Redefining “Public Education”

May 5, 2018 – Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wants to redefine “public education” to include parochial and charter schools. This would siphon more money from the public school system into religious education, which could be considered a violation of the Frist Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

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Betsy DeVos – The Daily Beast

Earlier this month, DeVos sat down with 50 state Teachers of the Year to discuss “the obstacles they face in doing their jobs.” Jon Hazell, Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year did not hold back punches.

We have a problem where public money is siphoned off from the public schools and given to children who are going to charter and private schools.

According to the Washington Post, Hazell was shocked by DeVos’s response. In a nutshell, she wanted to redefine all education, public, private and charter, as “public education.”

Most school budgets have been cut over the last decades, due to Republic tax cuts, creating shortfalls in money’s destine to the public school system. Many schools cannot afford the materials needed to teach their children, relying on the teachers and parents to supplement the school’s budgets with their own money.

Teachers in at least four states have gone on strike in recent months demanding an increase in school budgets and pay raises for themselves and their “nonprofessional” colleagues. Many teachers have second jobs to keep the roof over their own heads.

When asked to respond to the concerns of the teachers in the meeting, DeVos spokeswoman Elizabeth Hill wrote:

We should stop defining education by the word that comes before school and instead focus on the students the school serves. The secretary is focused on making sure that every child gets an education that meets his or her needs, no matter the setting.

As with many of wealth, DeVos never attended a public school as a child and sees the current system as being “broken.” She has spent most of the last two decades promoting school voucher systems that would funnel money from the public school system to charter and private (read religious based) schools.

DeVos’s position on public education is well documented. In November 2016, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote a scathing press release concerning DeVos and her position to “privatizing education through vouchers, a policy approach that will have a seriously negative impact on our education system.”

They continued:

Billionaire DeVos has worked for more than a decade on political efforts to fund private religious schools with taxpayer money. In 2000, she unsuccessfully funded a campaign to repeal Michigan’s constitutional protections that prevent taxpayer money from going to religious entities. She has spent millions of dollars to help elect politicians who support voucher schemes.

Earlier this year, DeVos sat down with interviewer Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” to discuss public education and DeVos’s vision for the future of education in America. To say that DeVos has no clue as to how public education works in the United States was evident throughout the segment.

DeVos and others of her ilk seem to believe that parochial education, that religious indoctrination, is somehow more effective and efficient education system. There is no proof to that statement, mainly because parochial schools are not held to the same state testing standards in most, if not all states as the public schools, so there is no “apples to apples” comparison.

These are the same people who seem to believe that if we reintroduce prayer in public school, that the number of mass shooting would be reduced to zero. These are the same people who wish to indoctrinate all children to their religious beliefs. There are the same people who want to destroy scientific learning in favor of their theoretical mumbo-jumbo.  

There is no doubt that DeVos, as well as other Trump appointees and supporters, want to make the United States a theocracy, making Evangelical Christianity as the official religion. They wish to rewrite the First Amendment to justify a religious based government and governance. They are dangerous to the political well-being of the United States, which was founded on secular values.

In six months, we will have our mid-term elections. Democrats, liberals, and progressives need to actively work together towards the election of a progressive House and Senate. We need to elect candidates who understand that a theocracy is dangerous today as it was in the 1700s.

We must vote on November 6. Not just as individuals, but as a people concerned that the nation is taking the wrong road, a road leading to a destructive path towards religious intolerance.  

About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place). He is the winner of the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing. He is also an editor and award-winning speaker. His book, "A Christian Nation? An examination of Christian nation theories and proofs" is available on Amazon, com as a paperback and eBook.
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