We cannot be a “shining city on the hill” without public education.

It’s always a challenge to generalize about a whole group of people: Barack Obama is a Christian. So is David Duke. Christianity can be all over the place, but let me say this right off the bat: I know several Christians and the ones I know are pretty good people.

Betsy DeVos, minority President-elect Trump’s choice for Education Secretary, is a Christian. She doesn’t appear to be an in-your-face proselytizer, nor does she seem to have much patience for those with whom she does not see eye to eye. If she had been a classroom teacher, she’d have learned how to adjust for differences, but DeVos (she has been referred to as a daughter of privilege) has no direct experience with public education as a student, employee, parent, school board member, or coat-room monitor; on the other hand, much of the $1.2 billion dollars worth of “philanthropic” donations she and her family have made over the years has gone to organizations that oppose gay marriage and support school vouchers. She dreams of little more than a country devoid of secular education, a country where all children—Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, et al. can get that good solid Christian education regardless of race, color, or creed. [Insert Trump-rally applause here👏.] For DeVos, school vouchers are Trump-speak for Christian schools, but in order for her dream to come true, the public school system will have to be gutted—something Trump seems willing to initiate, having already earmarked $20 billion for the school voucher plan he paraded out earlier this fall.

To be honest, school choice and charter schools have worked in some cities—Boston, New York—but only because their creation and management have been closely monitored and restrictions have been enforced. In Michigan, though, the systems in Detroit and Grand Rapids are a mess. A federal study found that student achievement in those areas was shockingly low, mainly because charter schools had been thrown together with little regard for anything other than profit. And when lawmakers proposed a bill that would have established standards for identifying and closing failing schools, both charter and public, it was defeated by a group backed by the same Betsy DeVos.

DeVos’s opposition to public education is well documented, and what is likely to happen if she gets her way is that the individual state will bear more of the cost of funding its schools. States in financial difficulty—like Connecticut—will be hard pressed to do that. Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, etc., already suffering from inadequate funding and a growing disparity in educational opportunities, will have little choice but to look the other way as the current system of haves and have-nots worsens. It would take an irresponsible dimwit to risk that one societal concept that has a stated, though not always successful, goal of equality: public education. We did, of course, elect one such dimwit, who in turn has stumbled upon the right person to effect his plans: Betsy DeVos.

To rape public schools and privatize education is to condemn America to generations of worsening and suffocating income inequality as the educated masses tyrannize the proletariat, but of course that’s a group DeVos with her billions knows little about—and cares even less.

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Chuck Radda

I'm a former high school English teacher, currently a literacy volunteer and novelist. I invite your responses right here or to chuckradda@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook and on Twitter—where I tweet annually at @chuckrad45.

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