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Betsy DeVos Unveils Federal School Choice Legislation

Photo by Gage Skidmore

On Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos unveiled the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act.

If passed, the legislation will provide up to $5 billion per year in dollar-for-dollar tax credits to businesses or individuals who donate to groups providing scholarships. According to DeVos, those scholarships “could help students access a whole menu of opportunities” they wouldn’t have otherwise.

DeVos was quick to address any who might say that the legislation is an assault on public education. “You’ll hear that our proposal is an attack on public education,” she predicted, “but be warned. That’s fake news.”

Under the legislation, states would have the choice of whether or not to participate in the program, and DeVos was quick to point out that this is not a mandate. However, she also predicted that “as more and more states” choose to participate, surrounding states would be pressured to do the same.

“Education shouldn’t be an old-school, one-size fits all approach,” DeVos said.  “What’s missing in education today is what makes America great – freedom.”

“Freedom is never a threat,” she said. “The only folks who are threatened are the same ones who have a vested financial interest” in keeping things the way they are.

This move comes as no surprise, especially to those who live in New Orleans. Many have wondered if the city’s own all-charter school system was a sort of test-run for taking this type of school choice program national.

Although DeVos argues that “if it’s public dollars, it’s public education,” that’s not completely accurate. Charter schools are publicly funded, but they are privately owned and operated and are often less transparent than traditional public school systems. In many cases, they are run by for-profit companies or networks.

The same can be said of private and religious schools (who can legally discriminate against LGBTQ+ and other students).

It’s worth noting that DeVos’ husband is Amway heir Richard DeVos, a man who has spent decades working to expand the charter school system.

Big Easy Magazine is currently working on an in-depth report exploring the various issues with New Orleans all-charter school system, and we are expected to publish that in the near future.

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