DeVos cites school choice rather than racism in founding of black colleges

President Donald Trump, right, meets with leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. Also at the meeting are White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, left, and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, on the couch. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In using Historically Black Colleges and Universities to sell school choice Monday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spurred an immediate backlash.

Her comment: HBCUs are “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.  They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and great quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

The backlash: It wasn’t school choice that drove the creation of African-American colleges; it was segregation and racism that denied black students access to higher education.

Among widely repeated comments on social media this morning:

“Betsy DeVos said HBCUs were about school choice. As if white/colored water fountains were about beverage options.”

“Rosa Parks is a real pioneer when it comes to seat choice.”

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., responded, “No, Secretary DeVos – the segregation and inequality that forced the establishment of HBCUs is not a model of “school choice.”

Social media also is having a field day with the related photo of HBCU presidents meeting Monday with President Trump in the Oval Office as Kellyanne Conway curls up on the couch and looks at her phone. (It may be she was looking at the photo she had just taken of the college presidents and Trump but it is a casual pose for a formal setting.)

About 15 college leaders were told to prepare statements about how the federal government could help their institutions. Those remarks were supposed to be delivered to DeVos and other administration officials, but the plan shifted when Trump himself met with the presidents, leaving less time for the college leaders to speak.

Dillard University President Walter M. Kimbrough released what he would have said. Kimbrough has deep Georgia roots. He is an Atlanta native who holds degrees from the University of Georgia and Georgia State and worked at Emory, Georgia State and Albany State.

Here is his statement:

In his Oscars acceptance speech last night, Mahershala Ali celebrated American’s belief in the transformative power of education when he first thanked his teachers and professors. Historically black colleges and universities are living testimonies of this power, the central force in educating people inextricably linked to the promise of America.

Fifty years ago a philosophy emerged suggesting education was no longer a public good, but a private one. Since then we’ve seen Federal and State divestment in education, making the idea of education as the path to the American dream more of a hallucination for the poor and disenfranchised.

There is no doubt who is left to hallucinate.

In the past decade the wealth gap between whites and blacks has gone from seven to thirteen fold. The median net worth of a single parent white family is twice that of the two parent black family. Black students graduate with 31% more college debt than their white peers.

Black, Latino Two-Parent Families Have Half The Wealth Of White Single Parents: www.npr.org

Student Debt and the White-Black Wealth Gap
Why have black Americans had so little success in closing the wealth gap with whites? www.bloomberg.com

The Pell Grant should be the equalizer. It serves 36% of all students, 62% of Black students, and over 70% attending HBCUs. But the education as a private good philosophy has severely limited its impact on the neediest families.

Therefore we must:
• Raise the maximum Pell Grant, which has hit a 40-year low in purchasing power relative to college costs and index it permanently to account for inflation
• Restore year-round Pell Grants that enable students to finish college faster and with less debt;
• And remove time limits to benefit growing numbers of part time students who may require more than 12 semesters to graduate.

DeVos revisited the choice theme today during a luncheon speech with HBCU leaders. DeVos singled out a Florida student who benefited, she said, by school choice. In the speech, DeVos avoids her earlier mistake of casting HBCUs as pioneering school choice. Today, she referenced racism in the founding of black colleges.

Just over half of African-American high school students have access to the full range of high-level math and science courses that are gateways to college. This reality is troubling, and it is wholly unacceptable. But it’s also what motivates us, and it is part of the reason the President intends to deliver on his promise to help those who have long been forgotten by offering more opportunity to low-income families whose children deserve access to a high-quality education.

One of those students who has benefited from choice is with us today, my friend Denisha Merriweather.

Denisha’s story is one of struggle, difficulty and triumph: Raised by a single mother in poverty, she moved from one school to another. Failed the third grade, not once but twice.

Denisha was on the path to becoming another statistic, and following her mother and brother, who both dropped out of high school.

But her godmother intervened, and with the assistance of a school choice program in Florida, Denisha was given a chance to attend a school that better met her needs.

Today, she’s not only the first in her family to graduate high school, she’s graduated college. And this May, she’ll graduate from her master’s program.

This is a model we must follow – to provide every child an opportunity to attend a quality school.

Bucking that status quo, and providing an alternative option to students denied the right to attend a quality school is the legacy of HBCUs.

But your history was born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War.

HBCUs remain at the forefront of opening doors that had previously been closed to so many. You made higher education accessible to students who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity.

America must provide the opportunity for a high-quality education to every child — where they live. There should be no excuses based upon ZIP code or family income.

We need more good schools. We need more good teachers. And no child should be denied the opportunity to enter a great school. Not one.

Reader Comments 0

42 comments
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ChessMaster
ChessMaster

Three facts remain:


1. HBCUs were founded to provide educational opportunities to blacks, and they continue in that mission today. They not only benefited blacks but they benefited all of us by preparing more of the leaders of our future. 


2. Most non-blacks in America only have book knowledge of racism and are afraid to discuss it with blacks. Therefore racism in educational opportunities  is a 'lesson to be learned' and not a 'crime against society.' 


3. DeVos has nothing in her background that demonstrates qualifications for her role, and she continues to open her mouth and remove all doubt as to her lack of qualifications.

