Victor Skinner, EAGNEWS.org
BROOKHAVEN, N.Y. – A New York school district is objecting to President-elect Donald Trump’s pick of school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education, despite years of academic failures and ever-increasing school budgets.
The Board of Education for Long Island’s Patchogue-Medford School District approved a resolution shortly before Christmas to condemn Michigan philanthropist and longtime school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education because of her “long history of support for charter schools and school voucher programs,” according to a blog post by Diane Ravitch, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education with close ties to the nation’s teachers unions.
According to the resolution:
Whereas, President-Elect Trump has called for the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education of the United States, a candidate apparently lacking any credentials as an educator, experience in the administration and management of public schools, demonstrating a pre-disposition towards and long-history of support for charter schools and school voucher programs, which by their very nature eviscerate free and appropriate public education for specific economic, social and racial groups, and
Whereas, Ms. DeVos has been at the forefront of the establishment of the Detroit charter school initiative, by all accounts an abject failure which hurt students and enriched the coffers of private companies, therefore be it
Resolved, that the Patchogue-Medford Board of Education hereby, based on this record, opposes the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, and until such time as the incoming Trump administration presents a formal vision for the future of public education in the United States of America and will continue to oppose such a nomination, and calls upon the incoming United States Senate to stand firm by opposing this nominee and affirming this serious need, …
School choice advocates, meanwhile, are championing DeVos’ nomination as a means of improving a public education monopoly controlled largely by special interest unions. Numerous studies show that school choice options like charter schools and vouchers for private schools greatly improved outcomes for many students – primarily low-income and minority students – while reducing the financial burden on taxpayers.
Most school choice options like charter schools, private school vouchers, online learning and others do without a unionized workforce, so the cost to educate students is typically far less than in traditional public schools. Eliminating union interference also allows administrators and teachers the freedom to innovate and craft lessons and programs that best suit student needs without consideration for special work rules and payments spelled out in labor agreements, school choice advocates argue.
Ironically, the skyrocketing cost of traditional public schools and lagging academic performance are two serious issues that have plagued Patchogue-Medford School District for years.
Newsday reports the vast majority of third- through eighth-grade students in the district are not proficient in math or English. A mere 11 percent of sixth-graders meet the threshold in English, and only 1 percent of eighth-graders can perform basic math, according to the site.
The abysmal student performance persists despite more than $21,000 in per-pupil spending annually.
The majority of the spending, of course, goes to the vast bureaucracy baked into the unionized system, including a salary and benefit package that totaled more than $279,000 for the superintendent in 2013-14. Four assistant superintendents also took home about $200,000 or more the same, Newsday reports.
Yet despite the district’s history of superfluous spending and academic failures, the Patchogue-Medford board is calling on the Trump administration to explain the seemingly obvious reason why the president elect nominated a change agent to focus on education.
“ … the Board of Education invites the president-elect, the nominee for secretary of education or representatives of the incoming education team to meet with them to conduct a forthright and meaningful discussion about the future of public education and their strategies to affect the necessary changes,” the resolution read.