School Choice Is Not Serving the Most Disenfranchised

Janine Jackson: There were near-countless causes for concern about the appointment of deep-pocketed Republican Betsy DeVos as secretary of Education. She’s given money to 17 of the senators voting on her. She’s never taught or had her children in public school. She seemed to know little about core educational issues, like the debate over measuring students’ proficiency versus their growth, or whether or not the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act is a federal law. In the end, her line about needing guns in schools for grizzly bears might be the least worrisome thing about her. Yet here we are.

It’s been said that the Education secretary has less day-to-day power than other agency heads. But what does the DeVos appointment represent in terms of this administration’s potential impact on children and schools, and how do we fight for a different vision? Kevin Kumashiro is the former dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco, and founder of Education Deans for Justice and Equity. He’s the author of the book Bad Teacher!: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture. He joins us now by phone from California. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Kevin Kumashiro.

Kevin Kumashiro: Janine, thanks so much for having me.

I think it’s fair to raise concern about DeVos’s lack of classroom experience, but I can imagine someone who has never taught who nevertheless understood what teachers do. As with other Trump appointments, it seems like it’s not a matter of DeVos not being the “best” person; the problem is she represents a position that’s opposed to the mission of the department. Is that fair to say, do you think?

I think that’s very fair to say. I mean, I think in so many instances, having outsider perspectives can be very helpful, so I agree it’s not about whether or not she herself has taught, although that would be very helpful if she had. It’s more about what is her vision for public education, and what is her track record that shows what she’s…

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