While Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been the source of several negative and polarizing news stories since her appointment, there have actually been very few major news items about what the Department of Education is doing.
We have some idea of what the future of the Department will be, given that it is part of a larger Trump Administration plan to consolidate government. The plan, as of now, is to combine Education and Labor into one Cabinet-level department, the Department of Education and the Workforce.
However, supporters of Betsy DeVos – myself included – have not seen much in terms of education policy coming from her office. Things, by and large, appear to be running as they have been, and aside from her rolling back Title IX memoranda for colleges going after sexual assault, there has been little to celebrate.
Frankly, it appears as though the faith we had in DeVos to be a driving force behind education reform was for naught. There has been no major push for any reform, and there appears to be no sign of any push on the horizon.
Congress, controlled by Republicans, has similarly done very little on education despite reform being a part of the Republican Party’s list of goals for years. President Donald Trump hasn’t talked about it, and Republican pundits are so busy discussing the Trump tweet of the moment or pushing back against the latest media critique that they have simply not had the time to address some of the lofty goals that the administration had signaled they would be pursuing.
However, prior to Trump’s candidacy and seemingly-impossible nomination and election, education was considered by many to be the next big issue Americans would have to grapple with. And it should be.
Education, and reforming what education is in America, is the topic of conversation that always gets left for when there seems to be nothing else to talk about, and in treating it that way, it is always left until the last minute, giving us terrible policies like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and encouraging states to accept Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by dangling money in front of them in exchange.
While those policies are no longer in play (NCLB has since been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the CCSS has received major pushback from both the Right and the Left), the mentality that led to them is still firmly in place.
We should be having the conversations. We should be working to improve the education system, public and private, so that we provide our children with the best possible education we can offer them.
That means we have to talk about private school vouchers, school choice, public school funding, free pre-Kindergarten and college, and every other issue in between.
DeVos supporters saw in her a chance to push for greater access to school choice, an issue that appears to be overwhelmingly supported by the American public. A Gallup poll from August 2017 shows that the majority of Republicans and Democrats prefer private schools over public schools. In January, the American Federation For Children released it’s national school choice poll, showing nearly two-thirds of Americans support the idea of school choice.
But, there has been little movement on that front, and given the attention that the President and his administration seem to be paying to higher-profile issues like immigration and tariffs it’s easy to see why: School choice and education reform don’t make for attention-grabbing headlines.
Granted school choice isn’t the only education reform policy on the table, but it is one of the more widely-debated ones, and it’s one of the reforms that government can have a big, public hand in promoting or renouncing, making it incredibly political.
What kinds of reforms can we push that really only require local and state input or are teacher-centric? How about continuing the push for more access to STEM education? How do we accomplish that?
These are the conversations parents should want to see more of if they don’t want to already. One reason the child separation policy disturbed people so much is that it had a decidedly negative impact on children. The same goes for education.
You can make or break a child’s future by giving them or denying them access to the best possible education. Why don’t we focus more on giving them that education and that future?
As a conservative, as a parent, and as an educator, I hope we can start having these discussions. I hope that we can get our politicians to take part – not by playing political games but by actually discussing, debating, and voting on these issues. I hope we can get the Department of Education to be more proactive in seeking and implementing good reforms that benefit our students, not just one type of school over another.
It’s high time we did all of this and more. For our children’s sake.