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SchoolWatch: A Troubling Choice

by

President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos to be our next U.S. Secretary of Education is very troubling. Ms. DeVos never attended a public school, and  never sent her children to public schools. She is not an educator and doesn’t really know much about education.

Despite her lack of knowledge or experience, she has been a wealthy and influential force in the Michigan “school choice” movement, pushing to establish publicly-funded alternative “charter schools,” and even “school vouchers” for children to attend private, for-profit schools.

The plain fact is that in study after study, the students in charter schools have been found to do no better — and in many cases worse — than their counterparts who remained in the traditional public schools. Nevertheless, attracted by DeVos’s strong advocacy for vouchers and charter schools, Trump said DeVos would help him provide “school choice to all families.”

My opinion? This is a very bad idea. While it’s safe to say that, nationally, the number of charter schools will probably grow under the Trump-DeVos team, Irvine should not be a part of this.

The rationale for charter schools is that, as alternative schools, they can provide: choice, competition, increased parental involvement and autonomy.  But, charter schools are only attractive when the existing public schools cannot meet the needs of its students.

Clearly, Irvine schools are success stories — that’s why people from all over the world move to Irvine. And that’s why it would be unwise for us in Irvine to embrace charter schools or the even more radical concept of school vouchers — using our local tax dollars to help entrepreneurs and others hoping to operate schools that “turn a profit” or blur the lines between Church and State.

Historically, our School Board has been against charter schools in Irvine — a stance that I applaud.

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