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Privatization efforts threaten schools nationwide

Devos nomination afflicts public education.   |   wikipedia.org

 

The appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education has left teachers and politicians across the country enraged. Devos, a billionaire Republican, has donated millions to the GOP as well as to various charter and private Christian schools in Michigan. Her nomination for secretary of education was seen as strange since she has not worked in public schools or held any sort of office. The vote to elect her in was split 50-50 and Vice President Mike Pence had to cast the tie breaking vote—this is the first this has happened since 1979.

separation of church and state must remain

Devos has always been very open about her Christian faith and her wish to bring the Christian faith to schools. Her appointment offers an opportunity for Christians in spreading the word of the Lord. Yet at the same time the separation of church and state must remain. Devos and President Donald Trump are both proponents of the voucher program and school choice. While there are positives to this option, it does very much deplete public schools’ funding.

“Do not dismantle the public school system,” said Dennis Eastman, director of education at Biola. “That’s not the way to do it.” He added, “she should be committed to bolstering public education.”

The main fear teachers have concerning Devos is her eagerness to put government funds toward the voucher program. According to a report by NBC4, “parents, union officials and teachers” raised massive protests against Devos and she was even blocked from entering a public school. In his belief that Devos should not dismantle the public school system, Eastman also believes teachers need to be building connections with Devos' office. With teachers’ unions in an uproar fighting over limited resources and their own salaries they can so easily forget about the students. Eastman tells his students and colleagues, “Friends, you are change agents, second only to their parents, you are the primary agent of change in their lives.” It is so critical that our teachers’ voices are heard and needs met, but when the student is totally forgotten and ignored, unions have overstepped their boundaries.

The public school is not our evangelical revival tent

The highly contested voucher program is meant to provide government funds to impoverished people who can not afford private education. In doing so it sends children to private and charter schools. Wisconsin has been using the voucher program since 1990. To date it has around 33,000 students in 212 schools and has spent around $3 billion in vouchers since it started. A vast majority of these schools are religious. If the Trump administration does take $20 billion of taxpayer money and put it towards this voucher program, it will be highly contested.

As a Christian, Secretary Devos has now an even larger platform to share her beliefs and live out her Christian faith. Her faith is one of the factors many teachers and politicians believe she is not qualified for the position as secretary of education and to improving public schools.

“You can’t have an altar call to the blackboard,” Eastman said. “The public school is not our evangelical revival tent, though we can do a lot of good.” Christians can take encouragement from having another believer in public office but need to understand that everyone has the right to their own religious preference and hiding the push to put children in Christian schools beneath the right to choice is not acceptable.

Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. Jennifer

    Lucas, I found your review to be very succinct and kind to both sides. Thank you for writing this piece. I do have one important aspect I would like to share my thoughts on. I received my Bachelors and CA Teaching Credential from Biola and am currently in the MAEd program. I teach in a public school, and I am deeply grateful to my union. My school does not have funds for our supplies. It is March and we are out of pens, construction paper, markers, and crayons. I taught without a math curriculum for 2 years. Last year I became a blend midyear, and this year I have consistently been 5 students above the goal maximum number of students in a primary class. In every instance, my union has fought long and hard for our students. Unions do fight for fair teacher salaries, and I think for good reason. But walking in to a new contract bargaining year, my union is fighting for smaller class sizes for greater equity in our classrooms, safety for students and staff, and quality curriculum in all content areas and all ages. No union is perfect, but I believe many teachers unions, like my own, fight long and hard for the best interests of our students, which also covers teachers who can pay their bills.
    Thank you. March 6, 2017

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