When Betsy Devos became the new Secretary of Education a lot of teachers were worried. She was tasked to lead a department that deals mostly with public education. The problem with Devos is that she, herself, never attended a public school. Her children never attended a public school. She has never worked in a public school. Her entire life has been around private and charter schools. In other words, she became head of a department with no experience.
Shortly after her confirmation, Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie filed a bill to abolish the Department of Education. This really is not that surprising. Republicans think that all control of education should be at the local level, not at the national level.
Here’s the thing, though. While there are issues with education, completely doing away with the Department of Education will make those issues worse not better.
Different strokes for different folks education
When it comes to limiting all decisions of education to the local level several issues can pop up. One of the main issues is that educational standards become diluted. What one school district thinks should be the standard for it’s children to graduate another district will discount.
I have taught History at the high school level and Social Studies in one area where local control can cause issues. My first year of teaching I taught 11th grade U.S. History. Kids would move in from districts where U.S. History was being taught at a different grade. So I could have kids in 10th or 12th grade taking an 11th grade class.
Another fault in local control of education is that certain protections for children could be completely done away by local school boards. Protections can include LGBTQ, special needs, low income, etc. Without a higher level making sure that every school is running on the same protections, children fall behind.
What’s the best path forward for education?
First of all, the department needs someone who has experience working in the public system. Once that is accomplished we need to simplify and nationalize the standards across all subjects. The biggest benefit of doing this is that if a student moves from one school district to another they are not behind or ahead. Believe it or not, a student that is ahead of their other classmates can cause that student problems.
Something else that I would like to see that would definitely help out the school system is to get rid of this notion that every student is going to college after high school. Most school systems are set up so that every student is ready to go to college upon graduation. The obvious issue with this is that not all high school students are going to continue on to college.
Split up education
The easiest way to fix this system so that it is beneficial to all students is to offer students either college or skill training education. Schools do this to an extent already but they mix college and skill training education, which is not beneficial to those not going on to college.
Before high school, kids will determine what they want to do with their life after high school. Even those that do not know will have some idea; a hobby they like, a past time they like. If a student chooses a career that requires a college degree they go into that branch of high school. If a student chooses a career that mostly require a certificate (welding, auto repair, plumbing, etc) then they get that training in high school so that by the time they graduate they are ready to go into the work field.
Devos is not the answer we need for education
Betsy Devos is more concerned about charter and private (mostly religious) schools and that is what she will push as Secretary of Education. I have not met a single teacher (whether they were conservative or liberal) that liked the idea of Devos, yet Congress confirmed her anyway.
This is part of the reason we are seeing the anger this week as some Congresspeople have held town halls. People feel that no one is listening to them. The evidence is in the pudding. Our politicians are more concerned about irking Trump and their major donors than doing what is right for the people.
Make no mistake, education is under attack. The people in Washington are leading these attacks.