To listen to Hollywood, you’d think the confirmation Tuesday of Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education was tantamount to putting Slender Man in charge of our nation’s children.
The longtime charter school, voucher and school choice advocate squeaked through to become the next secretary of education by way of Vice President Pence’s tie-breaking vote.
The celebrity implosion was swift and dramatic, and predictably took place on Twitter.
“Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani tweeted, “Secretary of Education doesn’t care about schools. Head of EPA doesn’t care about environment. What kills us 1st: illiteracy or the oceans?”
“Frozen” star Josh Gad tweeted, “The US Senate Republicans who just put through the most unqualified Education Secretary in our history have just betrayed our kids.”
Michael Moore tweeted, “The Senate Republicans have just sent a big FU to the school children of America. Even the worst countries don’t s–t on their own kids.”
Increasingly unstable “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon just went for it. “Rejecting DeVos was the GOP’s easiest way to say ‘Mr Prez, let’s take this slow, we got 4 yrs.’ Instead they declared war on our children.”
“War on our children”? That’s rich.
The histrionics come despite the fact that states, not the federal government or DeVos, set school choice policy — and despite the fact that charter schools are actually public schools. Celebrities in la-la land would still have you believe the Gingerbread House Witch is here to kill your kids.
Let’s appreciate their passion for education, applaud their civic-mindedness, and, at least for the moment, give them the benefit of the doubt that their concern is genuine and not politically partisan hysteria.
Then, let’s ask ourselves why Hollywood celebrities spend hardly any time hammering the failing schools in their own backyards.
Los Angeles public schools are among the worst in the nation. As in many big cities, they are beholden to cronyism, political agendas and unions like United Teachers Los Angeles, which planned a massive demonstration before President Trump was inaugurated to “shield our public schools from the Trump/DeVos . . . agenda.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District is broke. It recently reported that it may not be able to meet its financial obligations because it has a cumulative deficit of $1.46 billion through the 2018-19 school year. What has all that money bought? Not well-performing schools.
In the latest school quality rankings by the California Charter Schools Association, based on state test results, zero L.A. Unified School District middle schools earned the highest rank of 10. Two percent of elementary schools and one high school out of 104 earned 10s. More than half of middle schools earned the lowest ranking of 1, as did 20 percent of elementary schools and 31 percent of high schools.
Meanwhile, four charter schools earned 9s. A 2014 Stanford University Center for Research on Economic Outcomes study found that charter school students in L.A. learn more in a year than their peers in district schools do, the equivalent of 50 more days of reading and 79 days of math.
And, in 2015, the California Policy Center found that charter schools have a lower cost per pupil than L.A. district schools.
The L.A. Unified School District, and not DeVos, is the embarrassment. From a $1.3 billion investment in a failed iPad initiative to half a million spent on Scientology-backed tutoring programs, the school district has wasted money and the precious time of schoolchildren whose education shouldn’t be in the hands of union bosses and corporate cronies.
Yet you will hear barely a peep of protest from actors, directors or screenwriters about the ineptitude and disservice to children happening in their own city. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that hardly any of them send their own kids to L.A. public schools.
When Hollywood celebrities start decrying the fact that children are failed en masse by the nation’s second-largest public schools system, then maybe the country will start paying a little more attention to their supposed concerns for everyone else’s kids.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com
This column first appeared in the New York Daily News.
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