Betsy DeVos, Education, Racism — February 28, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Betsy DeVos declares Historically Black Colleges & Universities the “real pioneers when it comes to school choice”


In the aftermath of the American Civil War, black Americans found themselves unable to attend colleges and universities because they simply were not allowed entrance into them. In response, they were forced to form their own institutions of higher education. These institutions are now referred to as Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs).

Today, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued this statement, attempting to justify her anti-public education efforts – euphemistically dubbed “school choice” – by declaring HBCUs the “real pioneers when it comes to school choice”:

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement after meeting with presidents and chancellors of Historically Black Colleges and Universities at the White House:

A key priority for this administration is to help develop opportunities for communities that are often the most underserved. Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.

HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.

Their counsel and guidance will be crucial in addressing the current inequities we face in education. I look forward to working with the White House to elevate the role of HBCUs in this administration and to solve the problems we face in education today.

This is an insulting rewriting of history. HBCUs weren’t formed because black Americans didn’t have “equal access” to education or because they were “underserved”. They were formed because racist Jim Crow laws made it so black Americans didn’t have ANY access to education and went UNserved, both in schools and elsewhere in society. HBCUs were literally a response to institutionalized racism in America.

Today, that racism, while not generally explicitly codified, continues in the realm of education. If you want to map poverty levels across our country, you simply need to map student test scores. There is an inverse correlation between family income rates of poverty and student test scores. And, more often than not, the people most impacted by poorly performing schools are people of color. This isn’t because they aren’t intellectually capable of doing well in school. It’s because of centuries-old policies that disinvest in schools in poor areas, areas where black Americans tended to live due to Jim Crow-era laws, redlining, and other discriminatory policies.

These are the very same areas Betsy DeVos most often targets for exploitation through her odious “school choice” agenda.

It’s hard to put into words just how disgusting it is to see Betsy DeVos use an example of black Americans overcoming institutionalized racism to justify her lifelong effort to funnel tax dollars into private, often religious private schools. She’s attempting to co-opt a remarkable American achievement and use it to justify policies that hurt the very same group of people HBCUs were set up to help.

And it apparently never even occurred to her that this is what she was doing.