What public education advocates want to see in Biden’s pick to succeed Betsy DeVos
By Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris
Betsy DeVos just got her pink slip. Throughout her four-year tenure, she did everything she could to undermine public education. Instead, she promoted the idea that schooling should be a competitive free-for-all in which parents shop for schools with tax dollars and then hope it all works out. Now it is time to end that war against public schools as she walks out the door. It is time to chart a course away from the failed reforms that began with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB), accelerated with Barack Obama’s Race to the Top and brought us to the place we are today.
Although education has not been a major focus of this campaign, President-elect Joe Biden, unlike Obama, talked less about “reform” and more about increased support and funding for public schools — an acknowledgment of the critical role that money plays in achieving successful school outcomes. This is a turn from the Race to the Top era during which it was believed, without evidence, that “three great teachers in a row” and the forces of the marketplace could solve all of the problems that American students face.
We are optimistic about the Biden administration. At the same time, we know there is often a slip between the cup and the lip, and while a candidate can say all the right things during a campaign, personnel is policy. It is too soon to know in which direction policy will go. For example, Biden has promised that his new secretary of education would have teaching experience. That is good news. But who that teacher is can make a world of difference.