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Betsy DeVos’ Inept Assessment of Pandemic’s Impact on Public Education

September 1, 2020

Common Dreams staff writer Lisa Newcomb’s reported that in an interview on SiriusXM Betsy DeVos declared that she believes “…the viral pandemic has been a “good thing” for the nation’s education system’. Why? Because it showed “…that the U.S. education system is “static” and unable to adjust to changing circumstances.” In her assessment she repeated her meme that the public school system is based on a one-size-fits-all model offering her one-size-fits-all solution: more choice for parents.

The fact that schools across America adapted to remote instruction in a week or less is evidence that public schools CAN adjust to changing circumstances and, sadly, schools are not one-size-fits-all because schools serving affluent families have a wide range of offerings and teaching and learning approaches. For children raised in poverty who attend underfunded schools the curriculum IS stifling and designed to fulfill one purpose: to pass the mandated tests that states impose as required by the federal government. So to the extent that testing is the dominant determinant of “school success” and funding is the dominant means by which schools can differentiate instruction schools serving children raised in poverty have only one choice.

But Ms. DeVos IS correct in her overarching statement that the viral pandemic has been a good thing. Why? This paragraph from Ms. Newcomb’s article explains:

It is true that Covid-19 has shone a light on inefficiencies and inequalities in our education system—as some schools focus on remote learning, 1 in 5 parents have saidit’s likely their children will not be able to complete school work because they either do not have access to a computer or to a reliable internet connection, for example—but DeVos’ insistence on private school funding continues to draw criticism and lawsuits.

If we want public schools that offer an array of approaches and instruction that meets the unique needs of each child, we need to provide ALL schools with the funding levels we provide to the most affluent schools in our country.

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