“This is a terrible harbinger for what is facing our children,” Karen Dolan told the Real News regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos is a proponent of public school privatization.

Dolan said what we’re likely to see is a charter school to prison pipeline. “Children in charter schools – Black, brown, Latino, LGBTQ, and children with disabilities – are over-disciplined in rates even significantly higher than they are in public schools,” Dolan explained.

She said that children of color, even pre-schoolers, are between four and six times more likely to be expelled than white children for the same behavioral offenses – from scribbling on desks, to wearing distracting jewelry.

Expulsions increase children’s chances of coming into contact with the juvenile justice system. And those who have contact with the justice system in their youth have “very high – up to 70% higher” chances of reoffending, Dolan said.

While there is some bipartisan support for private education, charter schools, however well-constructed “funnel much-needed public funds, taxpayer money, out of public schools,” Dolan said.

Additionally, in nomination hearings DeVos was unable to commit to equal accountability and was unaware of protections for children with disabilities, Dolan said.

Dolan said that under the Obama Administration there was a concerted effort to bring down the skyrocketing levels of suspensions and expulsions and a multitude of efforts aimed at helping low-income children, African American children, immigrant and Latino children, children with disabilities, and LGBTQ children: “There were plenty of problems and the racial gap still persisted in punishment, but a lot of progress was being made.”

Dolan says that her fear is that under DeVos, “Not only will those gains be rolled back, but the problems will be greatly exacerbated.” Dolan said that LGBTQ rights activists are especially concerned about the possible rollback of provisions for that community under Title IX.

Instead of defunding public schools, we should be getting  Security Resource Officers out of schools and invest more into the social and emotional development of our children, Dolan said.

“We need to get cops out of schools. We need to invest in our public education system,” Dolan said. “The charter school system doesn’t have these kinds of protections in place or the same kind of accountability.”

Watch the full interview on the Real News Network.

Karen Dolan directs the Criminalization of Poverty project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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