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Betsy DeVos Doubles Down on School Choice While Research Casts Doubts

The new secretary of education doubled down today on her commitment to expanding school choice programs that often involve taxpayer-funded vouchers — programs increasingly called into question by research.

Addressing today’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asserted both her and President Donald Trump’s commitment to school choice programs, the Washington Post reports. The administration has championed those programs as necessary for equalizing education opportunities, while critics fear that they funnel already strained taxpayer money to schools with fewer accountability standards than are enforced in public schools.

A wave of recent research has favored the critics, Kevin Carey of the New America Foundation wrote today in the New York Times. Studies of large-scale, voucher-driven choice programs in Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio — including one study financed by a pro-voucher organization — have found that vouchers actually worsened student performance, Carey reported. These findings conflict with other studies showing positive results in places like Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. — altogether making voucher-based school choice look like an unsure, if not totally unproven, investment.

A lot of money may hang in the balance: Trump promised a $20 billion school choice program while campaigning in September. That program falls to DeVos’ team to enact — and, now, to answer to a spate of skeptical research.