In a stunning turn of events, yesterday Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, sent a statement to reporters praising the Jim Crow Education System claiming it was a “pioneer in school choice.”
School choice is a term for grades K–12 in public education in the United States which offers a wide array of programs offering students and their families alternatives to publicly provided schools.
The Jim Crow Education System, according to Russell G. Brooker, PhD, a Professor of Political Science at Alverno College, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who teaches courses in political science:
Southern education, especially for Blacks, in the 1900s was subpar and racially segregated. Blacks and whites had to attend different schools. They were not equal. Schools for white children received more public money. If black children had any books at all, they were hand-me-downs from white schools. Buildings were reporting to have leaking roofs, sagging floors, and windows without glass. There were not enough desks. Some black children in Southern schools were not allowed to use books that included the Declaration of Independence or the U. S. Constitution. The schools functioned and there were limits put on what blacks could be taught in school. They were not allowed to be exposed to ideas like equality and freedom. Education often leads to the need for further education, like college, trade school or a university.
Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in the United States. They were established with the intention of primarily serving the African American community. They allow admission of all races.
This was because, under the Jim Crow laws, schools were segregated and universities would not accept students of color. HBCUs didn’t provide “more options,” they were the only option for African-Americans.
So having DeVos state that this system of education is HBCU is a proof of concept for a “school choice” is challenging to say the least. Theirs was not a struggle for what’s working and what’s not in education—it was about the right to get education that mattered especially in regards to overt racism.
This problem got really sticky because President Donald Trump invited Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the Oval Office after DeVos mailed them.
It read, in part:
“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.”
DeVos may be angling to use HBCUs as a proof of concept for her pet project.