Citing the good work she’d done in Michigan, the Detroit News endorsed Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education this past January. The Amway heiress, they told us, based on what she’d accomplished here in Michigan, was a “sound choice” – someone who would “strive to improve education for all kids.” The “hysteria” over DeVos, they said, was “overblown.” The teachers unions, they told us, had been unfairly pushing a narrative that “overlooks the work DeVos has actually done.”
Well, let’s talk about what Betsy DeVos “has actually done.”
Here’s a headline from today’s Detroit News.
Yes, Michigan, the state where, for the last several decades, Betsy DeVos has worked tirelessly to move taxpayer money away from public schools and into the coffers of unaccountable charter school operators, is now the worst state in the nation when it come to the proficiency improvement of students since 2003.
I’d suggest that we all send this article to DeVos and ask her to explain how this came to pass in the state where she lobbied successfully to remove caps on for-profit charter schools, and fought tirelessly to keep our legislature from imposing any kind of oversight over the industry, but, as we learned during her nomination hearings, she doesn’t even understand how states measure achievement, so I don’t know what good it would do.
University of Michigan professor Brian A. Jacob, who conducted this new study of National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data for the Brookings Institution, said the following when asked why, according to him, Michigan had ranked “dead last in terms of proficiency growth since 2003.”
“I believe that there are a number of factors responsible for Michigan’s weak performance,” Jacob said. “A lack of adequate state and local funding for schools, the highly decentralized nature of governance that makes it difficult for the state Department of Education to develop coordinated reforms, the lack of regulation and accountability in the charter sector, and the economic and political instability that have plagued Detroit and other urban areas in the state.”
I know it’s probably unfair to lay all this at the feet of DeVos, as our Republican legislature and others worked with her to make this happen, but, as others have noted, she really does deserve a great deal of the blame. Here, with more on what DeVos has done to Michigan, is a clip from Politico.
…Despite two decades of charter-school growth, the state’s overall academic progress has failed to keep pace with other states: Michigan ranks near the bottom for fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading on a nationally representative test, nicknamed the “Nation’s Report Card.” Notably, the state’s charter schools scored worse on that test than their traditional public-school counterparts, according to an analysis of federal data.
Critics say Michigan’s laissez-faire attitude about charter-school regulation has led to marginal and, in some cases, terrible schools in the state’s poorest communities as part of a system dominated by for-profit operators. Charter-school growth has also weakened the finances and enrollment of traditional public-school districts like Detroit’s, at a time when many communities are still recovering from the economic downturn that hit Michigan’s auto industry particularly hard.
The results in Michigan are so disappointing that even some supporters of school choice are critical of the state’s policies.
“The bottom line should be, ‘Are kids achieving better or worse because of this expansion of choice?’” said Michigan State Board of Education President John Austin, a DeVos critic who also describes himself as a strong charter-school supporter. “It’s destroying learning outcomes… and the DeVoses were a principal agent of that”…
As I’ve said several times in the past on this site, we should have stopped DeVos when we had a chance. And, now, because we didn’t, the whole country is likely to suffer the same fate. As our terrible Governor said a few weeks ago when he endorsed her for the job of Secretary of Education, she’s now going to “make a big difference in the lives of school children… across the nation.” And we’re to blame.