Question of the week:
Betsy DeVos’s recent confirmation as Education Secretary has brought education policy to the forefront of American politics. What do you think Secretary DeVos’s top priorities should be in office to improve the American education system?
Caleb J. Parker ’18 – Gettysburg College Republicans
The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States declares that powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or the people. The Department of Education, since its incorporation as a cabinet level executive in 1979, has absorbed enormous powers not vested to itself by the Founding Fathers. Education was never intended to be controlled by a federal agency, for this is the role of the states. Mrs. DeVos brings a new vision to the Department of Education. President Trump is not a traditional candidate, and she is not a traditional nominee. President Trump was elected to bring meaningful reform to an overreaching executive bureaucracy. The United States spends more than any other nation in the world on education, however ranks 34 in proficiency. This makes it evident that there needs to be meaningful reform to the agency. Betsy DeVos has spent her life in the service of her community and state. A native of West Michigan, her family invested in education throughout the region. Mrs. DeVos’ critics condemn her involvement in charter schools. Many believe that investment in alternative schools leads to the destruction of public schools. Not once in her career has the DeVos family attacked public schools or the institution as a whole. Her mission has and always will be to better the educational needs of children across this country. Setting standards and allowing the states to determine regulation is the key to making education a success for this century. Just as the old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is time to let communities and states do what they do best: raise their children for their environment in a competitive atmosphere that leads to the standards that America so desperately needs to once again be the intellectual capital of the world.
Luke C. Frigon ’18 – Gettysburg College Democrats
Betsy DeVos is unequivocally the least qualified member of Donald Trump’s new cabinet. She is perhaps the least qualified Secretary of Education that America has ever had. Both her stunning ignorance of simple facts and the huge amounts of money she donated to the Trump campaign point to the fact that she should not be in the position that she’s been given. As the head of the US Department of Education, the secretary advises the president and carries out legislation over education policy at the K-12 level and beyond. But Betsy DeVos has no experience attending or working in public schools or even in sending her children to one. She doesn’t seem to understand some basic educational concepts and she’s completely unqualified to handle a trillion-dollar loan portfolio or oversee a grant program that gives out more than thirty billion dollars in aid each year. As an active proponent of school voucher programs, DeVos has ignored the fact that those programs don’t really work well. Her priorities should be thus: pack her desk and resign. She is completely unfit to be in the position and a tenth-grader from Gettysburg High School would be better-suited for the job.
Davis Healy ’17 – Gettysburg College Independents
As none of the members of our club are experts on education, I talked to some actual educators about problems with our education system. The most common concern I heard was about the misrepresentation of charter schools as an effective alternative to public schools. In their current state, charter schools are publicly funded (meaning that they would raise the costs of education for the taxpayer unless public education was sacrificed) and are not held to the same curricular and educational standards as public schools in the state (meaning they are locally funded but not locally accountable). As one educator put it, “People who try to found charter schools often have the best intentions but these schools just don’t work.” Many states have top-class public schools, while charter schools categorically struggle to be academically comparable. Betsy DeVos’ number one priority, above all else, must be preserving public education instead of draining its resources for a costlier, less effective alternative. The next priority should be addressing the way public schools are funded. Right now, public secondary schools are funded in large part by local property taxes, meaning that poor communities are permanently stuck with poor schools that generate poor students who join the poor community; we have to take steps to end this cycle. It would be more beneficial to build a system that can efficiently allocate federal, state, and local money to the schools that need them most. Additionally, higher education must be made more accessible to students of all backgrounds to equip the next generation for the future demands of society and the economy and to end the waste of human capital that results from barriers to higher education.
Pre-college school curricula are also in need of an overhaul. As society has changed, so too have the tools that students need. The internet is a great resource, but it has allowed fake news and intentional misinformation to mislead people and undermine the credibility of actual, factual, reporting. Students should be prepared to deal with the new reality of how information is presented and spread. Teach students how to interpret bias in news, literature, and academia. Teach students how to logically assess claims and research them across a broad range of sources and media. Teach students how to think for themselves, to ask a question and then answer it with factual evidence, to allow reality to shape their views.
A strong democracy is built on the education of its citizens. Betsy DeVos must abandon her preference for costly and ineffective charter schools and fight for the improvement of public education. She must address the persistent issue of local school funding and the societal outcomes it generates. She must establish a curriculum that equips students for the new realities of our world. Quite simply, she must preserve and advance one of our most valuable institutions.
Chris Condon ’19 – Young Americans for Liberty
As the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos has a unique opportunity as someone who supports school choice to see such an agenda enacted. We believe that, when competition is introduced into the market, quality increases and prices decrease. Education, largely handled by government since the inception of a public education system, has performed in exactly the opposite way, with government spending more taxpayer dollars each year for less achievement among students. If we are to produce a system that works for all students, a school voucher program would ultimately be the solution within the current framework, as it rewards better schools (whether they be private or public) and punishes underachieving schools. In sum, more choice for students and parents yields a system that is more effective overall.
However, we would encourage that everyone calls their member of Congress and asks them to support H.R. 899, which would abolish the Federal Department of Education. Not only does the 10th amendment mandate such a course of action but we firmly believe that local legislators, teachers, and (perhaps most importantly) parents can do a better job of educating children than any federal bureaucrat. Millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted each year to fund this bloated and ineffective department and with the continuous pressure from teachers unions, we may find both of these solutions to be undesirable, however, we must look to students for the best practices in education.
Jerome Clark ’17 – Gettysburg Anti-Capitalist Collective
The views and opinions expressed are the students and the organizations whom they represent and do not necessarily represent the views of The Eisenhower Institute or Gettysburg College.