Home > Uncategorized > Hats Off to Maggie Hassan! Her Op Ed Opposing DeVos is Powerful and Convincing

Hats Off to Maggie Hassan! Her Op Ed Opposing DeVos is Powerful and Convincing

February 4, 2017

New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan, whose children attended public schools in Exeter NH where I served as Superintendent in the mid-1980s, wrote a compelling op ed article that drew on her personal experience to highlight Ms. DeVos lack of qualifications to serve as Secretary of Education. Here’s an excerpt from the essay:

Ensuring access to public education for every student is an issue that is personal to my family. My adult son Ben was born with cerebral palsy. Ben is bright and funny (and quite handsome, according to this unbiased source). He cannot walk, cannot use his fingers to type and can speak only in difficult-to-understand single words.

If Ben had been born a generation or two earlier, we, his parents, would have been pressured to put him in an institution. But Ben was able to go to a public school in his hometown, Exeter, N.H., because of the tireless work of the advocates, educators and public officials who came before us.

Ben had the opportunity to go to school and make friends in his own community — something that all parents want for their children. And I was drawn to public service to ensure that all children have the same opportunities that Ben did.

Instead of supporting public schools, Ms. DeVos has supported voucher systems that divert taxpayer dollars to private, religious and for-profit schools without requirements for accountability. Voucher systems often fail to serve children who have disabilities. To use a voucher, families are sometimes forced to sign away their child’s legal rights, and the schools receiving the voucher often lack the experience or resources necessary to educate the child.

This is in sharp contrast to public school systems that focus on serving all students, including those with disabilities. In these public schools, educators are better prepared to recognize challenges faced by all students — not just those who have a diagnosed disability — and are empowered to tailor educational experiences to individual students.

As public school educators and the parents of special education parents know well, public schools are NOT “one-size-fits-all” despite the political rhetoric to the contrary.

Could public education become more personalized?

Could public schools tailor their instruction more effectively?

ABSOLUTELY YES… and schools are slowly moving in that direction despite the “reform” movement’s obsession with standardized tests that implicitly reinforce the age-based cohorts that were created in the 1920s.

Will vouchers or privatization help improve personalized learning or tailor instruction to meet each child’s needs?

ABSOLUTELY NOT! Most for-profit charter schools teach-to-the-tests that “reformers” obsess about and reinforce the need for uniformity— a uniformity that is self evident in the requirements that many have for uniforms.

With every passing day it is increasingly evident that Betsy DeVos will be appointed as Secretary of Education… and, as noted in earlier posts… even if she fails to gain the votes needed a pro-voucher advocate with experience is undoubtedly waiting in the wings.

Public education will prevail, though, if it accelerates its movement to personalization— an opportunity that may exist in some states if they abandon the standardized test regimen. More on that topic ahead.

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