Astropig
Astropig

@time for reform


5) DeVos has been doing reform and empowerment for a long time.All of the press snark is nothing new to her.She understands that the eduacracy will be cruel,personal and petty.A couple of nobodies in local papers won't have any effect on her efforts,I'm pretty darn sure.

time for reform
time for reform

4. Those who bankrolled November's biggest losers are losing sleep over fears Secretary DeVos, parents and taxpayers will succeed in finally bringing about real change.

Astropig
Astropig

 The alternative to the Trump administration would have been orders of magnitude worse for education,the economy and individual liberties.These sore losers are simply marginalizing themselves by assigning sinister motives to everything that the administration does and says. Grow up.Get over it.He won,she is the Ed Secretary.Stop being so darn childish.

Ychromosome
Ychromosome

I see they invited a double amputee survivor of the Bowling Green terror attack to sit on the White House couch.

Astropig
Astropig

@Ychromosome


I guess we'll have to wait until a Democrat is in the WH again for that kind of comment to be seen as a crude,insensitive remark.I hope its a long time coming.

Len Iglar
Len Iglar

Shouldn't we be talking about the actual meeting and what is going to be done going forward? Nah let's just focus on a tweet or 1 comment.

Julie Montague
Julie Montague

DeVos later tweeted a series of acknowledgements that these universities provided opportunities for students who were denied educational choices due to racism.

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

I added her speech today to the HBCU leaders to the blog this afternoon. In that speech, she modified her statement about school choice and historically black colleges.

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

Not much came out of the meeting yesterday with the President. If you read the blog, you will see that the photo op took most of the time during which the HBCU leaders were supposed to share their concerns and ideas. I included Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough's wish list for HBCUs -- he wasn't able to give his statement at the meeting yesterday. At 2 today, Trump signed an executive order moving the office dedicated to supporting the schools from the U.S. Department of Education back under the White House. We will have a news story on that move and whether it is merely symbolic. And we will be looking at whether Trump commits any new funding to HBCUs in his speech tonight.

Julie Montague
Julie Montague

She continues to provide evidence of my 2017 tag line: Growing an army of ignorants and...ignorance.

#Constitutionalist
#Constitutionalist

Cute photo of Kellyanne Conway. 

Or are we supposed to despise her? I only ask because this is the mainstream media.

Twinkle Haslam
Twinkle Haslam

Is it the feet on the couch or the unsecured cell phone Or ......

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Incredible, insulting ignorance shown by DeVos.  Slavery as well as Jim Crow laws later made the HBCUs necessary if black students were to be educated. Sinister omission too...erasure of black history.

Starik
Starik

@OriginalProf Do lower-level HBCUs help? Do they just crank out degrees for teachers who can go perpetuate the problem of badly educated kids?

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

please keep up with the perpetual outrage machine.  It makes the protestations of the left so much more likely to be ignored by the majority of Americans, who are tired of the "Liberal who cried wolf".

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

It looks like Secretary DeVos would make SOME effort to learn about education, which she is supposed to be overseeing.  Typical! Sad!

time for reform
time for reform

“It’s just a full onslaught against him and I think it’s kind of tiresome. He won. Let’s let him get his feet under him and try and build an administration.”

- Former Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee, on the media's vendetta against President Trump and his Cabinet.

John Palmer
John Palmer

School choice is the new code for re-segregation.

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

You really need to follow Dumisani Tmesgen Washington

Truthmoses
Truthmoses

Love the cute little girl on the couch playing Angry Birds on her phone.

Mr Peabody
Mr Peabody

Ignorance or just don't care as long as they can make all education for profit just like prison for profit. Somethings should always be for the public good and paid for by taxes. How does this in anyway follow the Golden Rule? They instead rule by who has the gold.

Kay Draper Hutchinson
Kay Draper Hutchinson

And in fact for some, school choice is desirable for this very same purpose- segregation from the kids they don't want their kids with (but beyond race, there are now other categories of kids some are working hard to avoid).

Kamau Mason
Kamau Mason

Why aren't your articles focusing on the school boards and members of said boards that believe in the same ideals as devos instead of focusing on devos who can't be voted out? Who are the school board members in Atlanta that are pushing the same agendas? Who are the school board members statewide who are pushing the same agendas?

Kay Draper Hutchinson
Kay Draper Hutchinson

Good question! As a longtime follower of Fulton's agenda, some board members have been in the "school choice" camp for a long while.

Pamela Russman-Chambers
Pamela Russman-Chambers

The word choice is really meaningless. They are simply talking about vouchers for all kids, period. I like non-traditional options like in district transfers, out of district transfers and private schools for kids with special needs. This group desperately needs other options because these kids can't be served well in their home school due to complex learning needs. Outside of this group, the DeVos model with do nothing to address the challenges of teacher satisfaction, class size and too much testing.

Katherine Ramp
Katherine Ramp

Which public school boards are in favor of private school vouchers? None.

Tom Green
Tom Green

How can DeVos be so historically and factually clueless?

Page Lassiter
Page Lassiter

I think she would've done the same had she not been a "dump appointee". Her status is irrelevant.

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

I think she has a single focus --- school choice -- and is intent on getting her message out there. In this case, she forced it where it did not fit.

Tom Green
Tom Green

You are absolutely correct. I hope she was never on a debate team.