What are some secrets about charter schools

American students face an uncertain future. With the help of Vice President Mike Pence, the US Senate has confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Hardly any other member of Donald Trump's cabinet is more controversial than the Michigan billionaire.

At her hearing before the Senate, the 59-year-old revealed large gaps in knowledge about the American education system. She believed that carrying weapons in schools was necessary to "protect" children from grizzly bears. Her performance became a viral hit and led her critics to shake their heads.

But such anecdotes distract from the actual topic: DeVos, whose strictly Christian family has donated $ 200 million to the Republicans according to estimates, is best known in the USA for their commitment to the free "choice of school". Under this slogan, she has long been campaigning for a move away from the public school system in her home state of Michigan and instead wants to establish charter schools and voucher programs.

Charter schools are private schools that receive a financial budget from the state. The state withdraws from the company: the school hires teachers independently, sets the curriculum and takes care of the upbringing of the children. The only requirement is that the school must employ state-certified teachers and that the examinations must meet a state-set standard. The voucher program even goes one step further: Here the state distributes education vouchers directly to the students, which entitle them to look for a school of their choice, i.e. a private school.

Charter schools have been around since the 1990s and have supporters from both parties. Because many public schools are in miserable condition, they were originally intended to create more competition for children's education. Only in the past ten years has their number grown rapidly. There are currently around 6,500 charter schools in 43 states. Ascending trend.

Charter schools as gold donkeys

DeVos, who has never attended a public school herself and also had her four children educated in private schools, has been campaigning for freedom of choice in schools for three decades. Her family founded the right-wing American Federation for Children, an organization that fights against the public school system and advocates its privatization.

Many charter schools are not-for-profit and run by companies, churches, or universities - these institutions have many supporters even among Democrats. But there are also charter schools that are geared towards maximizing profits - especially in DeVos' home state Michigan. "The profit-oriented models are gold donkeys for their operators," says education expert Mercedes Schneider. The 50-year-old teaches at a public high school in Louisiana and has just published her third book on the subject.