Point-Counterpoint: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

BY HANNAH STEELE and KALYN MENIFEE

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PRO:

BY HANNAH STEELE –  American education is falling way behind other countries, ranking 39th in math and 27th in the sciences.  Being in desperate need for a positive change, the government hired the right person for the job.  On February 7th, Betsy DeVos was sworn in as the Secretary of Education.  With the Senate divided 50/50, Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote, confirming DeVos.

DeVos is the chairman of The American Federation for Children, which works to give parents the choice to choose the school that they think is best suited for their child.  This would benefit children who live in an area that doesn’t have a good education system and allow them to transfer to a better school.  Additionally, Devos served on the board of directors for the organization, Alliance for School Choice.  Charter schools, which are the fastest growing form of public education, help minorities and lower income students have a chance at a quality education, and Devos has always been a huge advocate for these schools.  DeVos will ensure that all children in America have access to good education, including children from inner cities.

DeVos started her political career by being a volunteer for former President Gerald Ford in 1976.  Since then, she has served on the Republican National Committee and has been elected as the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party four times.  DeVos has always been politically active as a Republican and focused on reforming the education system. Having a lifelong interest in the arts, Devos was asked by former President George W. Bush to serve on the Board of Trustees for the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.  She has also served on the board for ArtPrize; an international art competition founded by her son.  Additionally, she also funded the Devos Institute for Art Management at the University of Maryland.  Being focused on reforming the education system, Devos has served on The Potter’s House School, Great Lakes Education Project, and the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Her list of qualifications goes on.  

Regarding guns in schools, Devos believes that it’s “best left to locals and states to decide.”  She has also cited potential grizzly bear threats in states like Wyoming that could benefit by having the protection of firearms.  While this may seem far-fetched, wildlife does jeopardize the safety of schools.  A bear in New Jersey had to be shot as it approached a school in 2011.  Furthermore, a mountain lion in Nebraska also threatened a school.  Although this isn’t an issue that affects everyone, there is always the chance of something dangerous happening.  Leaving this responsibility to the states is the responsible choice.

Devos is the right person to lead our country into having a successful education system. Her passion for school choice will allow every student in America to learn in the quality environment that they deserve.  Having political involvement that spans for over 35 years gives her the qualifications for the job of Secretary of Education.  

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CON:

By KALYN MENIFEE–Betsy DeVos, the Newest Secretary of Education, was overall not a well-planned choice for the job. But why? What could have possibly been the reason? A question, I am readily able to answer.

DeVos is a well-known advocate for charter schools and school-choice programs, she and her husband both lobby for the cause in her home state of Michigan. Charter schools are publicly funded and privately run institutions, that can be owned and be subject to private agendas just like any other privately run company. In 2014 Valerie Strauss, in an article from The Washington Post wrote, “A report on Pennsylvania’s charter schools released by a state legislator [Rep. James Roebuck] found that only one in six of the state’s charter schools is ‘high-performing’ and notes that none of the online charters is ‘high-performing.’”

Charter schools are on the rise however, with enrollments increasing each day due to the “school-choice movement,” but this trend is not necessarily good for overall education, especially in Pennsylvania, where there are very loose charter school laws. There is an overall lack of accountability with charter schools, because they don’t always have to follow the rules and regulations of their districts. Charter schools also don’t readily enroll special education students in Pennsylvania, with the percentage well below 15 percent, the average in Pennsylvania public schools (2014 statistics).

Guns in schools have been a serious topic, considering the rise of school shootings in recent years. Ignoring the Sandy Hook shooting conspiracy theorists, this topic has a lot of weight in America. Since gun control laws do exist here, but not to the extent that many Americans may want. DeVos commented, most memorably claimed that schools may need guns to prevent bear attacks. But she neglected to address the problems with school shootings or even problems with her plan.

How is Betsy DeVos even qualified for her job as Secretary of education? Instead of going into a wordy monologue, I simply will include this quote from the Detroit Free Press, “DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader,” they wrote. “She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.
“She is, in essence, a lobbyist – someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them.”

KALYN MENIFEEhannah-steele

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