There’s going to be a temptation to want to publicly mock those on the left who have responded to the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education by suggesting they could pull their kids out of the public school system as a form of boycott.
There have been some social media responses to that effect, and of course media outlets are jumping on them, aware of the sort of hypocrisy baked in. To respond to DeVos’ support for school choice by engaging in school choice seems a bit hilarious to those on the other side. DeVos is even an avid supporter of home schooling! NBC notes a quote from DeVos:
“We’ve seen more and more people opt for homeschooling, including in urban areas. What you’re seeing is parents who are fed up with their lack of power to do anything about where their kids are assigned to go to school. To the extent that homeschooling puts parents back in charge of their kids’ education, more power to them.”
DeVos’ emphasis on school choice is a natural fit for the homeschool movement, whose members span the political spectrum but are largely conservative Christians who resist government oversight. That group has helped fuel remarkable growth in recent years, carrying the movement from the fringe and closer to the mainstream.
An an estimated 1.8 billion in 2012 children were homeschooled in 2012, up from 850,000 three years earlier, according to an Education Department survey published last June.
The story does note at the end that it wasn’t Christian conservatives who started the homeschool movement in the United States but folks who thought the tightly regimented and bureaucratic system wasn’t helpful for kids’ learning. If people on the left respond by pulling out of the public schools and homeschooling instead, they’re returning the program to its roots.
Resist the desire to mock these people. This is what school choice supporters have been arguing for all along. Parents shouldn’t have to submit to whatever DeVos thinks counts as the proper education for their children. The public education establishment has attempted to paint the school choice movement as a mechanism for conservatives (particularly religious conservatives and wealthy conservatives) to escape participation in public schools. While an initial response could be “So? Their kids aren’t your property,” it’s also very important to point out it’s not true. It’s not the DeVoses of the world struggling as hard as they can to get their kids out of public schools and into charters. The DeVoses of the world can just write a check and educate their kids wherever they want.
It’s those randoms on Twitter who are intended to be the beneficiaries of charter programs and homeschooling. School choice options are wildly popular with parents, something mostly ignored by DeVos’ opponents, given that they were more interested in carrying water for education unions. It’s akin to the local politicians who protect the taxi cartels from ride-sharing services at the expense of the actual customers, who end up having fewer choices, paying more, and getting treated poorly as a result.
In the event that DeVos attempts to push through a particular ideology within the education system (I doubt this will happen, but you never know), parents should feel free to use the mechanism DeVos herself supports and reject her and seek education elsewhere. There’s no valid reason for the Department of Education to exist other than to advance and expand bureaucratic rule of over our lives.
Meanwhile, some union protester in Washington, D.C., physically blocked DeVos from entering a public school today, an act so stupid that even the president of the American Federation of Teachers rejected it. That behavior certainly is not going to make public schools any better.