When you aren’t prepared for a test or an essay, it shows. Fluff and the absence of transitions usually result in a failing grade and a dip to your ego. While we can’t grade Betsy DeVos’ statements about historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), the world is making sure the Education Secretary is well, educated.
It all started Monday (Feb. 27) when DeVos released a statement after President Donald Trump’s ill-fitting meeting with presidents and leaders of HBCUs at the White House. “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,” a portion of the statement reads. “Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.” That would be nice and all if it were true. DeVos’ word choices left a cringing feeling among scholars and historians because the creations of HBCUs happened after Southern states refused to integrate public institutions.
DeVos’ blunder comes weeks after meeting with the Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, which didn’t seem to go any deeper than an “it’s nice to meet you” conversation. Both parties released statements at the time, but both had little to no substance. The strong role in HBCUs in Trump’s blueprint to his first 100 days as POTUS was part of his promise to cater to the needs of such institutions, with his latest announcement on Tuesday (Feb. 28). Trump signed a measure that now places the federal government’s program promoting the institutions under the direct order of the White House instead of the Education Department. DeVos hinted towards the shift in her statement when she subtly acknowledged the Trump administration would find other ways (not through funding) to help the growth of black institutions.
“A key priority for this administration is to help develop opportunities for communities that are often the most underserved,” the statement reads.”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.” If history taught the rest of us anything, it’s that we’ve seen this before. In 1980, the late Ronald Regan also signed an executive order, Order 12330 to be exact, which also promised to include the institutions in federally sponsored programs.
Overall, DeVos’ statement means next to nothing, considering the circumstances. Since she won’t have to worry about strengthening the tides of HBCUs, here’s to hoping there aren’t any more innocuous ramblings from one of the most important departments in public education.