Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos advances the cause of school choice

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continues her theme that school choice is critical to improving American education. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

In a speech today to the National Lieutenant Governors Association, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reiterated her support of school choice. Choice has become a centerpiece of her presentations since her confirmation last month.

Here are some of her comments to the association:

I share the founders’ belief that those closest to problems usually know best how to solve them. We want to empower the states, the “labs of democracy,” to innovate and solve the tough challenges they confront. That’s precisely the idea behind the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and it’s why I’m a strong proponent of this bipartisan law.

As you’ve likely heard, this week we reiterated that the Department of Education will implement ESSA as Congress intended — by doing what’s best for children. We’re rolling back the intrusive involvement of the federal government while restoring the freedom and flexibility state and local leaders deserve.

No two states are identical. You know this better than anyone. The problems facing Rhode Island are different than those of South Dakota or California. We shouldn’t insist the same solution will work everywhere, every time. Each of your states will submit state ESSA plans, and I expect each of them to be quite different. And they should be. The plans should reflect the diversity of the states you serve and the unique challenges and opportunities they face.

I don’t want Washington to smother your innovation. You should be able to unleash your creative thinking to set children up for success. You should compete – with each other, and with every other country in the world – to find the best ways to deliver an excellent education to every child in your state.

For me, this starts by ensuring parents have the right to choose the educational setting that’s best for their child. Many of you share this belief. In fact, most of the states represented here today have school choice programs. The longest-running program in the country, Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program, is located in Lt. Gov. Kleefisch’s state of Wisconsin.

That program started in 1990, and is now one of four private choice programs in Wisconsin, serving more than 33,000 students in that state. If you add to that the population attending the state’s public charter schools, more than 76,000 students in Wisconsin are able to attend a school of their parents’ choosing.

One of these schools is St. Marcus Lutheran School in Milwaukee, which serves almost exclusively students from low-income families. One of those students, Jeffrey, described his education experience prior to attending St. Marcus as “setting him up to fail.” His traditional schools simply didn’t meet his academic needs.

When he enrolled at St. Marcus everything changed for him.

Jeffrey’s teachers took special interest in him, and today he’s a college graduate and works as an architectural designer. And he credits his success to the support of his family and his teachers at St. Marcus.

This is but one example of why we must do everything in our power to allow every child – every child – to have access to a safe and nurturing learning environment where he or she is able to grow and thrive. Choice has given Wisconsin’s students a chance to succeed that would not have otherwise been available to them without the state’s choice program.

As state leaders, you intimately recognize the innate ability a quality education can have to break the cycle of poverty, and you understand the value of an educated workforce.

Education is the pathway to bring our economy into the 21st century. The current reality, however, is that too many high-paying, skills-based jobs remain vacant, and the general trend of entrepreneurship and new startups has been very slow to recover since the end of the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate may be down, but research shows that a historically high number of able-bodied men – nearly one in eight – are unemployed or no longer looking for work. The jobs exist. We just need to connect those willing to learn the requisite skills with the businesses ready to hire them. And we need to foster a new generation of entrepreneurs, inventors and job creators who will unleash their ingenuity to solve the challenges of the day.

This development starts in grade school with hands-on, experiential learning and continues by encouraging students to explore different postsecondary education paths. The menu of options is long and varied, but too often, young people are only aware of, or pushed toward, four-year colleges or universities.

We should break the stigma that career education options are not valid paths to learning and success. One of the options is community colleges, an essential engine of workforce and economic development — both locally and regionally. Effective community colleges help identify and close the skills gap between employers and job-seekers.

And, even better: community colleges don’t demand students adhere to the school’s schedule – they adjust to the needs of the student instead. From employees who seek new skills and credentials to further their careers, to students who need some extra help preparing to do further college-level work, community colleges are often a great fit. We should empower and encourage schools that are student-centric.

States have led the way in improving education. This is why the Trump administration has committed to return power to the states wherever and whenever possible.

Under my leadership, the U.S. Department of Education will do everything in its power to support students’ growth and achievement. We must not get in the way of creative thinking and any action that promises positive results for kids. We want to give you as state leaders the latitude to develop talent and improve outcomes.

Make no mistake: This is a clear opportunity for you and your states. You have the power to chart a course that will benefit the families in your state for decades to come. So I want to challenge you to pursue what some would call impossible. Remember that, not so long ago, putting a man on the moon and a computer in every home were unthinkable ideas.

And an even shorter time ago, ordering and having almost anything promptly delivered with the click of a button on one’s phone, and getting into a self-driving vehicle, were thought to be impossible. We owe it to the rising generation to always encourage and cultivate its ability to thrive academically, and expand its access to new and innovative ways to learn.

It is possible for every child to have an equal opportunity for a great education. We just need the will to make it happen. And I believe, with your help, we will rise to the challenge.

 

Reader Comments 0

15 comments
DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

I give her, AND Trump, the benefit of the doubt. After all if they fail at their jobs its the regular people that suffer. MY personal opinion though?.....I think Trump will be a dismal failure. He's an empty suit.

