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Betsy DeVos compares School Choice to Uber or Lyft

March 31, 2017

Now that Betsy DeVos has bought a seat in the new administration, we thought it might be a good time to begin doing a regular column entitled, Betsy DeVos Watch. These columns will be an opportunity to provide regular analysis of the statements and policies put forth by the Secretary of Education.

On Wednesday, Betsy DeVos delivered a speech at the Brookings Institute. DeVos continued to promote her commitment to the so-called “School of Choice” policy, which is essentially a policy that undermines public education.

It makes complete sense that DeVos would speak at the Brookings Institute on this topic, especially since the organization publishes an annual Education Choice and Competition Index (ECCI). “The intent of the ECCI is to create public awareness of the differences among districts in their support of school choice, provide a framework for efforts to examine the impact of choice and competition, and document changes over time in the policies and practices of school choice.”  

There is one major point we want to emphasize from DeVos’ comments delivered at the Brookings Institute. DeVos made the comparison between school choice and transportation. Betsy stated, “Nobody mandates that you take an Uber over a taxi, nor should they. But if you think ridesharing is the best option for you, the government shouldn’t get in your way.”

This comparison is instructive in many ways. The comparison by DeVos essentially seeks to frame education through a market lens, which is no surprise considering that this lens, along with a religious lens, are how she sees the world. As someone who comes from the capitalist class and then married into an even more staunch proponent of the capitalist class, Betsy DeVos whole heartedly believes that the neoliberal market should dictate what we do.

Seeing the world through a market lens is problematic in so many ways. DeVos sees transportation options as choices, but that is because she ignores the history and context of how transportation options have been imposed on us. The very fact that most of us are limited to car transportation is due to the history of the influence of the automobile industry, as is well documented in the documentary film, Taken for a Ride. However, if our transportation system in the US had been designed with the public interest and ecological concerns in mind, we would have a very efficient mass transit system that would benefit everyone. Therefore, the so-called choice model for either transportation or schools is really an illusion. The education system has been determined by those in power who have never had the interest of the masses in mind.

Lastly, it should be stated that Betsy DeVos’ comparison between transportation of choice and school choice is also disingenuous, especially when one realizes that she comes from a family that has used private chauffeurs, owns a $40 million yacht, has had helicopter pads at their homes and utilizes their own private airplanes for their transportation “needs.” 

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