DeVos confirmation raises questions about the future of public education

Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos was confirmed today as Secretary of Education, with Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. It was the first time in U.S. history that a vice president has had to resolve a tie on a cabinet nomination.

Throughout the confirmation process, DeVos’s longtime record as an outspoken advocate for charter schools, voucher programs, and diverting public funds to religious schools raised serious bipartisan questions about her qualifications and her commitment to public education. In just one of many examples, DeVos once lobbied to free up government dollars for parochial schools in Michigan — in hopes to, in her words, “advance God’s Kingdom.”

“She has ardently supported the unlimited, unregulated growth of charter schools in Michigan, elevating for-profit schools with no consideration of the severe harm done to traditional public schools,” the ACLU said of DeVos in a statement. “She’s done this despite overwhelming evidence that proves that charters do no better at educating children than traditional public schools and serve only to exacerbate funding problems for cash-strapped public districts.”

DeVos’s highly contentious confirmation makes it more important than ever to examine how privatization and school-choice stand to affect kids who attend public schools.

If you’re looking for ways to engage these issues with your own students, we highly recommend the new Emmy Award-winning documentary, Education, Inc.

In the film, director Brian Malone, whose own children attend public schools in Colorado, travels to school districts across the country to see for himself what privatization would mean for public education. Along the way, he takes us inside school protests and raucous school board meetings. He talks to school-choice advocates, public school teachers, students, and parents. And he interviews some of the best-known educators in the country, clarifying the key issues at stake on all sides.

The result is a deeply human look at one of the most important debates of our time, and a must-see film for anyone who cares about the future our public education system.