This #BackToSchool season may be different than any other, but we’re all in this together. To all the parents, students and educators rising to meet the challenge in new ways and places, you’ve got this! Let’s make it a great year! pic.twitter.com/1Qo9Cd2HW7— Secretary Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) September 8, 2020
So much to unpack.
First, who's this "we"? Because Betsy DeVos has made it clear that in her universe, the failed public "government" schools are not "in it" with her. She has not invited public school teachers, the unions, public school students--all the things that are part of what she derides as "the system"--to be on Team DeVos. Plus, note to Betsy--other parts of the country have been back to school for weeks.
And there's no question that the rest of us aren't in it together. The parents who can pay to send their kids to pod school at a literal country club are not "in it" with the families who have to send students to get on the internet in a Taco Bell parking lot. The parents who can afford to have someone stay home with the kids are not "in it" with the parents who have to scramble for child care or do without critical income. And as local school leaders look for guidance from the state or federal level, they mostly find that they are "in it" alone.
And man does it ring hollow to hear a weak attaboy of "you've got this" from a woman who mostly talks about how the people working in public schools don't got this, how they're all just doing a crappy job in a dead end system. Was she not just weeks ago threatening funding for public schools so that she could force those shiftless do-nothings to get in there and get to work? Has she not been trying to sell the idea (unsuccessfully) that private schools should get a bigger piece of the CARES relief pie than public school students?
So even if we get only this far, I think that's enough to merit a "Bite Me, Betsy" t-shirt.
But let's push on, because there's one more level to this.
The DeVos dream of a fully privatized, all voucher school system (well, maybe with a few public schools for the children of Those People) is that a voucher system is all about NOT being "in it" together.
A voucher system is about giving everyone a chunk of money and sending them scattering in all directions. It's about getting the government off the backs of these noble edu-preneurs so that they can do things their own way, even if that way involves discriminatory malpractice. In the Education Freedom tax credit scholarship version of vouchers that DeVos is still pushing for, it's about fixing things so that you (well, if you're wealthy enough) no longer have to pay taxes to finance an education for Those People's Children.
Vouchers are about turning education into a commodity, with each family navigating the market as best they can. It's about dumping families into a world where they may not be able to "buy" the "product" they want, where the school they pick may simply walk away from them.
Most of all, vouchers are another way to say to families, "We cut you a check. Now you're on your own. Not our problem. Good luck and have a nice life."
In short, the DeVos dream education set-up is the very opposite of being in it together. Somebody please tell whatever intern whipped up this thing that it is spectacularly tone deaf.