Friday, December 1, 2017

Ed Sec Betsy DeVos on School Choice, College Costs

Posted By on Fri, Dec 1, 2017 at 5:00 PM

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Trump's Ed Sec Betsy DeVos has a School Choice hammer, so every education issue looks like a nail. And being a Trump cabinet member, the hammer is paramount, facts are optional. DeVos's latest assertion: Our poor scores on international tests are because we don't have enough school choice. Countries which have embraced choice are outperforming the U.S., she claims.

Her evidence? She didn't give any, nor did her Education Department.

She can't be talking about Chile. It adopted a universal voucher system, and that hasn't gone well. She can't mean Sweden, which went to a school choice model complete with vouchers and saw its international test scores drop. She certainly can't be referring to Finland, the only European country whose international test scores regularly equal or surpass those of Asian countries. Finland doesn't have anything like charter schools, and their few private schools follow the same curriculum as public schools. Meanwhile back in the U.S. of A., some of our highest scoring states, like Massachusetts and Connecticut, aren't exactly poster children for school choice. They have charter schools but no voucher systems to speak of.

If school choice is the answer, Ms. DeVos, please tell us, what is the question?

Meanwhile on the legislative front, there's plenty for educators to be upset about in the Republican tax bill. At the K-12 level, there's the provision to remove the $250 deduction teachers can take for purchasing supplies for their classrooms. The federal tax deduction for state taxes is in danger, which will lead to less money in the state coffers and, most likely, less for schools. At the college level, making graduate students pay taxes on tuition wavers will add to the debt they amass in the process of getting a degree. And taxing private colleges' endowments will lower their ability to give scholarships to low income students.

DeVos's response? She's "so encouraged" that Congress is working to fix "our nation's broken tax system." I guess she's "encouraged" that her family's wealth will be increased and she can pass every penny of it on to her children when she dies. As for her duties as the guardian of the country's system of education . . . Isn't it wonderful she gets to keep more of her billions and her heirs won't have to pay an estate tax?

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