Charter Schools And Vouchers

Betsy DeVos has been nominated to become the next Secretary of Education. An heir to the Amway fortune, Ms DeVos has been an active campaigner for charter schools and applying them to improve educational outcomes in Michigan. Her selection seems a logical step for conservatives Republicans.

The next four Republican controlled years will features one “improvement” program after another. President-elect Trump has already trumpeted a huge tax cut and the GOP Congress has nodded their approval. This tax overhaul will liberate our growth engine and American factories will be humming again soon, Trump supporters say.

This may be viewed a highly dubious claim but what is not dubious is that the very wealthiest Americans will receive a “huge” tax reduction.

Ms DeVos boasts about the superior nature of Charter Schools when compared to Public Schools. She is likely to use her national stage to push the creation of Charter Schools across the country. What is also likely is that she will combine Charter Schools with “vouchers” so as to enable many more families to send their children to a quality education. Hmmm.

Ms DeVos’s work in Michigan focused upon the Detroit School System. According the Detroit Free Press, Ms DeVos was quite successful in setting up a large number of Charters in Detroit. Surprisingly Detroit test scores have not improved begging the question why Charters in the first place?

Charters are privately run schools which receive payment from the Public School System. Charters hire teachers for less money than Public School teachers receive and generally avoid all difficult to educate students (leaving them for the Public Schools). These are mini businesses where profit is proportional to the number of students and lower cost of salaries.

The selling point for charters is intriguing. Many are describe as “learning laboratories”, place where outstanding teachers are not held back by seniority rules or bureaucracy in general. In practice only a few nationwide meet this vision.

A second and compelling reason is segregation in the sense that in troubled school districts, Charter Schools seem safer to parents.  Charters along with parochial (private) schools appear to offer a more focused environment.

In most areas, Charters are actually a thinly disguised gambit to break teachers unions and in tern, reduce teachers pay and their political influence.  If teachers unions won’t negotiate, then the “go to” tactic is to establish Charter schools.

Unfortunately, n many situations, teacher unions are so intransigent and so blind to any change that Charters are a necessary evil. But the rush to Charters which the Trump Administration will champion is really about making “vouchers” available in every school district allowing parents to send their children to any school the child is qualified to attend.  The voucher cost would come from Public School District budget diverting funds that would have otherwise supported public education.

Why shouldn’t a parent be able to send their child to any school with a voucher equal to the per capita amount set by the school district, voucher supports will ask? What many of these voucher supporters are not saying is the school of their choice is a private school, usually a religious affiliated school. Vouchers would allow the GOP to reward the Catholic Church along with many individual “Bible Belt” churches as well as satisfy a significant segment of the Republican Party.

All this from Charter Schools which have not raised education levels.  Hmmm.

Ms DeVos, like other advocates, do not deal with what happens to Public Schools or those students not taken by Charters or Private Schools. Will public schools be the school of last resort? Will public schools just wither and die away?

Ironically, public schools were an American innovation and have been the back bone of American Education, raising the average student’s education level. What made America Great was the Public School system.

The 2016 Presidential election has been called a “change” election.  The Charter and Voucher options if they come to pass, will change public education and cement the foundations of a segmented society.  Charters and Vouchers are not part of the path to making America Great Again.

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