Betsy DeVos calling HBCUs 'pioneers of school choice' is an insane misreading of segregation

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump and Office of Public Liaison communications director Omarosa Manigault met with a group of administrative leaders from multiple historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in an apparent effort to demonstrate how much the Trump administration cares about education in the black community.

While nothing concrete has been reported about the meeting other than an odd photo opp of Trump and White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway awkwardly posing with the congregation of HBCU heads, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released a statement Monday evening describing the "tangible, structural  reforms" Trump plans to made to help strengthen HBCUs. She also made a point of stating that the Trump administration has no plans to focus "solely on funding."


Even more disconcerting than DeVos' assurance that the Trump White House's plans to support HBCUs doesn't involve money, though, was her attempt to use the history of the black institutions to justify hers (and the Trump administration's) advocacy of school choice that would undercut the public education system in favor of private and and charter schools.


"HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice," DeVos said. "They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish."

There are a couple of different ways to interpret what DeVos is saying here and they're both bad. Either she's being willfully ignorant of the history of the American education system that once barred black students from the vast majority of its predominantly white (and well funded) institutions or she just straight up doesn't understand how segregation works.


The bulk of HBCUs were founded immediately after the Civil War as a means of establishing a higher education system for the country's newly freed black population that were still excluded from white universities. DeVos' assertion that HBCUs were in any way operating with her current idea of "school choice" in mind is idiotic considering that the schools were founded because their students had literally nowhere else to go.

Normally, these sort of comments coming from the head of the Education Department would come as a shocker, but it's already been pretty well established that DeVos is literally unqualified for the job she's been given.


I’ve reached out to the Department of Education for comment and will update if I hear back.

Update: DeVos has taken to Twitter to let the world know that she's done her homework (albeit a bit late) and learned that the people who first attended HBCUs did so because they had no other choice: