HBCUs – Pioneers of School Choice

Yesterday – 2/28 – Secretary of Education DeVos is quoted as referring  to HBCUs as “pioneers of school choice”. Secretary Betsy DeVois said  (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,” she continued. “Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.” Her statement is bizarre. The statement shows how clueless Secretary DeVois is relative to black history.

HBCUs – Pioneers of School Choice - Secretary Betsy DeVois
Betsy DeVois – Secretary of Education

No Choice

Her remarks immediately stirred backlash from supporters of HBCUs, who pointed out that the institutions were established because African-American students, often, did not have any other choice. (HBCUs) Historically Black Colleges/Universities were founded because black students had, in many respects no options. They could not enroll at predominantly white institutions in the South, even public institutions in their own states. Further, as states created public historically black colleges, they did so to meet “separate but equal” requirements, and never took the equal part of that statement seriously. Public black colleges were created with a fraction of the budgets, programs and facilities of their predominantly white counterparts. While many students did thrive at these institutions, educators there constantly decried the lack of resources (and many maintain that continues to this day). institutions were founded because black students had, in many respects, no choice. They could not enroll at predominantly white institutions in the South, even public institutions in their own states. Further, as states created public historically black colleges, they did so to meet “separate but equal” requirements, and never took the equal part of that statement seriously. Public black colleges were created with a fraction of the budgets, programs and facilities of their predominantly white counterparts. While many students did thrive at these institutions, educators there constantly decried the lack of resources (and many maintain that continues to this day).

HBCUs – Pioneers of School Choice
Betsy DeVois – Secretary of Education

Marybeth Gasman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has written numerous books about the history of black colleges and who is director of the Penn Center for Minority-Serving Institutions, took to Facebook to describe her anger at the DeVos statement and the idea that people are taking seriously the Trump administration’s outreach to black colleges.

Marybeth Gasman about HBCUs
Marybeth Gasman

Gasman wrote: “Take a look at this ahistorical and inaccurate depiction of HBCUs by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. See how HBCUs and their creation are described — ‘they saw that the system wasn’t working.’ I’m talking to the media about this right now. And then folks are wondering why I don’t advocate for kowtowing with Trump and his White Supremacist friends. They are trying to pretend that a vast system of oppression, slavery, Jim Crow, and discrimination never existed. And then using HBCUs to promote their school choice agenda … give me a break. Stop falling for the okie doke people! You can’t negotiate with White supremacists for Black rights and opportunities. #WhitewashingHBCUhistory”

 

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