When an Ed Tech Entrepreneur Opposes DeVos, MAYBE Someone Will Pay Attention
Today’s Google feed included a Forbes article by an Ed Tech entrepreneur Courtney Williams titled “Why Entrepreneurs Should Really Care About Public Schools”, an article I expected to be supportive of the candidacy of Betsy DeVos based on the title. But Mr. Williams has a different take. He opens his essay making the case that his fellow entrepreneurs should realize that their future depends on an education system that provides a strong workforce:
…here’s a newsflash: your company’s future employees are likely sitting in a public school classroom at this very moment. Are they getting the education they deserve? Are they getting the training to equip them with the relevant 21st-century knowledge and skills that will prepare them to work in your company 10 to 20 years from now?
Chances are, if they live in white, upper-middle-class communities, they will be just fine. But what about kids from poor families? What about kids of color, many of whom are born into poverty and can only avail themselves of schools that are underfunded and in many cases, unsafe? We all know the research about changing demographics. That research is real. Our country is getting browner and poorer, and those are the children who will build our products, sell our technology, and run our franchises. As entrepreneurs, we have no choice but to care about how they are educated.
Mr. Williams then expresses his reservations about Ms. DeVos as being the person to lead public schools:
At first, I was intrigued by Betsy DeVos. She is an “outsider” who is not part of the current system. My hope was that a fresh perspective could shed new light on what has become an alarming problem. She, like me, is also a charter advocate, who sees value in offering parents alternatives to traditional public schools. And to top it off, she is a big fan of integrating technology in education, a subject that is near and dear to my heart. But as I started looking closer, I’ve discovered that we have some real differences. We disagree on vouchers as a means for school choice… Her strategy is to help kids by moving them out of the public school system rather than committing to the hard work required to make the public school system better. She has called public schools a “dead end” in the past and her policy proposals speak to that belief.
I’m also worried about how she will fund the voucher system–her core policy suggestion. The program will cost the federal government over $20 billion dollars. Will she cut funding from Title 1 and other programs designed to help low-income kids? Will the vouchers funnel money away from public schools? Will this mean that public schools will have less funding…? How will these changes impact the delivery of education to the vast majority of our country who rely on public education? As entrepreneurs, we should be very concerned about policy choices that are not based on valid research and which may have the unintended consequence of making matters worse, thereby forcing us to fish for talent in an ever-shrinking pool of qualified candidates over the next 10 to 20 years. Our fortunes are inextricably linked to a well-educated workforce and we need a Secretary of Education who will improve public education instead of tearing it down.
Policy issues and concerns aside, my biggest objection to Betsy DeVos is that, at a very basic level, she seems to lack both the knowledge for the job and a commitment to doing the hard work required to acquire that knowledge.
He concluded the article with a summary of examples of the embarrassing unpreparedness Ms. DeVos displayed in her testimony before the Senate HELP Committee, ending with this:
I firmly believe that our future success, and the success of every entrepreneur for that matter, depends on our public schools and the children they educate. Those children are the workforce of tomorrow and if our schools fail them, then we too shall fail.