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Brown v. Board of Education legacy at risk under Trump-DeVos administration

On this day 63 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in Brown v. Board of Education that was a step to providing all students with the opportunities they deserve for the support and tools to learn, no matter their ethnicity, race or family income.

But, as we approach Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ 100th day in office, the Trump-DeVos agenda threatens to shrink, rather than expand, students’ chances for success.

The Brown v. Board of Education decision established that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional and opened the door for all students, regardless of race, ethnicity and income, to have an equal opportunity for a great education in public schools. But, the Trump-DeVos agenda represents a serious threat to open, inclusive public education upheld by the Supreme Court in 1954.

DeVos is characterized as the nation’s most underqualified, least prepared education secretary. She lacks awareness and understanding of even the most basic education issues – having never worked in a public school, attended a public school or sent her children to a public school.

She came into office with an intention to promote voucher programs, as she did in Michigan. Championing budget cuts to public education robs communities of the resources needed to provide students with a well-rounded curriculum, one-on-one attention and support services, such as health care and after-school programs.

DeVos has likened students using vouchers, which divert scarce resources from public schools, to cell phone customers switching carriers. This flippant attitude to public education, the foundation of our democracy, sets U.S. education policy back and undervalues the students, families and educators who invest in their community public schools.

She has claimed historically black colleges (HBCU) are “pioneers of school choice.” While, in fact, HBCUs produce 15 percent of the nation’s African American college graduates and have a significant place in American higher education. Their origins resulted from unequal access to higher education due to segregation and racism – not by choice.

In a bow to the companies that service student loans, she withdrew guidance issued by the former administration that was intended to provide more consumer protections for student borrowers. 

Resourced neighborhood public schools are desirable places to learn and are our best bet for setting all students off toward a bright future. DeVos is intent on tearing down — not building up — public schools. Her positions are contrary to the Brown v. Board of Education decision.