I WAS RECENTLY reminded that the one-eyed man is king in the land of the blind while reading Will Bunch's column on the "disastrous" nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of Education ("Trump's new ed chief is a disaster for Philly"). To believe Bunch, DeVos represents an implicit threat to public education in Philadelphia. Everyone can see that Philadelphia's public schools are in a perpetual state of crisis and fail to meet the most basic educational needs of the city's young people. And, unfortunately, they were in this state before charter schools, and even when they had historic funding under Gov. Rendell.
While lambasting DeVos and her support of charter schools across the country, Bunch failed to address the immediate well-being of Philadelphia's students, teachers and parents who have long suffered in a broken education system. Instead, he reverted to the same special-interest hyperbole that has plagued Philadelphia for far too long. Rather than focus on the "education wars," let us actually work together to bring a quality education to children throughout the city.
Philadelphia schools have long suffered from racial and economic segregation that persists to this day. Studies abound that detail the plight of minority and low-income students who failed to achieve their full potential because education in Philadelphia is inherently separate and unequal.
Parents, desperate to provide a better life for their children, have sought other educational opportunities for at least a generation. They lost trust in a system that was clearly broken. Those who could afford it uprooted their families and sought refuge in the suburbs.
Those not so fortunate remain trapped in a system with few appealing alternatives. They lie about their address, risking prosecution to send their child to a school they believe in. They work multiple jobs and still struggle to pay tuition. And, yes, many have sought out charter schools. They do these things to rise above the artificial boundaries created by the Philadelphia School District with the hope that their child will flourish in a supportive educational environment.
Many dedicated public servants and private citizens are working to improve education in Philadelphia. I applaud their efforts. Yet I am continually frustrated by those who simply ignore the longstanding and systemic issues facing public education. They claim, instead, that "school reform" advocates are destroying education and seldom reach beyond their partisan entrenchments.
As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Philadelphia's graduation rates lag far behind national rates. The dropout rate persists. The edifice crumbled long ago. I represent thousands of children and parents who deserve substantive and immediate solutions to the educational challenges they face. They've waited long enough.
State Sen. Anthony H. Williams
Many thanks to Lisa Haver for her lucid and well-researched commentary on the risks to public education by the recent nomination by President-elect Donald Trump of Betsy DeVos to be his secretary of Education ("Public education could face major threats in a Trump presidency").
As Haver wrote, what Trump and DeVos have in common is their obscene devotion to corporate profit. To them, education is a commodity to be exploited for personal gain. DeVos already has a record in her home state of Michigan of fighting to proliferate for-profit charters without oversight, something even charter school advocates could not defend. Detroit has suffered from this trend toward choice without accountability.
Deconstruction of public education is not about giving parents quality choices, but rather just another way for entrepreneurs to milk a system using the vast resources of public money.
Gloria C. Endres