Betsy DeVos’ Top Priority For Public Education Includes Private School Vouchers

Despite a multitude of recent studies and investigations that show private school voucher schemes are not in the best interest of America’s schoolchildren, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has listed vouchers as one of her department’s top priorities.

The Department of Education recently release a proposed strategic plan that prioritizes what programs the department will fund through discretionary grants. The number one priority? “Educational choice,” which includes private school vouchers. That’s right – the top priority isn’t supporting public schools, it’s finding ways to send money to private schools.

Public dollars should fund public schools, which educate 90 percent of American children. Taxpayers can’t afford to fund two education systems – one public and one private.

Americans United this week submitted comments to the Department of Education to oppose DeVos’ top priority: “We oppose private school vouchers because they divert public dollars to fund predominately religious schools, fail to provide students with better educational outcomes, deny students civil rights and constitutional protections, and lack accountability to taxpayers.”

Americans United also joined 50 organizations in submitting comments through the National Coalition for Public Education, which AU co-chairs. Those comments explained: “The Department should not reward states for adopting voucher programs that fail students, parents, and the taxpayers.” The comments concluded: “The government would better serve our children by using funds to make our public schools stronger.”

Betsy DeVos is prioritizing private schools over public schools.

Lawmakers who support public education also have objected to DeVos’ plan.

“The US Department of Education’s top priority should be to support state and local education leaders in providing a quality public education, from pre-K through college, for all students – regardless of where they live, how much money their parents make, or how they learn,” said U.S. Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.), who serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “Despite the lack of evidence proving the effectiveness of vouchers, the Secretary is proposing to divert taxpayer dollars to private schools and for-profit interests through the use of supplemental priorities. This is not aligned with the will of Congress nor taxpayers.”

And from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee: “Since her confirmation hearing, I have voiced concern that Secretary DeVos would abuse her position to prioritize privatization, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing. Instead of listening to the millions of students, parents, and teachers who stood up against her extreme ideological agenda, her proposal will allow her to prioritize applicants that would siphon taxpayer funds away from the public schools that serve the vast majority of students.”

Americans United and our allies will continue to fight against efforts by DeVos and Congress to divert desperately need funding from public schools and funnel that money to private, mostly religious schools that lack accountability, don’t protect students’ civil rights and don’t improve academic performance. You help by contacting your representatives in Congress and letting them know you support public schools.