How would you feel if a government organization told you that you could not take your child to your chosen pediatrician because of your ZIP Code? What if they randomly assigned hairdressers based on where you live? Would you move to get a better haircut, or would you stay and simply deal with? I’m sure that your annoyance at the prospect of having your haircuts or medical decisions dictated for you is high, but you may not be completely aware of the fact that your education is dictated to you in much the same way. In fact, if you went to public school you had this choice completely taken away from you. Your parents more than likely sent you to the school that served your district and you dealt with it the best you could. For a few people, they were able to afford private education, and this helped set them out on a better foot.
One of the people that have been thinking about this most recently, is Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Recently might not be the best term, considering that it has been a passion of hers for almost her entire career. Betsy DeVos is a mother, meaning that she understands what it means to feel a little powerless in the education decisions that are made for your children. She, too, has been subject to the tyrannical dictation of the education department as to where her children are able to attend school. Early on, Betsy DeVos chose to enroll her children in a private school. She was able to avoid placing her kids into a failing system, but there were other parents that struggled to pay for necessities, let alone a private school tuition.
She began working with school choice organizations very soon after that, even going so far as to get elected to the Michigan Board of Education. Once there she helped pioneer more opportunities for school choice throughout the state and now Michigan is one of the leading states for this issue. Betsy DeVos is hoping that her work in Michigan will set an example for other schools all around the country. Even administrators can take this as a challenge to do better in their own public schools. This might make it possible for them to secure additional funding and popular status among parents. It will make it possible for parents to bring their children to a school based on their performance instead of their proximity. Being able to choose where your kids go to school should be a basic human right, instead, it has been dictated without a second thought. The makers of such mandates do not think about the long-standing consequences of their actions, they are only interested in doing things the way they have always been done. Betsy DeVos has proven that she is not interested in the way things were. There is a significant work that needs to be done throughout much of the education system and when policymakers are in denial, with parents, only the children suffer.
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When you think about a charter school, what are you envisioning? Do you think that it is a place where only the most well off or gifted members of society are welcome? Or do you see it as an opportunity to help advance the opportunities for America’s most vulnerable and impressionable population? When the possibility of school choice first came into the limelight, there were many detractors. So many people had become used to sending their children where ever their Zip code dictated, in the schools were more than happy to take the children with no challenge to their authority. Parents were not briefed on the schools’ educational methods for their influences and teachers were simply hired to fill spaces.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos did not like this reality and she spent much of her early career advocating for change in her native state of Michigan. When most parents felt as though they had to accept the way things were, DeVos was running for the State Board of Education so that she could be an instrument of change. DeVos knows that there are opportunities available to her children that would not normally be available to others, but that is exactly why she works so hard. She explained to PhilanthropyRoundtable in a recent interview that it was about more than a student’s socioeconomic status or resources. She saw students who deserve the opportunities presented by charter schools, who worked extremely hard for better future. She also saw parents who were determined to give their children that future.
Nowadays, school choice has gained more acceptance. DeVos explains that while school choice has always been a major cornerstone of her platform, the need for reform of the current public-school system is still very important. With more and more students opting for charter schools and virtual schools, the public-school system has been challenged more than ever. She believes that these varying types of competition will force administrators to look at their own policies and search for ways to offer an innovative education. The sad fact is, that a lot of the schools located in the United States, charter school or public school, are not capable of competing with their international equivalents. There is a sore need for change across all systems. Parents and administrators need to become advocates for their children.
With that being said, DeVos feels as though the education system has made significant leeway since her appointment. There has been increased interest in charter schools, but there are also private schools that have garnered more interest as well. Her time serving these various institutions and as Secretary of Educ. has all been on a strict volunteer basis, she is not getting paid to care about these issues they are truly something that matters to her on a very deep level. DeVos truly believes that she will not have fulfilled her mission in this office until all parents can feel as though they have a choice in their own children’s educational setting or the materials that they are taught. In DeVos’s mind, all children have potential and deserve the right to grow that potential.
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