Donald Trump has appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, and the media and teachers unions would have us think that this will destroy America's public schools. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, said:
The president-elect, in his selection of Betsy DeVos, has chosen the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education. In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America.
If only this were true.
The reality is that Betsy DeVos is not anti-public school. Rather, she supports greater competition in education. (Is that really such a bad thing?) In pursuit of this, Mrs. DeVos advocates charter schools and school vouchers, something that many on the political right support. But before people start going crazy about the "destruction" of public schools, we need to ask a question—What do charter schools and school vouchers have in common? They both involve government tax dollars.
Charter schools are still public schools in that they are funded by government tax dollars. They do have more freedom and less regulation than traditional public schools. However, they are in no sense "private" schools, as the teachers unions and media claim. In fact, charter schools are hurting actual private schools because they mimic some of the benefits of private schools but do not charge tuition. This is the kind of competitive advantage that creates government monopolies.
School vouchers allow parents to apply their tax dollars to a private school of their choice (which would otherwise go to a local public school). Contrary to the situation with charter schools, vouchers do in fact provide government tax dollars to private schools. What is odd here is that those on the political left are worried about this scenario. Yet it is those on the political right who should worry about vouchers. This is because there is always a string attached to tax money. Though vouchers may bring an initial boost to private schools, government money is always followed by regulation and control. In other words, vouchers are a way of private schools selling their souls to the devil.
So the irony is that Betsy DeVos actually advocates policies that will hurt private schools. Her favored policies may increase competition among government schools, but they will also increase government control of the private schools in the long run.
Mrs. DeVos is in no sense "anti-public education." If she were, she would oppose all government interference in education. The one good thing her policies will do is weaken the teachers unions, which is of course the source of the outcry. The teachers unions are afraid of losing the immense power they currently enjoy.