Betsy DeVos to charter schools: Don’t ‘become the man’

Charter schools are not the “one cure-all to the ills that beset education.” They shouldn’t “become the man” or allow the movement to stifle itself with a new bureaucracy. Instead, they should focus on meeting the needs of each individual child.

That was the message U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos brought to thousands of charter school advocates gathered in the nation’s capital.

It was a closely watched speech at what’s been described as a pivotal political moment for the charter school movement. Some of its leaders have taken vocal stands against the Trump Administration and its proposed cuts to federal public education programs.

DeVos acknowledged the criticisms. But she said a grant program for districts that embrace weighted student funding and public school open enrollment, coupled with a proposed increase for the federal Charter Schools Program, would represent the single-largest investment in public school choice in the nation’s history.

“This administration has sent a clear message: We trust parents, and we believe in students,” she said. “We will fight for every parent and every child.”

In a reference to recent writing by Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, DeVos admonished charter schools not to “become the man.” The movement must not create stifling bureaucracies (embodied by the idea of a 500-page charter school applications). The line won some applause.

Charter schools do not have a monopoly on serving children well, DeVos said — a push, perhaps, for some of the voucher skeptics in the room.

The movement’s goal should be to ensure each individual child, regardless of his or her needs, can thrive, she said. A system that denies parents the right to find the right environment for their children “denies them a basic human right.”

Her full prepared remarks can be read here.

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