Astropig
Astropig

@DrProudBlackMan


He's less worse than the alternative we were offered.We don't get to choose from among angels,you know.

Lurah Houghtaling
Lurah Houghtaling

Means less tax dollars for public schools and more tax dollars for private schools. Giving more to the rich while taking away from the rest of us.

Astropig
Astropig

She's the real deal.Hot diggity!


I hope she serves 8 years,although I know that in modern times,that's unlikely in the Washington hothouse.


One thing that I like about Secretary DeVos-She's tested.She has crossed swords with the kind of union loser/thugs that will savage her in the comments below for (literally) decades.They don't faze her. Her sense of purpose and resolve is undiminished,even after years of petty personal attacks by the "educated"(snicker) .It's refreshing to see a non-politician go about filling an inherently political job.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

And yet, her argument belies the results that we see in the places where vouchers and charter schools are given carte blanche. In most places, vouchers don't help because they don't cover the full cost or the schools just increase their fees to keep the riff-raff out. The charter school industry has invited corruption and fraud, especially in the states who have laws to protect their donors from the charter industry to the same stringent policies that allow for transparency. This experiment has been tried and failed in Chile. Now the population is spending billions to try and piece together a more stable public educational system for their children. Not the way to go, Ms. DeVos. Sell your snake oil elsewhere, please.

Ed Helton
Ed Helton

It will be a tiered educational system, but that is what they want.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

People used the same arguments

about deregulation of the airline 

 industry as they are using for choice

 and competition in education today.

 Competition would create much

 cheaper fares and the customer 

 would have more options with 

 various airlines offering better

 service to compete for the customer.

 There are fewer airlines today, and

 many customers are paying more

for basic services than they could

have imagined decades ago. Parents

 in most states (over 40 states) already 

 have the choice to attend traditional 

 public schools, and charter schools.

Most public schools do a good job,but

there is also an educational role for good

charter schools. 

Astropig
Astropig

@E Pluribus Unum


"People used the same arguments

about deregulation of the airline 

industry as they are using for choice

 and competition in education today.

 Competition would create much

 cheaper fares and the customer 

 would have more options with 

 various airlines offering better

 service to compete for the customer."


Terrible analogy.Makes me wonder if you gave it any thought at all.Scary if you did.


Flying used to be for the rich.Fares were set by (surprise!) a cartel of airlines that all charged the same high fares.That cartel was protected by (surprise!) the federal government. It used to cost over $400 in 80s dollars to fly to Phoenix one way from near my home in Nashville.Frontier will fly you there today for $49 in our 2017 dollars-lite.My son flew to Iceland for a vacation last summer for less than $600.Air travel is now so cheap that it is putting the bus lines out of business.


Service is now a la carte.You have the choice to pay for just as much service as you want or don't want. 

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@Astropig @E Pluribus Unum

It cost $49 for that particular city,but

smaller markets are not competitive.

Try flying from Birmingham,AL ,or

Huntsville,AL to Atlanta and see how

cheap those fares are for the average

traveler. The service and customer 

service on most airlines are also not

 the same as it was years ago. You

 have cheaper flights in some major

 markets but the majority of the markets

are more expensive. Are you trying to

convince me that luggage should be

an a la carte item? That would be 

equivalent to stating books, or

 computers should be a la carte items

for education. In your argument you

complain about the federal government

being involved, but inconsistently praise Secretary De Vos for doing the same

activity in providing for vouchers to 

private schools without the same level

of accountability measures as public

schools.


Astropig
Astropig

@E Pluribus Unum @Astropig


" Are you trying to

convince me that luggage should be

an a la carte item? "


No,because you seemingly have convinced yourself that you deserve these things for "free".That baggage handlers,baggage drivers (the ones that drive those do-funny "trains" out to the plane) and the people that track down the lost bags are all happy volunteers that do their jobs for "free".Those luggage carousels that spin your bags around in the terminal? They're donated by big heartened companies that make them, and maintenance is on the house.


Lets' be clear about this-there is absolutely no cost whatsoever attached to everything you want in life.Everything is provided on the basis of fairness and sweetness and unicorns and we're all in this together.America is one big hippie commune.


I'd love to join you in your world,because mine is more reality-based.Sometimes it's less than ideal.

time for reform
time for reform

Bless Secretary DeVos for her initiative.

With choice will come innovation and an opportunity to see different educational approaches fairly compete for prominence and results.

Barb Perry McWethy
Barb Perry McWethy

Sadly the parents may choose the school, but the school can decline for a variety of reasons. Many times they tout choice for lower income families but those families may not have the transportation to take advantage of choice. If you don't have transportation you don't have a choice.

Renee Lord
Renee Lord

Many of those most vocally opposed to choice for all families have choice for their own children or work for schools. Often those opposed can afford private school tuition, to move to a new district or to homeschool.