The Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, made several statements in a speech at Brookings Institution on Wednesday, March 29, that show her lack of knowledge regarding how a national education system is superior to school choice. In a blanket fashion, DeVos commented that all parents know what is best for their children, all good teachers know what is best for their students and all state and local leaders are better equipped then the federal government to understand the needs of children in different regions. She also reiterated her belief that parents should be allowed to choose the type of education their children receive and that customization of education in an a la carte way is better than national, federally-guided education.
The problem with her statements is apparent to educators and parents who recognize the dangers of school choice. First, there are plenty of parents who never completed high school or went to college. As a result, they have no idea what the best choices might be for their children. They need guidance. Teachers, even good ones, bring personal bias to classrooms. Without federal guidelines and penalties for lack of compliance when teaching certain subjects, there might be no system in place to prevent them from withholding certain types of information from students. Beyond regional problems with bias, state and local leaders often focus more on cost-cutting measures instead of providing the best education to students. School choice also helps to promote segregation where parents with strict conservative beliefs choose schools for their children that promote non-diverse attitudes regarding race, sex and gender.
Rural charter schools are an excellent example of the problems with “school choice.” Since many rural charter schools don’t receive the same level of auditing and oversight as non-charter schools, they often leave large gaps in education because the staff is inappropriately prepared to teach students what they need to know to succeed in a diverse society. These students can find it more difficult to immediately enter college after high school because find out that they don’t have the minimum required basic education and must take pre-college classes.