Today opens a new era in Washington, DC. President Trump was just on the television saying that he thinks he can cut taxes and cut regulations for businesses. There is not anyone in the country who doesn’t like those words! This may be the opening shot in a series of salvos to make America Great again. So it is with great interest in the educational world that Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, is also interested in cutting regulations. Her work in Michigan was to promote charter schools that are granted the same amount of money as regular schools but with far less oversight and regulations. The Editor of Detroit’s Free Press, Stephen Henderson writes about Ms. DeVos this way:
Beyond the conflicts, there are also deep questions about Betsy DeVos’ substantive understanding of education policy.
As a private citizen, she’s free to hold any belief she wants, and to promote her beliefs however she likes, regardless of how it comports with fact or outcome. But as Secretary of Education, DeVos would be expected to help set standards, guide accountability and oversee research in a way that benefits children, through outcomes, not one particular interest or industry. And more important, the U.S. Secretary of Education must understand the value of both high-performing charters and traditional public schools.
She has no track record of working along those lines, and no experience that suggests she’s even interested in it.
Largely as a result of the DeVos’ lobbying, Michigan tolerates more low-performing charter schools than just about any other state. And it lacks any effective mechanism for shutting down, or even improving, failing charters (Henderson, Free Press).
I think we all realize that regulations can be cumbersome! In business or in education, regulations can hamstring operations and bloat budgets, but it might be important to keep some of the regulations that protect our children, in order to attend to quality. These policy issues of regulation and quality need to be balanced by the administration and we welcome their ideas of how to do this well. It is in the interest of all of us to get this right.