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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday. (Photo: AP)

With Schools-as-Uber Analogy, Betsy DeVos Exposes Ignorance—Again

"Picking your mode [of] transportation is a consumer good that you pay for; public education is both a public good and a right."

Deirdre Fulton

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.

Watch below:

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:


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