Betsy DeVos, the controversial newly appointed secretary of education, is facing flak from all quarters of the country, after releasing a statement that compared the emergence of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to "school choice" policies. The controversy erupted after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at bolstering government's support for black colleges, reported Washington Times.
On Monday, Trump and DeVos met with the leaders of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). However, Trump's goodwill gesture was soon overshadowed by DeVos' statement.
"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," read the statement released by DeVos after meeting with presidents and chancellors of Historically Black Colleges and Universities at the White House.
The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, defines an HBCU as: “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation."
DeVos appeared to stress on the point that when schools operate in a marketplace, they tend to fill the otherwise unserved needs of students. However, to many, the argument of relating HBCUs with the idea of "choice" did not stand scrutiny, as reported by the Guardian.
Marybeth Gasman, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Minority-Serving Institutions and an expert in historically black colleges and universities, told POLITICO that the statement is "inaccurate and a whitewashing of U.S. history."
“I’m floored,” Gasman added.
Austin Lane, the president of Texas Southern University, a historically black university in Houston, who visited the White House Tuesday, also said that he was "puzzled" by the analogy. "HBCUs were created for African-Americans because they had no choice and were unable to attend schools due to segregation laws,” Lane told POLITICO.
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