Ed. Appointee Doesn’t Bode Well for Public Schools


While many of us have either strapped on pink knit “kitty” caps or assumed the prenatal position fretting about President Trump, some of the robust ones have already hop-scotched over Trump and leap-frogged over Mike Pence.Forever searching for the fly in the Jello, they have gone on to worry about his appointee for Secretary of Education. That appointee would be Betsy DeVos.

According to the Jan. 14 Wall Street Journal, many students across America are “trapped in lousy public schools.” And now the bad news. As reported by the WSJ, Betsy, hitherto, has “dedicated her private fortune to liberating poor kids trapped in lousy public schools.” If this ain’t a false fact or an alternate fact, we are in deep kimchee. But wait, it gets worse.

Betsy did all this “liberating” as a civilian. She wasn’t even the Grand Poohbah of Legions of Edu-crats yet and already she was “liberating poor kids.” What will she do when she has budgetary discretion to use federal money to liberate poor kids?

Imagine the damage she could do if she slips into the Department of Education Control Room, after dark, and begins yanking power levers, withdrawing control rods and ignoring the sagely advice and generous contributions of national teachers’ unions.

Whether or not to trap students in “lousy schools” seems to be the great divide between well-intended liberals and pragmatic, sangfroid conservatives.

While Hollywood does not always produce cinema verite when it comes to pulp-fiction, docu-dramas spotlighting public high schools, it does occasionally get it right. Consider such notable white papers on High Schools as: Grease, Mean Girls, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Carrie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Twilight or Waiting on Superman. In fact Waiting came so perilously close to the truth that even Michelle Rhee objected to the movie. 

Rhee was the Chancellor that vigilantly presided over the Washington D.C. Standardized Test Scandal when the students did not cheat; the teachers cheated; they corrected student answer sheets not in a nefarious way, but only to qualify for bonus pay.

Rhee successfully stonewalled what could have been an embarrassing investigation had her district cooperated with, and not scotched, the ensuing investigation. Her cover-up was so successful that Donald Trump momentarily had her short-listed for Secretary of Education.

Waiting on Superman centered on an actual school in the Bronx: the American Dream Charter of South Bronx. Wouldn’t you know it, “American Dream” is lifted right out of the Encyclopedia of Conservative Platitudes. “Get a decent high school education and you can succeed in the Land of Opportunity.”

In truth, American Dream Charter was another school out to siphon students away from “lousy public schools.” American Dream Charter was so successful that in order to gain admission, you had to win a lottery to get in there. The odds of getting in, while you were still under retirement age, were roughly equivalent to winning the California Power Ball contest.

Imagine if American Dream Charter had open enrollment and expandable resources. The horror!
DeBlasio, the current Mayor of New York City, did what any well-meaning liberal Democrat would do and stopped the unfair advantage gained by students who attended the superior Dream Charter. He found sufficient grounds to close the school.

In the service of protecting public education, the battle cry seems to be: “Stop escaping students!” One might wonder if supporters of public education will one day be against birth control in order to ensure there are sufficient students to populate public schools?

Any institution can be judged by the angle of the barbed wire  above the chain link fence that surrounds it. If the arms that support the electrified concertina wire angle toward you, you are the prisoner. In public education, the arms point inward, towards the campus.

Charter schools and vouchers represent escape routes, catapults over, or tunnels under, the fence.

Just when we thought public education had a captive audience, Trump delivers an existential threat to mediocrity, by nominating Betsy DeVos.

DeVos wants to give families the “freedom to choose” between public, charter or private schools funded in part by vouchers. This threat to public school teachers’ job security is compounded right here in Estuary City.

But does she believe families, educated in “lousy public schools,” can be trusted to make intelligent school choices?