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Betsy DeVos Blindly Promotes Choice Without Considering Negative Fiscal Impact

April 25, 2017

On April 20, 2017, US ed sec Betsy DeVos and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten visited Van Wert City Schools, a small school district in Ohio.

Also on April 20, 2017, DeVos published this opinion piece in Cleveland.com. As one might expect, DeVos used her op-ed to pitch school choice.

Van Wert City Schools is a small district. How much “choice” can it support and still be fiscally sound?

DeVos offers no such advice on this front. Instead, she offers what she considers a fine example of a public school district incorporating choice: Miami Dade County Public Schools (Florida):

Many public school districts across the country already offer various forms of school choice. I saw this recently in Miami-Dade, Florida, where the public school district offers parents more than 500 choice programs, including magnet, charter and advanced curriculum schools. These in-district options help students excel and grow, putting them on paths to higher education and good careers.

Miami-Dade’s model demonstrates that more options foster collaboration, not conflict, between its schools, with students and parents reaping the rewards.

In DeVos’ mind, choice is simple: More options foster collaboration.

More choice is better. Period. Concerns about how much choice a school district can fiscally sustain don’t enter the DeVos pro-choice op-ed.

But let us consider a comparison of the Miami Dade County and Van Wert City school districts to venture at least a little way into concerns DeVos ignores.

First of all, note the sheer size of Miami Dade County Public Schools. From the school district website:

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the fourth largest school district in the United States, comprised of 392 schools, 345,000 students and over 40,000 employees. Located at the southern end of the Florida peninsula, the school district stretches over 2,000 square miles of diverse and vibrant communities ranging from rural and suburban to urban cities and municipalities. A truly global community, district students speak 56 different languages and represent 160 countries.

Miami Dade County Public Schools: A district that spans over 2,000 square miles with an average of 173 students per square mile.

Too, on average, Miami Dade County has 880 students per school and an average of 102 employees per school.

Thus, with well over a quarter of a million students, Miami Dade County Public Schools can apparently support its almost 400 schools, many of which are charter schools.

Now let us consider size of Van Wert City: 7.61 square miles, with 1,959 K-12 students.

Van Wert City serves 257 K-12 students and has four schools already in place to do so.

That means on average, Van Wert City has 490 students enrolled per school.

Miami Dade, with all of its school choice, can still enroll almost twice as many students per school as can Van Wert City without it.

Moreover, keep in mind that when student enrollment drops, so does school funding. So, let’s turn this enrollment issue on its head:

In order for Miami Dade County Public Schools to have comparable average per-school enrollment to Van Wert City, Miami Dade would have to increase its number of schools from 392 to 704 (i.e., 345,000 / 490).

How would having 704 schools fiscally impact Miami Dade?

Now there’s a question, the answer to which might give Betsy DeVos some inkling of a clue as to the financial concerns faced by Van Wert City Schools.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

3 Comments
  1. LA Educator permalink

    With DeVos, like Arne Duncan: It’s all about promoting the manufactured crisis in education, then cutting us off at the knees to make us fail so they can justify their hostile takeover ideas.

  2. camb888 permalink

    DeVos has already said that she’s “not a numbers person”. That must be why an analysis like that in this piece would probably never occur to her. That plus the fact that she generally seems to prefer not knowing. It’s worked for her so far!

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