In a not-so-stunning move, United States President-Elect Donald Trump has named another billionaire conservative activist to his cabinet. Betsy DeVos will become Trump’s Education Secretary upon her confirmation by the Senate.
DeVos has been a strong advocate for the creation of more charter schools in her home state of Michigan, as well as expansion of school choice and the voucher system in education. She has also been a strong advocate for right-to-work legislation and has contributed millions of dollars to the Republican Party in Michigan.
The expansion of charter schools in Michigan has led to about half of all students in the city of Detroit attending one of these schools. While most charter schools in the United States are “not-for-profit,” Michigan’s charter school law allows for-profit charters to be established.
What has resulted in Detroit is intense competition for students between public and charter schools. Thanks to DeVos’s efforts to promote choice and charter schools, a multitude of new schools were established in Detroit, even though overall enrollment was in decline. As a result, schools have engaged in “bidding wars” to draw kids, and the money that they bring with them, into their buildings These campaigns have included the offer of incentives to students, such as iPads, gift cards and bicycles.
Public education advocate and historian Diane Ravitch said of DeVos’s nomination in Mother Jones magazine, “never has anyone been appointed to lead in the past 150 years who was hostile to public education.”
While Canada has been able to mostly resist the charter school movement and voucher systems, the attacks on public education may find a resurgence through the Trump regime. Our fellow educators in the United States are going to be facing renewed attacks and a further dismantling of public education, which could garner attention from conservative elements in our own country.