Yesterday, the White House met with presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University, wrote about the meeting:
On Friday I learned that I was selected to give remarks [Monday] for the meeting at the White House with members of the Trump administration, most notably Secretary Betsy DeVos. We learned this weekend that there would be closing remarks by Vice President Pence, but the goal was for officials from a number of Federal agencies (about 5 were there including OMB) and Secretary DeVos to hear about HBCUs.Emphasis mine.
That all blew up when the decision was made to take the presidents to the Oval Office to see the President. I'm still processing that entire experience. But needless to say that threw the day off and there was very little listening to HBCU presidents today—we were only given about 2 minutes each, and that was cut to one minute, so only about 7 of maybe 15 or so speakers were given an opportunity today.
Following the meeting, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released an absolutely incredible statement:
Statement from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Following Listening Session with Historically Black College [sic] and Universities LeadersWow. Okay. So, this is garbage.
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.
What DeVos has done here, with breathtaking audacity, is appropriate and rewrite HBCUs' purpose and mission, to suit her own personal bailiwick of privatizing education. HBCUs were not about "school choice," but about providing opportunities to Black students because of institutional segregation.
As Ben Mathis-Lilley notes at Slate [CN: descriptions of racist violence]: "[T]his official 2017 federal government press release celebrates legal segregation (!!!) on the grounds that the Jim Crow education system gave black students 'more options,' as if there was a robust competition between HBCUs and white universities for their patronage. (When black Mississippian James Meredith chose the 'option' of enrolling at the University of Mississippi in 1962, a massive white mob formed on the campus; two people were shot to death and hundreds injured in the ensuing battle/riot, during which federal marshals came under heavy gunfire, requiring the ultimate intervention of 20,000 U.S. soldiers and thousands more National Guardsmen.)"
It is abhorrent that DeVos would engage in this particular appropriation, given that the school privatization schemes for which she passionate advocates have been found to actually entrench inequality. In Indiana, where "school choice" has been on offer for years, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education concluded that such proposals stand to "reverse the state's progress on desegregation efforts."
And indeed, Indiana charter schools were found to be turning away homeless and disabled students, in violation of federal law.
And as Carlton Waterhouse, a professor of law and dean's fellow at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, wrote in a recent column, "school choice" will not fix the rot at the core of the "educational crisis," because that rot is white supremacy:
Educational reform efforts over the past five decades have all been efforts to overcome white parents' taste for discrimination. These plans were routinely intended to lure white children into urban schools. Busing, magnet schools, theme schools, home schooling and now vouchers and charter schools have largely been embraced because so many white parents find educational environments with too many African-American and Latino students unsuitable for their children. This unspoken belief that African-American and Latino children threaten the moral and intellectual development of other children has a strong emotional power that drives public education in America.Consider DeVos' statement in that context. She is eliding the history of segregation from which HBCUs emerged, in order to praise them for providing opportunities to Black students.
The very students to whom she and her (white) supporters don't want to provide opportunities alongside their (white) children.
All of this, during Black History Month.