Betsy DeVos slams Den­ver schools

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Sarah Darville

U. S. Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos this month praised Den­ver’s ef­forts to sup­port school choice. That opin­ion­changedWed­nes­day.

Speak­ing at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, she called out Den­ver as an ex­am­ple of a dis­trict that ap­pears to be choice- friendly but ac­tu­ally lacks suf­fi­cient op­tions for fam­i­lies.

A new Brook­ings re­port gave the city the top score for school choice, cit­ing the uni­fied ap­pli­ca­tion process that al­lows fam­i­lies to con­sider char­ter and dis­tric­trun schools at the same time. But DeVos im­plied that with­out vouch­ers to pay for pri­vate schools ( some­thingColorado’s state Supreme Court has twice ruled un­con­sti­tu­tional) and a suf­fi­cient sup­ply of char­ter schools, Den­ver’s ap­pli­ca­tion process amounts to an op­ti­cal il­lu­sion.

“The ben­e­fits of mak­ing choices ac­ces­si­ble are can­celed out when you don’t have a full menu of op­tions,” she said, point­ing to New Or­leans as a bet­ter ex­am­ple of the choice sys­tem she’d like to see. “Choice with­out ac­ces­si­bil­ity doesn’t mat­ter. Just like ac­ces­si­bil­ity with­out choices doesn’t mat­ter. Nei­ther sce­nario ul­ti­mately ben­e­fits stu­dents.”

The crit­i­cism comes just weeks af­ter DeVos pub­licly praised Den­ver’s ef­forts to solve a thorny chal­lenge com­pli­cat­ing school choice across the coun­try: trans­porta­tion. In a speech to the Coun­cil of Great City Schools, a group of lead­ers and school board mem­bers of Amer­ica’s large school dis­tricts, she praised the “Suc­cess Ex­press” that shut­tles stu­dents in a hand­ful of neigh­bor­hoods to both char­ter and dis­trict schools. But trans­porta­tion chal­lenges con­tinue to pre­vent fam­i­lies from tak­ing ad­van­tage of the op­tions that do ex­ist.

Den­ver Pub­lic Schools’ Su­per­in­ten­dent Tom Boas­berg re­sponded in a state­ment: “We re­spect­fully dis­agree with Sec­re­tary DeVos. We do not sup­port pri­vate school vouch­ers. We be­lieve that pub­lic dol­lars should be used for pub­lic schools that are open to all kids, whether they are dis­trict- run or char­ter. A core prin­ci­ple in Den­ver and one of the main rea­sons we rank No. 1 na­tion­ally in school choice is thatwe en­sure eq­ui­table sys­tems of en­roll­ment among dis­tric­trun and char­ter schools, where all schools play by the same en­roll­ment rules and all schools are sub­ject to the same rig­or­ous ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem. We do not sup­port choice with­out ac­count­abil­ity.”

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