Betsy DeVos Compares School Choice to Uber, Lyft and Taxis

DeVos doubled down on school choice in a Brookings Institution speech.

Photo credit:Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

| March 30 2017,

9:55 pm

Betsy DeVos gave another speech. And the future of public schools was left looking a little less bright.

The occasion was the unveiling of the Brookings Institution’s Education Choice and Competition Index, which investigates and ranks school choice in the country’s 100 largest school systems. 

In her speech, she dragged Obama’s secretary of education, accusing him of “throwing money at the problem,” with a straight face, somehow missing the irony of her statement, perhaps momentarily forgetting that she and her family have poured millions of dollars into establishing Michigan’s charter schools, schools that U.S. News & World Report noted rank in the bottom of the state.

She also came after Denver’s public school system, a system Brookings’ study ranked the nation’s best. DeVos said that while being the best school system in the nation is all well and good, Denver should not be used as a model because of the “limited choices” the system provides parents.

The Washington Post reports that Denver’s public schools weren’t pleased to hear DeVos’ words, and were quick to issue a rebuttal, arguing that they were on top in part because in their system, “all schools play by the same enrollment rules and all schools are subject to the same rigorous accountability system,” before adding, “We do not support choice without accountability.”

Accountability, DeVos suggested, is the issue. Rather than operate like school systems, the secretary said that public education needs to be more like ride sharing.

“Oh, it needs to be more white and male?” you might wonder.

She might think that, but what she said is, “Just as the traditional taxi system revolted against ridesharing, so too does the education establishment feel threatened by the rise of school choice … nobody mandates that you take an Uber over a taxi, nor should they. But if you think ridesharing is the best option for you, the government shouldn’t get in your way.”

The bottom line, DeVos said, “is that in practice, people like having more options.”

Because, in practice, people like having good public education, the author of this year’s Brookings report asked DeVos after her speech what data she thought should be used in assessing school success.

“I’m not a numbers person,” DeVos answered.

Seeing as a number of children are counting on her to be, maybe she can stop by one of her charter schools for a refresher lesson.