The liberal media pounced on Betsy DeVos after her confirmation hearing last week, alleging that Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education is a radical Christian who supports “dismantling” public schools.
I teach at one of those private, for-profit, Christian schools that Democrats and their allies in the media are vilifying as one of the greatest threats to our nation’s youth and education system.
Although those opposed to DeVos’ nomination would like to convince you that private and charter schools are designed to serve only affluent whites, in reality, my school’s student body is majority-minority. Many of these kids come from broken homes on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.
This isn’t as rare as the media would lead you to believe. Scholarships and voucher systems, whether privately or publicly funded, allow children to succeed in schools their families would otherwise have been unable to afford. In fact, empirical evidence overwhelmingly indicates that voucher programs improve racial integration in schools.
Many of my students were unable to achieve their full potential in their neighborhood public schools. Their parents were growing frustrated with what their schools were teaching, and were growing worried about their school’s culture of drugs, promiscuity, and insubordination.
In my experience, low-income and minority families who are given the opportunity to attend schools like the one where I teach are so thankful their kids are able to receive a quality education in a safe and edifying environment.
Some of my students have shared with me their experiences attending local public schools. One of my black students carried a gun with him to school as an early teenager to keep himself safe from gang activity. Drug dogs sweep the halls of local public high schools, which also sometimes use metal detectors to check students for weapons.
Apart from concerns about their children’s safety, many families also feel uneasy about the content of their children’s education. In Washington State, for example, schools are now teaching elementary school children that they can choose their gender. Sexual education curricula teach students to use methods of birth control many parents find morally objectionable. And some teachers, schools, and educational standards distort history and science to promote their pet political agendas.
Many of the most vocal critics of DeVos and the educational philosophy she represents contend that the very existence of private schools with different educational philosophies threatens public schools and our social order. These critics oppose any system of school choice that allows parents to choose the school they want to educate their children.
Contrary to the baseless claims of her critics, Betsy DeVos has never supported “dismantling” the public school system. Instead, she is simply working to ensure that those low- and middle-income families who find their local public school insufficient can have the same opportunities as wealthier families that are able pursue other means of education.
Providing more alternatives to public schools wouldn’t necessarily cause an exodus of children from public to private schools, nor would it require that public schools be “dismantled.”
If, in fact, most public schools offer an education superior to that of comparable private schools, families will decide to leave their kids in the public school to which they’ve been assigned. On the other hand, families who worry about their son or daughter attending public school would be able to move him or her to a school that better meets their needs and reflects their values.
No school or educational philosophy is perfect, and a one-size-fits-all system doesn’t really fit all families and students. That’s why choice is so necessary and important.
I’m especially thankful schools like mine exist to provide families with an alternative to unsafe, failing schools that teach an educational philosophy antithetical to traditional Judeo-Christian values. Voucher programs like those supported by Betsy DeVos enable families to pursue whatever means of education works best for their children – and that’s something we should all celebrate.
This op-ed was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.