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Betsy DeVos sends an additional $85 million of public money to private schools in the nation’s capital

July 26, 2020

There has been a fair amount of pushback from educators and parents across the country, with the increase of funds being allocated from the Department of Education. At the behest of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, millions of taxpayer money has been allocated to private schools.

Several states, including Michigan, have filed lawsuits against the Department of Education for using public money for private education.  The NAACP also announced recently that they too would be filing a lawsuit against the Secretary of Education, citing this reason

“In a moment of crisis — when public school districts are called upon to educate their students in unprecedented circumstances, to protect their students and staff from disease, and to feed families who have been plunged into poverty, all with decimated state and local revenues — it is unconscionable for Defendants to siphon away the CARES Act’s desperately needed funds for the benefit of more affluent private-school students.”

At about the exact same time that the NAACP had filed their lawsuit, it was announced by the Secretary of Education, that an additional $85 million in public money would be going to private schools in Washington, DC. This announcement came on July 22nd, with the headline, Trump Administration Announces $85 Million to Support Disadvantaged Students in Nation’s Capital Attending K-12 Private Schools of Their Choice

What is even more interesting is that Betsy DeVos’s office announced that the $85 million would not be going directly to private schools, but would be managed by an organization called Serving Our Children. This particular, where the federal government provides public money to private schools in DC, began in 2004 from legislation that was crafted by the Heritage Foundation, plus it was the first time that federal funds were allocated to private schools.

Just two years before this program was instituted in Washington, DC, the husband of Betsy DeVos, Dick DeVos, gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation. In that speech DeVos lays out a strategy for attacking and undermining public education. Here is a video clip of that speech:

This program in DC is called the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), but it is essentially a school voucher program, where public money goes to private schools, which is exactly what Dick and Betsy DeVos had been attempting to implement in Michigan, with an unsuccessful ballot initiative in 2000. 

There have been numerous entities that have evaluated the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and most of those evaluations are not favorable. According to an article at the Center for American Progress: 

In the spring of 2017, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the independent research arm of the Education Department, published a study that found that D.C. students who used a voucher scored 0.12 standard deviations lower in math than students who were not offered a voucher and remained in a public school.35 The evaluation assessed the outcomes of students from the 2012, 2013, and 2014 lotteries. This 0.12 score drop is the equivalent of an average student in the 50th percentile dropping to the 45th percentile after participating in the D.C. voucher program for one year.36 According to the IES study, participating in the D.C. voucher program had no statistically significant effect on reading achievement.37

It is deeply troubling that the Trump administration, through the efforts of Betsy DeVos, have been pushing for an increase in public funding for private education. Many of these private schools are also faith-based, which calls into question the so-called separation between Church & State. What is equally problematic about this trend is that there is not enough opposition from teacher unions or other groups, which should be making this fight for public education a priority.

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