At a speech in Indianapolis Monday night, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos promised an “ambitious” expansion of school choice — and said it would be a “terrible mistake” if states refuse to participate.
Yet, at a discussion of school choice in New York City Tuesday morning, panelists invited by the Women’s City Club of New York, seemed unfazed by the secretary’s comments.
“None of us here at the table are persuaded that what’s happening in Washington is going to have a tremendous impact here in New York,” said Shawn Morehead, the moderator, a program director at The New York Community Trust.
In part, that is because the version of school choice advocated by DeVos is more radical than the existing choice system in New York state, panelists said. New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman, argued that New York state charter schools represent a highly regulated version of school choice, whereas DeVos favors a deregulated, market-orientated approach.
“We took that fork in the road a long time ago,” Merriman said. “I don’t see that changing in any way, shape or form because of who the secretary of education is.”
New York City also has a high school choice system, where students can apply to any school in the city. But recent reporting has found that the admissions rules are hazy and the system has maintained racial, academic and socioeconomic segregation in city schools.
Panelists advocated for more regulation to help correct this problem. (Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said last week she is “reconsidering” some enrollment in high schools but did not provide any more details.)
DeVos offered few specifics on her school choice proposal during her Indianapolis speech, but President Donald Trump’s budget proposal includes a $1 billion increase for Title I, earmarked to allow funding to follow students to the public schools of their choice.
Later on Tuesday, a flurry of statements from New York’s education advocates denounced Trump’s budget for its deep cuts in many areas, including career and technical education and teacher preparation.
“The president’s outrageous education budget is yet another example of his administration putting the most vulnerable Americans at risk,” said Breakthrough New York Executive Director Rhea Wong. “At a time when our country should be making education great again, this plan kneecaps success and oppresses opportunity.”