Betsy DeVos, the Holland Michigan billionaire, doesn’t have to work. In fact, Betsy could sit in her lake home watching the Ellen Show instead of taking on the public school system. One New York Times article calls Betsy a fighter, but that moniker only describes a small portion of her tenacious personality. DeVos is living a dream. It’s a dream she had years ago. That dream is to give poor kids a chance to go to better schools.
For the last 30 years, Betsy and husband Dick, have donated millions of dollars to the charter school system in Michigan to make her dream a reality. Now that she is the education secretary she wants to give poor kids across the country the same type of education the kids in Michigan are getting thanks to the charter school system she helped create in her home state.
But changing the public school system is a big deal to a lot of parents. People call DeVos a bully, and some people say the only thing she is good at is being rich. The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, claims 80 percent of the charter schools in Michigan are failing. Weingarten believes Betsy is making things worse in the public schools and he does have a point. Betsy has cut funding for public schools. But Betsy stands by her claim that the kids in charter schools in her state are doing much better in terms of test schools than the kids in traditional public schools.
According to a Stanford Study, charter school kids learn more during the school year. And Betsy knows that’s true. DeVos claims public schools treat kids like widgets because the industrial model is outdated and there’s no innovation. Charter school students are in an innovative environment where the schools are open during the summer and school hours aren’t typical school hours.
Trying to change a system that doesn’t function correctly isn’t easy, according to DeVos supporters. Most parents believe the school system is fine the way it is. But American kids test scores are not keeping up with the test scores in other developed countries, and that is unacceptable, according to DeVos and people like Donald Trump.
The critics say students are not for sale. The charter school system is a profit generator, and that doesn’t sit well with the folks who believe schools are off limits when it comes to being a vehicle that makes rich people richer. Protesters give DeVos a white supremacist name tag, and they try to throw her under the education bus every chance they get. Betsy’s recent interviews haven’t helped her shake all the negativity that surrounds her dream and her mission. The 60 Minutes interview was a train wreck, and her recent visit to schools in Florida and Oklahoma didn’t go as planned. But DeVos isn’t giving up, and Trump doesn’t have her on his “you’re fired” hit list, so she continues to push her voucher system, and her dream to change the public school system.
Trying to change the entire public school system is an uphill battle. DeVos supporters say she won’t stop until she accomplishes her mission. But being in the Trump administration isn’t a long-term career. She may start the process of change, but it may take years to get a national charter school program up and running so all kids get a decent education.
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