Outgoing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is urging congressional leaders to focus on funding students rather than the “system,” warning against the ideas promoted by Joe Biden’s appointees of “free” college and the cancellation of student loan debt.
“I hope you … reject misguided calls to make college ‘free’ and require the two thirds of Americans who didn’t take on student debt or who responsibly paid off their student loans to pay for the loans of those who have not done the same,” she wrote in a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Across-the-board forgiveness of college debts is not only unfair to most Americans, it is also the most regressive of policy proposals – rewarding the wealthiest sector of our labor force at the expense of the poorest.”
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported DeVos emphasized that acknowledging that the nation’s K-12 system is underperforming is long overdue.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed much about education in America,” she wrote. “Sadly, too much of it is not encouraging. The education ‘system’ is not terribly resilient or nimble. It does not handle change well. It is prone to saying ‘no’ instead of finding the will to get to ‘yes.’ But most importantly, it is built around those who run it, not those whom it serves: America’s students.”
She called for Congress to put students first by providing “for” students.
“Congress does much to fund school buildings, school programs, and school-related activities. The discussion is about what schools need. The lobbyists and special interest groups all represent adults with jobs in our school system – from superintendents to teachers to ancillary staff – and they all focus on strengthening and funding the ‘system.’ The entire apparatus is designed to support a ‘system’ that provides schools to students,” she said.
But the funding should be for education, “that is, learning – not a Department of Education.”
Some programs, such as Pell grants, already have the right focus, she said.
But the “underperforming K-12 system” has serious deficits, she charged.
“Funding focused on students instead of systems would be a seismic change, but it is clear seismic change is required to achieve better outcomes.”
Simply throwing money at the issues won’t work, she warned.
“Total real spending on K-12 education has nearly tripled on a per pupil basis since 1960. Yet, the Nation’s Report Card and every other reliable measure of student performance show that the increased burden on taxpayers has not translated to improved student achievement.”
She recommended more work such as the Every Student Succeeds Act, which puts local communities in charge of education. And she mentioned the Education Freedom Scholarships, which would let students choose the educational setting that works best and maintain accountability and transparency.
“Ensure families and the American taxpayer know how students are performing academically and how money is being allocated. Hold schools accountable when they are not helping students learn and grow,” she wrote.
Also, she said, members of Congress should maintain due process for allegations of sexual misconduct on campuses.
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