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What Betsy DeVos’ Appointment means for the Future of Charter Schools

Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as Trump’s Education Secretary. Her appointment was the first time a Vice President has cast the deciding vote in a cabinet. What does Betsy DeVos’ appointment mean for the future of charter schools?

 

Why Teachers’ Unions Oppose Betsy DeVos

Teachers’ unions hate Ms. DeVos because she favors the needs of students over the demands of unions. She is in favor of more charter schools, public schools that loosen regulations and requirements of teachers and administrators. Charter schools, on average, deliver stronger academic results for less taxpayer money than the average public school, though there are controversies like the ties of the Harmony charter school system with the Turkish Gulen movement. About three million public school students currently attend charter schools, and that number is expected to grow in coming years.

Ms. DeVos is in favor of efforts to expand charter schools in states like New York where unions have opposed them, as well as alternatives to public schools like homeschooling and private schools.

What Will Happen to Charter Schools under Betsy DeVos

Ms. DeVos has already said she intends to see more public charter schools, since these offer a higher quality education to students without requiring parents to pay for tuition out of pocket. The competition charter schools bring also forces public schools to improve by loosening regulations, giving parents more choices in programs, and eliminating bad teachers who are otherwise protected by union seniority rules.

The first charter schools to expand will be those that already have a large network like the New York Success Academy, BASIS network in Arizona, Harmony Schools in Texas, and Franklin Academy in Georgia. It is likely that changes to the Department of Education will also lead to a spike in new charter school applications.

Alternative Educational Programs

Ms. DeVos has long been an advocate for homeschooling. Homeschooling regulations today are set by the state, but the amount of paperwork required ranges from simply informing the local public school district you will be homeschooling to filling out a mass of paperwork every quarter and submitting to state standardized tests every year. Ms. DeVos wants to make homeschooling easier in all states, and there has been some discussion of giving homeschooling parents vouchers for doing so.

Parents pay taxes for the local school system, but don’t use it. On this basis, she is in favor of giving parents vouchers to return part of their money when they choose to send their children to private schools, whether secular or religious.

Ms. DeVos has said she wants to see more virtual schools, both private virtual schools like Liberty Online Academy and public ones like Texas Connections Academy. Expect to see greater acceptance of educators and administrators who earned an online MELCD degree, a master of education in learning, cognition and development.

Why Private Schools Will Not Disappear

Private schools will face competition from the growth of charter schools but they will not disappear. For example, charter schools cannot be overtly religious so many families will continue to send their children to religious private schools that reinforce their values.

Final Words

Ms. DeVos is opposed by teachers’ unions focused on maintaining their power, regardless of parents’ demands and what is best for students. Ms. DeVos has already stated she intends to support regulatory changes that will expand the number of charter schools. If her other proposals go through, expect to see enrollment in private schools increase and homeschooling to accelerate its already high 6-7% annual growth.

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