Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference
Photo: CPAC
Photo: CPAC

Betsy DeVos says HBCUs are ‘real pioneers’ of school choice

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has praised historically black colleges and universities as  "real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” 

Her remarks, contained in a statement issued Monday by the Education Department, drew a quick and derisive reaction from the left. The right, meanwhile, derided the left for deriding the right.

Said Slate.com: Insane Betsy DeVos Press Release Celebrates Jim Crow Education System as Pioneer of “School Choice”

Said Thegrio.com: Betsy DeVos releases statement on HBCUs, Twitter points out she’s clueless

Keith Boykin tweeted: “Betsy DeVos sees HBCUs as pioneers of 'school choice,' as if black students had a 'choice' to go to white colleges in segregated America.”

The controversy erupted as President Donald Trump was seeking a rapprochement with HBCUs. The president met with presidents from dozens of schools on Monday and was expected to issue an executive order on Tuesday regarding HBCUs

From redalertpolitics.com: “Did Devos praise the system that forced HBCUs to be created? No. She praised the entrepreneurial efforts of these colleges to thwart the racist system from holding down black students. They provided choices to black students and gave them opportunity they otherwise wouldn’t have had. She praised the people and the colleges, not the racist system that motivated HBCUs to be created.”

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., meanwhile, tweeted that DeVos’ statement  was “totally nuts. DeVos pretending that establishment of historically black colleges was about choice not racism.”

Here’s the secretary’s statement:

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.

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