of evidence. Time ran out for his questioning, but this is a huge conflict of interest which has been prevalent in many other cases involving DeVos and her investments in what she calls “education industry.”

DeVos holds investments in companies that collect defaulted student debt, provides parking services to universities and a financial firm that “specializes public school and governmental employee benefit plans,” according to Politico. The article also states that she needs to divest from 102 different ventures.

It should not be this difficult, for people running our country, to stop making money off us, especially college students. The government is dangling education in front of us, then profiting from the outrageous interest on our loans. Now we will have the head of education possibly making choices for education based on her financial gain, rather than what best suits our needs.

DeVos is also a strong supporter of school choice and vouchers. School choice sounds nice, but when it comes to education there are consequences of more choices. And there is a fine print that is being hidden behind this word Americans love so much.

The term “choice” and “parental empowerment” are loosely defined by DeVos. So while she preaches about parents choosing what is best for their children and putting the education system back in their hands, she is leaving out many issues such as implementation and accountability.

There is no proof that a voucher system will work, and with more schools out of government hands, there is no saying how each school will be regulated.

A voucher is essentially a scholarship or grant that allows families who cannot afford to send their children to private school an opportunity to do so. Making the playing field equal for each child despite their family’s financial circumstances is a great idea.

However, DeVos has not made clear what kind, if not all, of private schools will accept the vouchers and how these private, charter, for-profit schools will be held accountable to the quality standard of teaching.

Accountability is a real issue when there are multiple choices for parents. Even though parents could have more options, these schools may not be vetted and may not hold up to governmental standards.

This does not mean the government should create more standardized testing in public, private or charter schools. Rather, there needs to be some form of regulation to oversee the quality of education students are receiving.

She could not say whether or not she would cut public funding. DeVos stated that the schools are not working for the students. But it is not about schools not working for the children, it is about the government slashing funds to give schools the capacity to actually give the best education.

The real problem with more choices for schools is public schools may be left behind. DeVos is abandoning the largest education system and trying to put it in the hands of profit-makers and scammers.

Instead of investing state taxpayer dollars into private schools, the public school system could be fixed. Teachers could be paid more, each student could have accessibility to computers, there could be smaller class sizes, there could be extra help and tutoring given to those in need.

Public school should not be a second option compared to a private school because they are sub-par. America has failed us in that aspect because no government-funded school should ever be considered sub-par, no matter what neighborhood it falls in.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman spouted the words equal opportunity while making a statement on behalf on DeVos during her confirmation hearing. Every child in America deserves a first-class education, he said.

Yes, this is what should be happening. And with the year 2017 in front of us, the fact that America still can’t figure it out is a problem of its own.

However, it has nothing to do with a need to privatize education. It has more to do with the government cutting federal and state funding for education. Schools in the ‘right’ zip code receive money from income and property tax, so inevitably the children in the wealthiest neighborhoods will go to the best schools.

A voucher system will not fix this. The government needs to pool the money and distribute it equally to each school so one district does not receive more than another based on locale. The government should never cut funding to education by paying teachers less and not supplying the correct resources needed to excel in the 21st century.

Education should not be a big business because once it is, there are only a select group of people who benefit. By making education into a business model, students are the not the first priority, but profit is.

Susan Whaley can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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