During a speech at the nonprofit Brookings Institution on Wednesday, DeVos likened choosing a school to choosing a for-profit "ride-sharing service" like Uber or Lyft.
The problem is, wrote education historian and public schools advocate Diane Ravitch on Thursday: "Picking your mode [of] transportation is a consumer good that you pay for; public education is both a public good and a right."
DeVos' statement, Ravitch said, shows that "[s]he is clueless about the role of public education in a community and in a democracy."
Likewise, Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and moderator of the event, critiqued the analogy for Business Insider:
According to Whitehurst, comparing school choice to using Uber over a taxi ignores the fact that one is a private good, while the other is a public good.
If yellow taxis go out of business, it's likely because Uber has found better ways to cater to people's desires for getting around. But if charter and private schools draw enough kids out of public schools to shutter them, those lingering public school students can't automatically enroll in a competing style of education.
In other words, in a market where public schools are at the mercy of local property taxes to maintain funding, unregulated competition can leave the poorest families with no choices at all. As a result, public schools would end up serving primarily low-income—and, therefore, generally low-performing—students.
Furthermore, Whitehurst told Business Insider reporter Chris Weller, "If you pick a bad restaurant, you know it's a bad restaurant pretty immediately. If you pick a bad school, you're probably not in a position to know that until your child is failing at the next step."
Others let the criticism (and jokes) fly online:
As evidenced by this incredibly tone deaf & shocking quote, comparing “choice” schools to Uber: https://t.co/6656TaMke6
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) March 29, 2017
That taxi/Uber/Lyft analogy Betsy DeVos used for school choice is actually kind of great, because 2 options are unsustainable and anti union
— Louisa (@LouisatheLast) March 30, 2017
— Robert Pondiscio (@rpondiscio) March 29, 2017
for DeVos accidentally drawing an analogy between scandal-ridden Uber and scandal-ridden private charter schools. https://t.co/jZcKqzFZou
— Asher Huey (@asherhuey) March 29, 2017
Uber, but for getting a new Secretary of Education who actually understands education.
— Brett Banditelli (@banditelli) March 30, 2017
What you say when you have *no* education background, no family in public schools, and frankly aren't very bright. https://t.co/AdPz7DB9cP
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) March 30, 2017