Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, calls for the reduction of public education, advocating charter and private schools as the way of the future. This raises the question: does transforming education in this way perpetuate inequality? Charter schools pave a path toward segregation built upon socioeconomic factors, diminished teacher qualifications, and a higher level of uncertainty for students regarding the value of their education. Meanwhile, private schools have been, and continue to be, predominantly reserved for upper-class elites, a system fueled by racial disparity that resists desegregation in the classroom, as Jennifer Berkshire reported for the Black Agenda Report in August 2017.
Charter schools and privatization direct funds away from public education, enhancing economic and racial disparities that deepen the opportunity gap among America’s youth. As Kalyn Belsha reported for New America Media, in the case of Chicago’s public schools, twenty predominantly low-income schools sit vacant in majority African-American neighborhoods, closed and eroding as charter schools take their place.
Regardless of these significant ramifications, DeVos hails privatization, especially in the state of Florida, as a “national model” that should be expanded, as Michelle R. Matisons reported in a September 2017 article for the Black Agenda Report. Florida grapples with the repercussions of supporting charter schools and is in the process of radically transforming its public education system. Children are not guaranteed charter schools in their districts, hindering the educational opportunities of many minority and low-income students who struggle to commute to districts that do have charter schools.
Corporate news coverage has addressed these issues in superficial ways, leaving many Americans ignorant to the consequences of school privatization. Corporate news reports have, by and large, left the public unaware of how DeVos’s agenda could potentially transform the face of American education. As Michelle R. Matisons concluded, “Nothing short of people’s dreams for their children’s futures are at stake here.”
Kalyn Belsha, “Closed Chicago Schools Could Remain Vacant Without Public Subsidy,” New America Media, July 26, 2017, https://www.newamericamedia.org/2017/07/closed-chicago-schools-could-remain-vacant-without.
Jennifer Berkshire, “Race and the Right’s War on ‘Government Schools,’” Black Agenda Report, August 30, 2017, https://www.blackagendareport.com/race-and-rights-war-government-schools.
Michelle R. Matisons, “Florida’s Privatizing Education Disaster,” Black Agenda Report, September 6, 2017, https://www.blackagendareport.com/floridas-privatizing-education-disaster.
Student Researchers: Amber Evens, Rachel Keating, Ashley McDermott, Justine O’Brien and Ashleigh O’Halloran (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)