By Andrew Caster
The current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a controversial figure to many. Her ideas have created points of contention for people of all areas of the political spectrum. They have left many students and their parents wondering what their effects will be on their educational situations.
While many of these policies have been in the context of primary education, they maintain most of their relevance for higher education as well. DeVos is a fierce advocate for private schools with students attending through public funding. She is also known to be a supporter of school vouchers, which would allow students to attend private schools through public funding, and charter schools, which are schools with public funding, but without association with their local school district. On the flip side, she is a staunch opponent of traditional public schools.
For the students of PUC, the concerns should be different than those who attend public schools. While DeVos is a well-known supporter of private schools as alternatives to public schools, she has stated that she believes education reform is a means to “advance God’s Kingdom.” While PUC is a private Christian college, many of our beliefs are slightly or wholly different than those of the greater Christian church.
Our college and the greater Adventist school system have unique identities and values that we actively strive to preserve to the best of our ability. This is only possible through the maintenance of our institutional sovereignty. DeVos’ beliefs may translate into policies or legislation that discourage the unique identities of independent school systems, including the Adventist school system.
While her ideas do not include a true consolidation of public funding and private schools, their effects will eventually be the same because of the power that funding has over students’ choice of schools. If a school finds itself on a DeVos blacklist, they may lose a significant amount of their student body when those students’ public funding is withheld. Specifically, for the Adventist school system, her interpretation of “advancing God’s Kingdom” may be different from ours and other religious educational systems.
The fear therefore arises that DeVos will give private schools tasty treats like funding and/or tax breaks, threatening them to do things another way by taking those treats away if they do not comply. While this is a more cynical viewpoint than most would likely have, it still must be treated as a real possibility. For PUC and its debt, federal monetary support to gain more students would sound attractive, but must be avoided as it gives significant control over the college’s direction to those outside of the Adventist church. The Adventist church as a whole must remain vigilant during DeVos’ tenure to maintain our particular identity and autonomy.