Mar 30, 2017
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has once again illustrated her limited understanding of--and respect for--public education, with another gaffe that's drawing criticism from many corners.
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:
\u201cAs evidenced by this incredibly tone deaf & shocking quote, comparing \u201cchoice\u201d schools to Uber: https://t.co/6656TaMke6\u201d— Randi Weingarten \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8\ud83d\udcaa\ud83c\udfff\ud83d\udc69\u200d\ud83c\udf93 (@Randi Weingarten \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8\ud83d\udcaa\ud83c\udfff\ud83d\udc69\u200d\ud83c\udf93) 1490816791
\u201cThat taxi/Uber/Lyft analogy Betsy DeVos used for school choice is actually kind of great, because 2 options are unsustainable and anti union\u201d— Louisa \ud83c\udf08\ud83d\udc6d (@Louisa \ud83c\udf08\ud83d\udc6d) 1490883419
\u201c\ud83d\udc4f\ud83d\udc4f\ud83d\udc4f for DeVos accidentally drawing an analogy between scandal-ridden Uber and scandal-ridden private charter schools. https://t.co/jZcKqzFZou\u201d— Asher Huey (@Asher Huey) 1490798140
\u201cUber, but for getting a new Secretary of Education who actually understands education.\u201d— Brett "Solidarity 2022" Banditelli (@Brett "Solidarity 2022" Banditelli) 1490882876
We're optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.
We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter counts.
Your contribution supports this new media model—free, independent, and dedicated to uncovering the truth. Stand with us in the fight for social justice, human rights, and equality. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!
Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.